Dearly Beloved

Gareth Mark Thompson, my beautiful soulmate, my diagnosis spun you so hard.

Shock horror as sheer fear set in from the words that came out of the doctor’s mouth…cancer.

All our dreams and innocent aspirations came tumbling down, we started 2018 so differently, I was carrying your baby, too early to tell people but inside I felt joyful because my motherly urges came closer to reality.

My unborn life, I call you Jasmine my favourite name, it wasn’t meant to be. There was a bigger picture unfolding this year and we lost Jasmine at approx 7-8 weeks in January.

The miscarriage was horrific, I was rushed to hospital due to the amount of blood i was losing, they then sent me home to miscarry naturally.

We were completely mortified by this experience, we were planning for children and our future but there was something even greater unfolding inside me….

bastard cancer. 

We met 7 years ago in a Gravesend bar, you were djing and looked like such fun, laughing and joking, you tried to kiss me on first intro and I boldly said ‘NO take me on a date!’

I knew I wanted more from you there and then, you had me already. Looks wise, tall, sexy, great hair and great shoes, my go to checklist for men.

On our first date you took me to a curry house and stubborn me split the bill with you, I literally ran away before any opportunity to kiss, typical Saima screwing up my first official ‘date’, I was never lucky in love before meeting you.

It was meant to be, I moved to South London, you were studying the London knowledge and our lives fell into the ‘deep south’. In those 7 years we have managed many house moves, moving ourselves and our extended families, some adventurous holidays in Europe, many career/circumstantial changes, family deaths and break ups, we managed to set up two successful businesses and most of all you earned your freedom to be a Licensed London black taxi driver, full green badge and all, no scrimping.

People envied us, we were on a roll baby, some people were not happy for us but we had each other and that’s all that mattered after everything.

It wasn’t easy but we took the challenges and lessons with us and that’s the beauty of you, my absolute best mate and partner in crime.

One thing in my moment of staring death in the face, literally, which stands so true is you and me, our partnership is one I am truly blessed to have encountered in my young life.

To love and be loved is what truly matters, whether its family, friends or partners, to love is the most important and magnificent thing of all. In my life although I have lacked loving myself due to my life circumstances, my love for you gives me life every bloody day I am here.

Dear Gareth, I know you don’t like being put on a pedestal, my G you are made of tough shit and this journey is not for everybody, its unusual, strange and very dark at times.

It’s been difficult for me as I watched the events of this year literally sucking the joy out of you. I know you are higher than that because you STILL make me cry with laughter despite our new pathway but some moments when I glance at your eyes they show me fear, fear of the unknown, of making plans that aren’t immediate, fear of my health.

Gareth It’s only gonna get weirder, more beautiful and maybe sad at the same time but that’s life, our life. Bring on those crazy life obstacles, lets navigate through this together, i’m so excited to call you my husband Gareth Mark Thompson, lets enjoy and laugh through the rest of 2018 together.

Love you baby forever and ever, in this life and the next, lets get married! 

Saima Thompson xxx

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Cultural Cancer Confusion

Doctor…. Is age on my side?

‘No you are a statistic now.’

Bit harsh but those words are so true, cancer is ageless, faceless, it doesnt care who you are, i bloody have it, aged 29.

Most importantly cancer is raceless, this is a taboo/unspoken subject like most illnesses or ailments in the south asian community. The older generation views at times are one of judgement, pity, religion lead, some believe that illness is simply ‘gods will’, written on the walls.

So i had quite a bit to contend with on top of being diagnosed with stage 4 non small cell lung cancer adenocarcinoma and running independent businesses. I had to try and explain to my dear mum, my relatives in the uk and pakistan that i have an incurable disease.

My current treatment is a pill a day called Afatinib otherwise known as a ‘chemo pill’ because a pill a day sounds cute and taking this shit is not cute i tell you now. The side effects include skin rash which look similar to acne, my relations in Pakistan believed i had chicken pox, i almost admired their blissful ignorance, living for the day and concluding i was a little bit ill.

My Aunty even called me from our ancestral home Ghakhar Mandi, Punjab to tell me to wear a red scarf on my head and not wash for 11 days then eat ‘meetha chawal’, sweet rice dessert. Whether this cures chicken pox i cannot be sure, sounds messy though.

I eventually found an e-leaflet on a Pakistani hospitals website and forwarded it to my grandmother, still its totally new information and not really discussed in our culture the way it is in the west.

Explaining cancer to my dear pakistani mother and business partner was yet another hurdle. We run a restaurant together in Brockley, South London called Masala Wala Cafe. When i was dealing with the symptoms of the yet confirmed cancer, road to diagnosis was not pretty. Doctors hoping it was a thyroid problem, then blood cancer, not lung cancer, not at my age.

My sisters stepped up and split my job role amongst themselves. Gosh i don’t know what i would have done without those three angels, they supported without hesitation and i am forever grateful, true family business.

My poor mother or Ami Ji as we say in Urdu language, i must have tried to tell her in my sick state repeatedly, ‘Ami Ji i have lung cancer, there are tumours growing in my body, it has spread to my liver, bone, lymph nodes’……. Nothing. Sometimes she would say ‘you will get better beyta’ (daughter)

It was again nice that she thought i caught something and it will just go away because that’s what i wished for so much.

If only.

I KNOW TOO MUCH

I KNOW EVERYTHING

I know it’s incurable, i know its a shitty diagnosis, i know the horrific survival statistics and there my immigrant mother was trying to understand the concept of cancer in general.

It wasn’t until one day Ami Ji came over to stay, I was very poorly and on steroids to reduce the upper chest swelling from the internal obstruction a tumour was causing.

Ami Ji cooked me my favourite lentils and massaged my swollen body, when she massaged my back and felt how tender it was, she stopped, ‘ the spots are inside you, i understand beyta’.

I cried and hugged her so tight, she understood, not fully but we had a breakthrough that night.

We are getting there, she knows this is big, i wish she didn’t have to, my dear Ami Ji.