In Sickness and In Health – Part 3: It’s Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Written by Patricia Darwish

Dear God,

That’s it! I give up! There is only so much one person can handle. 

What more can I go through that I need to show you I have faith? I love you. I surrendered to you. Why am I still being tested? 

I want answers God. Why aren’t you answering my questions?

I was angry with the universe and the fear seemed to take the back seat for a moment. My diagnoses was finally confirmed – I had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Weeks went by and I noticed myself becoming less engaged with life. I locked my doors, sat in my room and forgot about the world. The exhaustion took over. In a matter of weeks my body broke down. Being a single mom of four, it’s understandable to be a little tired, but this was a different kind of tired. It was hard for me to move around my house, to shop, go to work, stand and cook for my children – and at times, even shower. With doctors restricting me from work and being around people, I began notice myself slipping into depression.

My diagnoses was finally confirmed. I had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Unable to see me so fragile and weak, the pressure got to my brother and he decided to tell my parents after the new year.

I was sitting on my couch when the door opened and my parents walked in to see me.  For a moment I remember holding my breath, hoping that would hold back my tears, but it didn’t last long.

“How could this happen to you?” my mom asked.

I let out my breath and tears began to roll down my face. What answer could I give her that would satisfy her?

“Inshallah khair,” I said.

Apparently God believed I was stronger than I thought I could be in this situation. I am the oldest of three children, so I was used to being the strong one, the one that kept the family together and the caretaker. Playing the role of the patient did not come easy for me, and I had to learn the hard way to just give in and let go.

I understood that in their minds, cancer was synonymous with death. 

Eventually people began to find out, and I had to share my diagnoses with my children.  As I stated previously, I have four children – twin girls who are 16 years-old and two boys, a fourteen and a nine year-old. As hard as I wanted to keep it away from them, I couldn’t lie anymore. Being as honest as possible, I told them the truth. Seeing them break down killed me, and every tear that fell from their eyes felt like my heart was bleeding out. I understood that in their minds, cancer was synonymous with death.

I did everything I was supposed to – visiting two hospitals and specialists, where each place confirmed my diagnosis and treatment plan. Most of the people I knew who were diagnosed with cancer died. So, who was I going to talk to about this?

Keeping it a secret perpetuated the belief that having cancer was, in fact, shameful – and that was NOT how I wanted to live through this fight.

Unfortunately, people don’t talk about health issues like this in my community. It seemed like everything was a secret – even when it wasn’t shameful. I mean, really, absolutely NO ONE wanted to talk about the ugly disease out loud.

When doctors diagnosed me, I began to feel a lot of shame. Shame that no one should ever feel. I questioned my feelings, and was disheartened with the reality of my world.  Keeping it a secret was not an option, though. Keeping it a secret perpetuated the belief that having cancer was, in fact, shameful – and that was NOT how I wanted to live through this fight. Although I didn’t know what my outcome would be, I knew I refused to give in to the uncertainty and negative stigma people gave the disease.  I owed that to my children and anyone fighting with the disease.

So, once the diagnosis was confirmed, the dreaded chemotherapy began. They placed a port on my left side of my chest where the medicine would be administered.  My treatment was 7 rounds every 3 weeks. I would go in on a Monday for 5 consecutive days and get my medicine administered through my port which was a 24 hour feed. I would return to the hospital each morning to refill my medicine. The devil, I called it.

After my week of chemotherapy, I had to give myself seven days of shots.  These shots brought my blood counts down, so I had to stay away from everyone and watch what I ate. The shots were much harder for me then the chemotherapy. It crippled me. The doctors warned me I might have some side effects with joint pain, but nothing prepared me for what I was going to experience.

The first night I did my shots, reality of cancer sank in. It was 4:30 in the morning and I found myself awake. My legs felt heavy, my arms weak and an overwhelming numbing and tingling sensation took over.  I struggled to call out for help. Alhamdulillah, my mom came in to check on me.

 I had to let go and trust in God – that there was a reason for what was going on.

“What’s wrong, are you okay?” she asked.  I couldn’t talk and I could see the fear in her eyes as she watched tears roll down my face. I was broken with the sight of seeing her struggle to be strong for me.

It was at that moment I realized there was no choice but to accept everything that I was going through. I couldn’t put up a fake front for everyone to see that I was strong.  I had to let go and trust in God – that there was a reason for what was going on. I had yet another test in life that I had to face. I had to make a decision – and that decision was to fight.


Patricia Darwish has chronicled her life journey in her fight against cancer. She shares this with you in hopes that she can break down the walls of shame from talking about this disease. It is through her journey that she hopes she is able to reach out to some of you who might be going through the same struggles. Please follow her on Muslim Girl, as we learn to cope with and fight against this thing called cancer ever Friday. 

Part 1

Part 2