Iconic Community / 07 May, 2024

Embracing Optimism, Strength and Resilience

Icon Writers

In life’s unexpected twists, a cancer diagnosis can challenge a person’s resolve and reshape their perspective on life. Rahimah Abdulrahim, affectionately known as Ima, shares her journey of braving a stage 2 breast cancer diagnosis with a positive and open mind.

The diagnosis – A storm of emotions

At 48, Ima faced the sobering reality of her diagnosis. “I was left speechless and overwhelmed with shock upon receiving the news,” she recounts. The initial disbelief quickly gave way to a torrent of emotions, as uncertainty loomed. “The uncertainty of what lay ahead overwhelmed me – I had just resigned from my job, the financial costs were unknown, and my plans for starting a business with friends as well as my travel plans suddenly seemed distant and uncertain,” she added.

Upon stepping out of the doctor’s office, she called her sister in Perth to share the news. With an urgent sense of not wanting to be alone that day, she reached out to her best friend, Huda, who lives in Singapore. “She swiftly came over to my apartment that afternoon, and before I could even find the words, she spotted the brightly coloured plastic bag from the breast clinic. In that moment, we both burst into tears, finding solace and support in one another,” Ima said.

Finding strength in adversity

Inspired by one of her favourite actresses, Lupita Nyong’o, Ima expressed her desire to get a henna crown tattoo on her head and acted on it together with support from Huda.

“This became my source of motivation and encouragement, as the crown symbolised strength and beauty in the face of adversity. Rather than dreading the hair loss, I eagerly anticipated this new expression of self. It was crucial for me to set small milestones, allowing myself to celebrate these victories instead of dwelling on the negatives,” Ima said.

Drawing inspiration from her mother’s triumphant battle against ovarian cancer, Ima chose to confront her own journey with positivity and optimism. “If she could triumph, so could I,” she affirms.

Her cancer journey

When asked about her cancer journey, Ima shares: “Throughout my battle with cancer thus far, I have been incredibly fortunate to have the unwavering support of a remarkable group of friends, family and the care team. Their unwavering love, encouragement, and positive energy have played a vital role in helping me stay strong and face the challenges that cancer presents. From the very beginning, they rallied around me, providing a strong support system that served as a constant source of motivation and inspiration.”

Ima also found strength in sharing her journey with friends, family and she chose to be public with her story on Instagram (@imaabdul) and Facebook. Sharing openly both the ups and downs of her journey gave her strength in the knowledge that others would be reminded to get their regular mammograms and checks. Being an advocate for social issues throughout her career, and being a storyteller really propelled her to advocate for awareness of the importance of early detection of breast cancer.

Since Ima’s diagnosis, her life has undergone significant changes, reshaping her perspective and priorities. Being a cancer survivor serves as a constant reminder for her to prioritise her health, embrace resilience and cherish each day as a gift. She now finds deeper appreciation in life’s simple joys and actively seeks fulfilling experiences, while setting goals that truly matter to her. “Cancer has taught me the significance of embracing slow living and savouring the present moment. I have learned to find beauty and gratitude in the small things, to slow down and find solace in the simplicity of life, and to cultivate a mindset of appreciation for all that life has to offer,” Ima said.

Tips for patients undergoing cancer treatment

Reflecting on her journey, Ima shared some tips that helped during her cancer treatment. She said maintaining a positive attitude proved instrumental in alleviating the burden of chemotherapy’s side effects. She also shared a tip on overcoming nausea and vomiting: “Whenever I felt a bit uneasy, I followed my mother’s remedy of drinking a hot ginger infusion, which consisted of boiling a generous amount of ginger with lemongrass and a touch of palm sugar.”

On days when she felt low and down, she would find the following activities helped to pick herself up:

  1. Taking a stroll in the park: the fresh air and physical activity boosted her mood and provided a sense of calm;
  2. Sharing stories through social media platforms: Ima believes in the power of storytelling and self-expression, and feels that opening up about her struggles and triumphs helped create a supportive community that uplifted and inspired her;
  3. Spending quality time with friends and family: their presence reminded Ima of the joy and love surrounding her, helping her feel grounded and energised;
  4. Planning future travel: this provided her with a sense of hope and adventure, reminding her that there are beautiful experiences waiting to be discovered beyond her current challenges.

Finally, when asked to share one important piece of advice with cancer patients who are currently going through treatments, Ima said: “Take things one day at a time and celebrate small wins. Celebrate waking up or celebrate being able to get through a meal, small wins are great. Above all, be kind to yourself.”

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