Eating Disorder awareness week is next month. Eating Disorders are a mental illness that represents a significant challenge to patients, health care workers, family members and our communities. While growing acceptance of eating disorder as a mental condition, like diabetes and heart disease, has taken hold in some parts of the western world, unfortunately the illness has a very little understanding in Muslim world and stigma associated with the illness is a barrier to care and continues to impede early diagnosis and effective treatment. The prevalence of Eating Disorders is high among young girls. We need to do our best to create awareness of this pandemic disease. We often fall into this trap thinking, no one will ever understand our illness, but that’s not true. We can make people understand. In order to address this problem, we need a united solution and a united stand against this illness. We need to share information, save lives and call for Eating Disorder informed society.
Grandmothers Counsels Us
Mrs Munawar Alim passed away on 29th January 2016. Prayers for the deceased. May her soul rest in peace.
I met this honorable lady last year. She had just been diagnosed with Cancer. She became very sad when I told her about Eating Disorders. She was sad how she was witnessing a time period, where girls as young as 11, were compromising their health and well-being to fit into unrealistic standards of body size, how girls thought they would be more acceptable if they looked certain way and behaved in certain way. She’s never witnessed such low self-esteem before. She said in her time, there was no pressure on women to be certain size, what mattered most was person’s character, their values and belief system.
Listening to such women has been an enormous privilege and has changed the way I see life and how I want to be in the world. I am inspired by their passion toward their well-being and their dedication toward helping their family, friends and community.
First Message of Hope in Honor of NEDAwareness Week
In my parent’s time women were looked up to as guardians to watch over the physical and spiritual survival of the family. They were the keepers of the teachings that allowed families to flourish, and they upheld the social order. They lived in communal system, where everything was shared and everyone took care of one another. My mother passed those values down to me. My parents raised me with good etiquette, good values and good education. I was taught about self care, self love, and how food was a source of strength and nourishment for human being.Today it’s those values that are keeping me strong and helping me in my war against cancer.
I had an arranged marriage and this was in 1970s. My husband and I lived a good life. We have two children, one boy, one girl. We then moved to UK. With my good health, education and strong values, I was able to stand shoulder to shoulder with my husband and raise our children.
When my husband passed away in 1990s. I was able to overtake his role in my children’s life and become both mother and father to them. My secret was my belief in Allah, good health, self-love and self-respect. I missed him dearly, but I am a strong woman, strong in body, mind and spirit and I always knew life was a one big challenge, a trial and I’ve to do my best to get through this trial.
Facing Everything with Gratitude
I faced all the challenges with gratitude and finally a day came when my daughter got married to a good man. This was in late 1990s and by that time many things in our society had changed. People really took outer appearance into account. My son in law married my daughter for her simplicity, her nature and her goodness. Today they are blessed with two beautiful daughters. My son is married with two children as well.
When Cancer Comes Knocking On Door
I was diagnosed with Cancer last year, Stage 4, confined to lungs. I was told it hasn’t metastasized yet. I had a main tumor in my right lung and another small one in my left lung. I started my Chemotherapy but it didn’t work, so I had to go for Radiotherapy.
No one could tell, I had cancer or I was going through chemo. I was very fortunate I had strength to do everything by myself.
In July I was told there was not much change in my tumor and I would have my next follow up in December. I was given clear for few months, I couldn’t thank God enough. I went to Bahrain with my Grand daughters to visit my son.
I came back to UK and my test reports reveal there’s a second tumor which has grown to the size of a golf ball in my left lung and the disease has metastasized in my lungs. I’m going for second round of chemo therapy now.
My Advice to those who Suffer from Eating Disorders
“There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its remedy.”
Cure is with Allah. I was raised to Fight not Flight. Cure is with Allah, but we have to search for the cure. I’m open to all methods of treatment, I place my trust in my Doctor and that’s trust in Allah.
Usamah ibn Shuraik narrated:
“… ‘O Allah’s Messenger! Should we seek medical treatment for our illnesses?’ He replied: ‘Yes, you should seek medical treatment, because Allah, the Exalted, has let no disease exist without providing for its cure, except for one ailment, namely, old age’.”
You are Perfect- When you were born, you were born in a state of purity, in a state of perfection. Do not allow anyone to tell you your imperfect and born with defects. Your still perfect. Ask any mother, how perfect her child is, and she’ll tell you very perfect.
Your Body is Your Best Friend
Taking proper care of ones health is considered by the Prophet Muhammad pbuh to be the right of the body.
My body which I cared for in my youth and in my adult life is my savior today. If I didn’t have a good health, I would have struggled to recover from the aftermath of therapies . I am grateful to Allah, for giving me this independence and strength. So take care of your body, treat it with great respect, nourish it with good food and your body will be your best friend, your companion in later years.
Food is a Medicine. With Cancer, you lose appetite, it’s very easy not to eat and give up on food. I always eat from the five main food groups. Your Food is your Medicine. Missing out on your daily medicine means your illness will get worst.
The Prophet not only instructed sick people to take medicine, but he himself invited expert physicians for this purpose.
D.o.H. p.50, As-Suyuti’s Medicine of the Prophet p.125
Offer Gratitude- With Cancer, you also get very dark days, when you feel your mind is shutting down, there’s physical pain and a pain of mind. In these times, I offer gratitude. I always think and ask myself what would Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) do in these times? Beat your illness with gratitude and belief in God.
Love is rare, life is strange, nothing lasts and people change. Everyday is special, so make the most of it, you could get a life ending illness tomorrow so make the most of everyday. Life is only bad if you make it bad.
This quote is from 12 year old Cancer Sufferer who died last year. I find it very inspiring.
You are Strong- Illness can befall anyone. I never Question my illness. Allah loves me more than my mother. He would never give me an illness that I could not handle.
“Allah burdens not an individual more than his capability”
Live in Harmony- We need to live in harmony with one another. Eating Disorders disunite families and destroy the fabric of family.
Fight As a Unit- My illness caused a lot of grief. I saw the worry in my children and Grand Children’s eye. I simply smiled and stood up like a strong warrior and gave hope and courage to my family. Now in peace and harmony we fight my illness. I never lose hope. When we work with people it really can assist us through our recovery process fully.
Celebrate Your Natural Self- In my entire life, I never went on a diet and I ate in moderation. I was taught about personal hygiene, to dress well and to take care of my physical, spiritual and mental health. Appreciate your natural beauty and celebrate it. Teenage Time is not a time to go on drastic diets or to have such unhealthy thoughts in mind. This is your time to take care of yourself, take care of your mind. Eating Disorders have severe consequences on health. So be mindful.
In My Illness, In My Trial I’m Inspired by Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh)
The best amongst those who are ill is one who exercises patience in this suffering, conceals his pain and desists from complaining about his disease to others until he regains his health and acquires the maximum reward ordained for him.
Last Week I was due for a Chemo session. It was a difficult decision for me to make. I waited weeks before agreeing to another round of Chemo. At hospital I faced many challenges, the doctor had forgotten to process my prescription for my chemo therapy drug. It caused a long delay. In those times, I simply smiled and exercised patience. That’s what the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) would do.
After my Hospital Session. I experienced loss of appetite, nausea and weakness. I wanted to close my eyes and just sleep, but I gathered my courage and ate my food and took care of myself, my mind, my spirit and my body. I lovingly prepared my soups in my kitchen. I am inspired by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He said there’s a blessing in soup. This food blesses my soul.
In my illness, I maintain a good appearance.When my family comes home, I greet them with a smile on my face. Like our beloved Prophet (pbuh), I also try to make things easy for them. My smile lights their world.
“Grasp five things before five others: your youth before your decrepitude, your health before your illness, your riches before your poverty, your leisure before your work, and your Life before your death.”