HEALTH UPDATE 2017

Life Updates

4 years later and I finally have the answers I’ve been waiting for.

After seeing a pain consultant at UCLH, I was told I had damage to my abdominal wall, most probably as a result of my operation in 2013. This would explain the consistency in daily pain and the multiple admissions to hospital. The methods of dealing with this are somewhat complicated – there is no “cure” as such, as surgery runs far too many fatal risks, not to mention the risk of furthermore pain. I’m on medication for chronic pain, and hopefully by steadily increasing the dose if I experience severe pain again, it should make a considerable difference to my quality of life. The only downside to the medication is their sedative effect, so I spent 90% of my day resembling that of a zombie. I’ve now been referred to the complex pain team at UCLH, where I’ll undergo physiotherapy to help live with the pain, potential local anaesthetic shots to numb the pain of my damaged abdominal wall and ultimately methods which will ensure I don’t have to visit the a&e department as frequently, and hopefully in time, at all.

Over the past 4 years, I’ve gone through just about every single test possible for abdominal pain and the lack of answers completely destroyed me. I was living in a constant state of not knowing what I was suffering from, with doctors, or “specialists” in the private healthcare field not willing to act on anything. 2015 was by far the worst year of my life – 11 admissions to a&e over 12 months, where they could only manage the pain with opiates left me feeling at my lowest. Many people, healthcare professionals included, underestimate the debilitating impact of chronic pain. I’m always asked to rate my pain – how do I measure it, when I’ve experienced the worst kind this world has to offer? To this day, I’ve never measured my pain at a 10/10 because I’ve become so desensitised to the excruciating nature of a relapse.

I’ve always had people commending me for my bravery and strength, but ultimately this is 90% of the time a facade to help me survive. I’m so far from brave, compared to those who suffer from terminal illnesses and what not. There are days where I’m overcome with anxiety over how I’ll live with the pain when it gets bad, and how isolating the pain can be. There are days when I criticise myself for pitying myself when I’m so lucky compared to the plight of others. I’m filled with guilt at the sacrifices my family have made for me, and the pain they’ve had to helplessly witness, all the while encouraging me and supporting me. But I’ve slowly come to realise that it’s perfectly okay to feel sorry for myself here and there. It’s okay to feel like absolute shit. It’s okay to cry my heart out. Because pain is soul-destroying.

Ultimately, I survived these 4 years solely because I have an incredible support system. My immediate family and close friends have saved my life.

So, thank you. Thank you to the specialists at UCLH for giving me the answers I’ve waited so long for. Thank you to my close friends who’ve shown me so much support recently. Thank you to the friends who’ve become family. Thank you to each and every one of you who have contacted me on here and offered advice, encouragement and so much more. And thank you, a thousand times over, to my family.  God bless you all.

It gets worse before it gets better, but it does get better.

A x

An Open Letter to My Parents

Life Updates

The past few years have been turbulent, both physically and mentally for myself and those around me; the constant rejection of the answers I was desperately looking for, the reluctance to be treated for whatever is going on inside me, and the anxiety surrounding being in pain everyday were painful to say in the least. However, with the news that the investigations into my health conditions have now come to an end, I’ve stopped hoping for a miracle, adopting a rather more realistic approach to dealing with the pain. I’ve made peace with the idea that I’ll have to treat these symptoms, potentially for the rest of my life, rather than having multiple doctors, surgeons and specialists poke me here and there, performing countless tests.

Those closest to me will know how much I despise pity and sympathy: my health is something I have yet to come to terms with (I know, I know, it’s been 4 years) so handling other’s reactions isn’t something that comes easily to me when I don’t really know how to handle it myself. However, the one thing I have always been grateful for, but now more so than ever, is the relentless support of my parents.

During my darkest hours, they shared my pain and agony. In 2013, they shared my fear of going under the knife for the first time in my life. But they put aside all their own emotions to support me, comfort me and encourage me. Many will comment on my bravery in suffering from a debilitating health issue, but I believe the bravest of them all are my parents, for being strong for me. I remember waking up from the general anaesthetic after my operation and hearing my mum sob because she couldn’t handle the sight of me being attached to wires, an oxygen mask, and tubes attached to me. This was the first time I’d heard her cry since I was diagnosed, and in many ways that was more painful than the actual agony of a gallbladder attack. As parents, there’s an assumption that you have to be strong for your children, and my parents exceeded that. I know for a fact that their support has helped me live through this, and without it, I don’t know where I’d be.

It’s time for me to stop thinking about how I’ll survive living with whatever I am going through, but rather focus on how I can live my life to the fullest with it. Perhaps I was justified in my selfishness regarding the whole thing – after all, it was my illness, something only I was experiencing. But in many ways, my pain is also my parents’ pain. I haven’t given them enough credit for helping me survive the worst days of my life. I owe them everything for helping me keep it together when I was at my lowest points. Their ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel when I’m blind to it myself is a gift they are blessed with.

So thank you both, for transforming me into the strong woman I am today. I am a survivor because of you. You love me even when I’m at my worst, and boy am I an absolute nightmare. Through your care and devotion, you have created a human being who is prepared to fight whatever life throws at her head on. You have given me the strength to survive my darkest hours, and it’s only your words which help me overcome them. Your strength and courage lives within me, and I am so proud to call you my parents. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know I’ll be able to embrace it because of you.

A x

HEALTH UPDATE: JULY 2016

Life Updates

It could be worse.

That has pretty much been my life motto for the past two years and it’s actually worked out considerably well. As a result, I’m less prone to wallowing in self-pity, although perhaps I can thank my job for that, too.

After 20 months of uncertainty, pain, hospital admissions and tests, I’ve been told there’s nothing that can be done for my current health situation as there are too many risks associated with surgery. (Last resort and what we were subtly hoping for as a miraculous cure) There’s no medication left for me to take; I’m already on painkillers, plus chronic pain relief before I go to sleep, so a medicinal approach is also out of the question. Doctors have now suggested a “holistic approach” to dealing with the pain and symptoms that come with this confusing/unique health condition.

I’ve been a little weary when it comes to the term “holistic” because it felt like a cop-out when it was suggested on the post-consultation report. Almost like a “we couldn’t help you surgically, so try some homeopathy or yoga.” But looking into it further, it’s worth a shot considering we’ve exhausted every other avenue.

I guess the worst aspect of living with this/these health condition(s) is the absolute loneliness that comes with having to live with it. Of course I am incredibly blessed and lucky to have such supportive parents and family, as well as exceptional friends who have stood by my side since the day I was first hospitalised. Ultimately, however, having to live with ongoing pain and knowing there’s no real cure out there for me now is the worst thing. Realising that I’ve been through so much pain, horrid health relapses and symptoms, only to be told I should ‘go herbal.’ It’s awfully lonely; having to summon up the courage to say “okay Anisah, you’ve been through this before, you can get through this now.” Accepting that pain is a part of my life I just have to live with. When I have to leave a room, or take a break from work, or even duck to the loos when out with friends, I have to pray and beg that whatever’s causing my abdomen grief will just go away. “You just have to ride it out” is infuriating to hear; why me? After everything, why am I still suffering? Will it ever go away?

It sounds terribly despondent, I know, but I guess the lonely aspect of a health condition is something I’ve not touched on before, yet is imperative to consider nevertheless. It interlinks strongly with your psychological state of mind too, almost like a vicious circle. When I experience physical pain, my anxiety levels increase and I panic a little. As a result of living with these health issues, I’m prone to periods of feeling low and anxious for the future. I’m desperately hoping that a holistic approach helps me physically and mentally, because I am drained in both senses!

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” – Kahlil Gibran

A x

Happy Father’s Day!

Life Updates

Today marks a very special day dedicated to the heroic fathers who do so much for their children! Sadly, I spent majority of this day wrapped in a blanket as a result of being unwell, and it didn’t go to plan at all. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to making up for it when I’m feeling a little better.

These past few years have been particularly difficult and my dad has been one of the very few people to stand by me through thick and thin. With his tireless efforts to make me feel better, make me laugh and support me, I couldn’t have asked for a better father. He goes well out of his way and beyond to make my life a little more bearable and easier. From picking me up from the station at ridiculous hours of the night, to dropping me off to work at 3am when I used to work at the airport, it’s insane how he’s managed to put up with me! Yet he continues to do so, showering me with love and support endlessly.

Dad, I don’t give you enough credit for what you do for me, and for our family. You’re one of the most incredible men I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing and loving, and I most certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today without you, and all the sacrifices you’ve made. Everyday, I grow more proud of you as a father, as a businessman and as a person.

Thank you for doing what you do. For loving me, for supporting me, for sitting down at 1am to discuss world politics and world peace with me. You’ve provided me with so much in life that I never thank you for, but will forever be grateful for.

All my love,

Anisah

Back to Work!

Life Updates

Ah. After five weeks of unemployment, I can’t possibly express how nice it is to finally have a job again, especially one I adore so much.

Thankfully, I’m back working in menswear at the same company as before, but this time in a better location and at an A list store! I’m just over a week into my new routine and it’s been absolutely crazy; the pressure of a better performing store is certainly intense at times but it’s something to make the most of. Furthermore, with this job I can now focus more on training to be a merchandiser, although merchandising here is a whole new ball game! From the team to the products, everything is wonderful and I’m super excited to work here until September.

Working in a new store also makes me realise how much I miss my old one! The little family we had back in my old branch was something quite special, and at times I miss having a boss who pretty much let me get away with anything and everything. I was incredibly lucky to have a supportive set of senior staff who looked after me as much as they did and being practically best pals with my department manager. However, leaving the store was the best decision I could have made, especially after having to endure bullying for three months straight by a colleague.

Finally, I’m just grateful to be working again! A health update is pending, but as of right now, working up to 30 hours a week is just what I need at this point – not only does it serve as a brilliant distraction, but it’s also a hell of a lot of fun. It takes my mind of all the crappy stuff going on with my health right now, and I don’t have time to wallow in self pity/think about pain whilst I’m running around the shop floor.

So thank you to my old work family for transforming me into a menswear ace, and I look forward to great new adventures with my new menswear family.

Ciao, and Ramadan Mubarak!

 

Happy Birthday, Mum!

Life Updates

I’m so bummed to be working till 10 tonight on my mum’s special day, but nevertheless, I wanted to take this opportunity to just thank her for everything she’s done for me so far.

My mum has relentlessly supported me, showering me in compassion through my darkest hours; it’s thanks to her that I’m the person I am today. Mum, you have helped me embrace a strength I never knew I had with your tireless dedication to making me feel better as well as making me a better person. You’re an incredible role model, too – aside from the 5 degrees under your belt!

I hope one day I can make you as proud as I am to call you my mother. Even when I’m at my most frustrating, you still find it in yourself to comfort me, and for that I’ll be eternally grateful. The sacrifices you’ve made for me will never go unappreciated, and one day you’ll see that.

Thank you for encouraging me to surpass my own goals and achieve more than I thought possible. You deserve nothing less than eternal happiness: the woman you are is the woman I aspire to be. I love you unconditionally and more than I can ever put into words. (Oh, and the care home jokes are a joke, I promise!)

Anisah x

HEALTH UPDATE: MAY 2016

Life Updates

The waiting game.

It appears I spend most of my time waiting for things to happen; currently, I’m waiting to be seen by a specialist in the field of Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction at Harley Street. Sadly, the NHS route proved to be an absolute disaster; I spent two months waiting for the appointment to come through to see a consultant who had an “interest” in the field of SOD at a tertiary centre hospital, only for him to tell me there was nothing he could do about my condition due to a substantial “lack of evidence” excluding my pain. It’s safe to say that I was livid after that appointment. His reluctance to do anything about my condition pretty much summed up why I have no faith in doctors – for over a year and a half, my condition has worsened yet they seem to intentionally brush over my three year-long suffering.

Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction is a tricky little condition; for one, the Sphincter muscle in my bile duct is so tiny that the best way to assess whether it’s working properly (or not, in my case) is to go inside and undergo a procedure. The problem is this procedure carries the risk of inducing pancreatitis; having already suffered a bout of it two years ago, I’m not too keen to risk any chances of having it again because the pain is horrendous. Pancreatitis also runs the risk of inflicting life-long damage onto the pancreas, creating furthermore health problems. However, having exhausted many medicinal routes to tackle to pain I’m in daily with SOD, I’m running out of patience and options. Being bombarded with pain relief doesn’t solve the issue and it appears the doctors I’ve seen are almost reluctant to cure it, opting for a safer, non-invasive method of treating the symptoms.

Another problem is the relapses. Whilst I was away, I suffered from an episode of severe pain which landed me in hospital – not ideal when you’re in another country. The relapses occur almost every other month, drastically impacting my life with its unpredictability. Doctors perhaps perceive my desperation for medical intervention as just another kid who comes in with pain in their stomach. They don’t realise how badly this condition has ruined my life for the past three years. They can’t imagine being in pain for a solid 18 months because they’ve never been there.

I know it’s wrong to desperately hope for something when I’ve already been disappointed so many times before, but I sincerely hope this consultant will give me some answers this time. If not surgical intervention then at least another option to consider would be preferable. Being written off has destroyed me, physically and emotionally.

So, hopefully, in ten days I may just get some answers!

A x

 

Umrah 2016: Medina

Life Updates

Medina: The Prophet’s (ﷺ) holy city and final resting place. With it comes immeasurable peace and tranquility, a sacred place of historic, Islamic beauty. The Prophet’s Mosque, Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, is said to be one of the largest mosques in the world yet during prayer times, the entire mosque is packed full of people.

We pretty much spent our time doing exactly what we did in Makkah, and the only thing we really wanted to do which was complete our five daily prayers in the Mosque. Whereas Makkah is well known for being sacred, Medina is beautiful in its historical value. Hearing the call to prayer every couple of hours didn’t just reach our hearts, it reached our souls. What’s even more spectacular is seeing such a large number of people come together at the sound of a prayer, in absolute silence, entirely absorbed in worship.

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Al-Masjid an-Nabawi at Fajr

The most humbling aspect of entering Medina is knowing that our beloved Prophet ﷺ is buried there. Sadly, due to the large number of people and short time slots, we were unable to visit the tomb. The organisation of visiting hours for the tomb was terrible, I have to admit; when the doors opened, people ran towards the Prophet’s ﷺ tomb like their lives depended on it. Islam clearly teaches us not to idolise or worship anyone other than God; The Prophet also warned us not to run in an act of desperation, the same way one should never cause harm to a fellow Muslim (i.e by pushing, shoving, crushing) whilst reaching his tomb. It’s a shame that many of those who visited the tomb on the day I went completely discarded these teachings they supposedly hold so dear. My father’s toenail was ripped by men crushing each other to catch a glimpse of the tomb. My foot was run over by a wheelchair. It was absolute chaos, and I urge the Saudi’s to organise their crowd control because it is unsafe.

Nevertheless, the Mosque and the tomb are truly breathtaking in their intricate beauty. Islamic teachings believe there to be an empty grave along with the Prophet’s ﷺ tomb, said to belong to our Prophet Isa (Jesus, peace be upon him) when he returns to the world for forty years. Knowing that the tomb was the closest I could ever get to the Prophet ﷺ not only brought me closer to Islam, it also filled me with pride in being part of such a peaceful, beautiful religion. In Medina, there’s countless opportunities to learn more about our beloved Prophet and his teachings/what he lived for. For example, he spoke of equality within mankind, regardless of their religion or belief. He spoke of gender equality.  He fought for his life, for his religion and for his people, to convey the message of Allah. (SWT)

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Al-Masjid an-Nabawi

Alhamdulillah, it makes sense for the city to be as beautiful as the religion itself.

Whilst in Medina, we also explored historical sites such as Mount Uhud, Masjid Al-Qiblatain and Jannat Al-Baqi. Each site holds stories of the Prophet’s ﷺ heroic struggles to convey the message of Islam along with other historical tales. To be on the same land, in the same place as our beloved Prophet is a truly enlightening spiritual experience. I can only hope and pray that all my Muslim followers and friends experience what I have, because it is like no other.

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View from the top of Mount Uhud

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Mount Uhud

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Graveyard of the Prophets

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Qiblatain Mosque

I want to thank my wonderful grandparents and my parents for making this trip possible. Their determination for us all to experience this and so early in my life has had an immeasurable impact on me and I’m grateful beyond words that they’ve given me this gift. Inshallah my prayers for them were heard.

On a final note, I want to thank Allah for allowing me to experience this trip and everything He has to offer us. Coming back from Makkah and Medina, I spent the following weeks incredibly sick with my ongoing health conditions amidst new bugs I’d picked up along the way. Allah (SWT) looked out for me whilst I was in Makkah and Medina, blessing me with perfectly good health and no pain. Although these past few weeks have been the most challenging yet, I’ve embraced the peace He’s bestowed on me; every time I feel scared, nervous or in pain, my soul goes back to Makkah and I remember His plan for me is still in motion – I just have to wait the worse of it out. When I needed it the most, He gave me strength to go on, to fight my body. Whenever life gets tough, or there are obstacles in the road, I can now embrace the peace my soul has finally found.

And I know I can make it through to the other side.

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Maghrib Prayer on our final night in Medina (Photo: Mama Hamid)

لآ اِلَهَ اِلّا اللّهُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُوُل اللّهِ

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UMRAH 2016: Makkah

Life Updates

الحَمْد لله

Having just returned from the most life changing trip I’ve ever had the privilege of going on, I’m juxtaposed in my feelings of heartache at leaving a beautiful city behind and excitement at the prospect of going back again in the near future.

Before I arrived in Makkah, I was nervous and apprehensive at doing things wrong but all the worries of my life back home were washed away the second I stepped foot in the holy city. The night we landed we were exhausted from a long flight and made the decision to begin the pilgrimage of Umrah the following day so we could complete it to our full potential. Driving from the airport to the holy city, we were astounded at how modernised it was; lights and sculptures lined the streets leading up to the Holy Mosque. The roads were packed with cars, everyone travelling to the mosque for Isha (night) prayers.

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Top level of Masjid Al-Haram

Setting foot inside the exterior of the mosque (expanded to accommodate the ever-increasing capacity of visitors worldwide) the first thing to hit us was the sheer grand scale of the Sacred Mosque. The interior was packed with Muslims trying to get in as fast as possible to visit the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam. The intense rush of people hastily making their way towards the Kaaba is quite overwhelming at first but as soon as your eyes find the Kaaba, everything falls away because at the moment, it’s just you and God. The outside of the Kaaba was packed with circles people performing Tawaaf (one of the rituals of Umrah.) The rest of the visitors were either praying or simply sitting in front of it, making the most of being in the presence of such a sacred part of Islam.

The following morning, after Fajr (pre-dawn) prayer, we made our way to the Aisha Mosque to recite our intention of performing Umrah. From there, we travelled back to the Sacred Mosque and began the Tawaaf which consists of circling the Kaaba seven times, passing the Black Stone at the eastern corner. Following the seven rounds, we proceeded to Maqam Ibrahim (The Station of Ibrahim) where we performed the prayer as mandatory during Umrah. Finally, once this was completed, we made our way to the Zam Zam wells. It’s said to be the purest and freshest water on the planet, with sacred qualities improving health and wellbeing in all those who drink it. I personally believe this to be the truth as my health was the best it has ever been whilst in the Sacred Mosque.

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Sitting in front of the Kaaba

 

From there, we made our way to Al-Safa and Al-Marwah to perform Sa’i – walking between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah seven times. (3.15km) Once completed, we performed the mandatory prayer and thus, completed the ritual of Umrah. Sa’i was definitely the most challenging aspect of the entire pilgrimage, as we were walking barefoot on marble for nearly two miles. Nevertheless, once this was completed, a beautiful feeling of serenity washed over me and that’s when I found an inner peace radiate within me.

For the remainder of our four days in Makkah, amidst performing our daily five prayers, we visited other holy sites in the city. Most of the time I was inside the Sacred Mosque, sitting in front of the Kaaba and it was blissfully peaceful. My relationship with God grew ever-stronger as I know He listened to every prayer. It sounds awfully cliche but this was a life changing experience for me in that it transformed my entire perception of the religion, bringing me closer to God. I embraced everything Islam has to offer and came back an entirely new person, spiritually. Once you enter Makkah, your heart never wishes to leave; being back in London is great for me health-wise, but my heart is still in Makkah and I’m desperately longing to go back as soon as possible.

I can only thank God for making this trip possible.

سبحان الله

 

Last Day at Work!

Life Updates

My last day working for menswear has flown past and I’m left feeling rather nostalgic and a little at loss with what to do with myself. I remember the day I had my interview with my department manager and leaving the interview feeling absolutely terrified. Since then, I’ve massively grown as a person, in strength and in determination. Not without a few obstacles on the way, however! Nevertheless, it’s been a wild ride and one I’ll cherish for a long time.

Working for a high-demand fashion retail company isn’t easy when you’re literally running around the shop-floor all day. The one thing I was guaranteed was a decent night’s sleep after an 8 hour shift. Working for menswear was also an entirely new and exciting experience for me; I’ve learnt to style men for occasions (kinda still getting my head around that one) and help co-oordinate outfits both merchandising-wise and for customers. With regionals coming down every couple of weeks, this job has been simultaneously the most stressful and enjoyable retail experience.

The customers were a challenge, I’ll happily admit that. With men shouting at me for not smiling at them, throwing clothes on me, demanding I run up 3 flights of stairs to find them a jacket etc, it was exhausting. When customers didn’t speak a word of English, they’d start getting furious with me for not understanding them. Also, from called an “asian persuasion” to being insulted and harassed for refusing to give me phone number/ my name, I can only look back and laugh at the nature of half the arguments there’s been in menswear.

However, this job couldn’t have been as wonderful as it has been without the people I’ve met and grown to love over the course of the few months I was there. From the cashiers to the stockroom assistants to the security guards, it felt like one big family and I’m grateful to have been a part of it. I learnt the art of sass from my floor manager and how to control my tongue when men became particularly aggressive towards me and my merchandiser taught me everything I needed/ wanted to learn about merchandising – something incredibly invaluable. Their relentless support and encouragement made the experience evermore enjoyable – without it, I don’t know where I’d be. It was an absolute pleasure working with such wonderful ladies. And finally, my boss. I don’t think I have ever got on so well with a manager before. Our relationship was an odd one, though – one minute we’d be laughing, the next minute screaming in each other’s faces, at times literally hitting each other. I think 90% of that stemmed from my inability to understand what he was saying most of the time, but I’m immensely grateful to have worked for a really amazing guy. He transformed me from the timid little 19 year old at the interview into a no-shit-taking, thick skinned 20 year old. The love and respect I have for him I cannot put into words. All I can say is thank you. For absolutely everything, but most importantly for taking a chance on me and making me cry/laugh at the same time.

I looked forward to coming into work these last four months, so thank you to everyone at Croydon for giving me memories I’ll cherish and friends for life. It won’t be the same not coming down those escalators and seeing your faces again!

All my love,

Anisah x