Munira Premji

 
My husband and I were totally floored when we first heard.  Cancer?  Where did that come from?  I had been perfectly healthy prior to the diagnosis, so this news was totally foreign to us.  We didn’t know what to do.  What happened to our dreams of living happily ever after?  How would we tell our son and daughter? 
 
But things got so much worse.  After further testing, I learned I also had a very aggressive, fast-moving stage 4 B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of blood cancer.  That’s right.  I had two different types of cancer at the same time.  And they were both as advanced as they get.
 
That’s when I was referred to Dr. Rodger Tiedemann, an oncologist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre who has expertise in both multiple myeloma and lymphoma.  I felt safe and confident as I knew that I had a top-notch oncologist and that I was being treated at one of the top five cancer centres in the world.  He told me we needed to focus first on beating my lymphoma.  Otherwise I just wouldn’t make it. 
 
During my lymphoma treatment I got many infections and had dangerously high fevers.  I spent days on end in the hospital, hooked up on IV’s and getting blood transfusions.  Through chemotherapy, I lost my hair – and my eyebrows!  But I summoned every ounce of courage and hope I had.  After four grueling months of treatment, Dr. Tiedemann – my superhero – told me my cancer was in remission.  Our family took a week’s vacation in Florida to celebrate, and then it was time for the next battle: fighting my multiple myeloma.
 
Multiple myeloma is a pesky disease and there is currently no cure for it.  Dr. Tiedemann started me with chemotherapy treatment and then recommended I have a stem cell transplant.  If successful, it would keep my cancer away for about two to three years, at which point I would need another transplant.  To get ready for the transplant, I had to prepare my body.  For example, I had to get injections into my stomach and other areas, and have a Hickman line surgically implanted into my chest.  I was at the hospital every day for weeks and it got to be overwhelming.Premji Family 

It’s now been over one year since my transplant and, thanks to the exemplary care I’ve received, I am living life to the fullest.  Yes, there are vestiges that the cancer has left behind – the scars from the Hickman line, the pain from the monthly bone strengthening treatment, the tiredness that can take over my body at a moment’s notice, the uneasy feeling that my multiple myeloma will relapse at any time in the near future.  But these are minor inconveniences for the gift of being alive!
 
On one of those overwhelming days, feeling defeated, I went in for yet another chemotherapy treatment. My favourite nurse saw me and gave me a big hug.  He told me how lucky I was to be a candidate for the transplant and then he gave me a beautiful silver bracelet engraved with a quote:

 Once you Choose Hope, Anything is Possible

 
I haven’t taken the bracelet off since.  I know now that regardless of the curve balls life throws at us, hope is within our reach.  When I had hope, even a glimmer of it, I was able to persevere.
 
 
-Munira Premji
Added July 28, 2014