“When I was a child in Tanzania, I could see Mount Kilimanjaro from my window, mighty and immovable. Permanent. When you’re young, so much of life feels like that mountain. It’s unlimited and it’s not going anywhere. But we aren’t mountains.
Multiple myeloma arrived in my life like an unwelcome guest. And then, while I was still reconciling my future with that diagnosis, I was told that I also had stage four non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Two different cancers, within weeks of each other.
They couldn’t begin treating the myeloma until the lymphoma was under control. Four gruelling months of chemotherapy later, my husband asked the doctors if he could take me to Niagara Falls for the weekend. Before they could answer, I interjected, ‘Can he take me to Florida for a week?’ The doctors agreed that it would be good for me to recharge before starting more chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.
Florida was magical. We swam in the ocean. We ate incredible food. I put on some much-needed weight. I was wearing wigs on the beach because, of course, the chemo had taken my hair. It was a moment of peace, but I knew that I was only at the beginning of my journey with cancer. And so, even though I was celebrating life, I was also eyeball to eyeball with my own mortality. It felt like cancer had taken away my sense of purpose. I had to rebuild myself cell by cell and figure out: Who is Munira now?
“I knew that I was only at the beginning of my journey with cancer. And so, even though I was celebrating life, I was also eyeball to eyeball with my own mortality.”
Today, almost 11 years and a book later, I know who I am. The myeloma has returned aggressively, but I now look at cancer as just a word. I’m excited about my new treatment. I see it as the possibility of a gift, just as the last 11 years have been a gift I’m infinitely grateful for. I was able to see my daughter graduate from Columbia, my son graduate from INSEAD, and both of them get married. And then, miracle of miracles, I became a grandmother.
A decade ago, I was planning my own funeral. Today, I’m doing everything I can to stay as healthy as I can because I want to live. I have grandchildren to introduce to Harry Potter, and to take to Disney World. I may not be as permanent as Kilimanjaro, but that won’t stop me from planning for the future.”