Munira Premji

Cancer is probably one of the most dreaded words in the English language.  I know that when I was diagnosed on February 3rd, my immediate reaction was, “will I live?”.  Our initial web searches showed Multiple Myeloma patients survive no more than six months.  As I learn more about cancer, I get more encouraged.  In a wonderful book written by Dr. Robert Buckman, “Cancer is a word, not a sentence”, he states that if you have cancer, your chance of surviving it is 50% (UK statistics – 2006). That may not be as high a percentage as 80 or 90%, but it has been increasing steadily over the past four decades.  Only six years after his book, Dr. Tiedemann’s research indicates a survival rate for Multiple Myeloma of 10+ years.  And for someone like me who saw cancer as a death sentence at the outset, I am encouraged by this number.

I think part of our issue is we think of cancer as a big, scary disease — a monster ‘that cannot be named’.  We find it difficult to talk about it, we have trouble hearing about it, and we are terrified by the thought of it. But when you peel away the layers of cancer, you realize there is a wide spectrum that exists in varying severities, with differing prognoses.  As Dr. Buckman explains, a common type of skin cancer will not pose a threat to one’s life; however, an advanced cancer of the pancreas has a high probability of threatening one’s life.  He advocates that cancers are medical conditions that we need to discuss openly, without fear or dread, “because, when you come right down to it, the word cancer is exactly that – a word, not a (death) sentence.”

In the first month after my diagnosis, I defined myself as an individual who had cancer.  I moped around feeling a sense of despondency.  I was teary-eyed.  I would tell random people I had cancer.  But in time, came acceptance, and with it a sense of calm, peace and resolve.  And I have come to realize that yes, having cancer takes a lot out of you.  My chemo treatment (R-CHOP) is brutal.  In a one-month period, I spent 16 days in the hospital!  I am fatigued many days.  Sometimes, my only energy comes from prednisone.

But more importantly, there are a lot of things that cancer cannot do.  My friend, Cindy Choleras, reminded me of this when she sent me this wonderful quote:


It cannot cripple LOVE

It cannot shatter HOPE

It cannot corrode FAITH

It cannot destroy PEACE

It cannot kill FRIENDSHIP

It cannot suppress MEMORIES

It cannot silence COURAGE

It cannot invade the SOUL

It cannot steal ETERNAL LIFE

It cannot conquer THE SPIRIT

– Author Unknown –

I find this incredibly inspiring as I no longer define myself as a cancer patient, rather I define myself as an individual who has cancer.  And there is a difference.

– Munira


  • Cindy Choleras , August 19, 2012

    Munira – I am so grateful that the poem I sent to you was inspiritional and able to leave a lasting impression- just like the one you gave to me when I retired (hanging proudly in my kitchen, I might add) which said:
    Seize the day
    Look out of every window
    Life is a jorney
    Live your dreams
    Dwell in possibilities
    something which I know you do every day. May God’s love, abundant blessings & strength continue to shower you each day. Praying for you always, Cindy

    • Premji Family , August 21, 2012

      Hi Cindy. Yes, you certainly inspired that post! Sounds like you are loving retirement. I feel your energy everytime I hear from you! Munira

  • Anonymous , July 10, 2012

    Khushiali Mubaraki May you be blessed with lots of strength and recovery and happiness to you and your family.keep strong and smiling

  • Shehnaz , July 5, 2012

    Thank you for the inspirational quotes. Sending you lots and lots of good wishes and prayers.. May Mowla bless with good, healthy and prosperous and long life.. Ameen
    Shehnaz – USA

    • Premji Family , July 7, 2012

      Hi Shehnaz. How are you doing? I love the quote too and have ordered a tshirt with it. Your prayers are carrying me through this journey. Thank you! Munira

  • Yasmin , July 5, 2012

    Munira – as I read your blogs, I wonder where the inspiration is coming from? Cancer is a word and not a sentence! You are truly blessed with insight and He who is our creator, our sustainer, our guide is definitely by your side and with you. Lots of love and prayers for your complete recovery, for your positive attitude and continued strength to you and your family – Cancer can and will be beaten inshallah. Amen.
    Yasmin and Mahbanu

  • Anonymous , July 5, 2012

    Sending a lot of prayers, courage and Hugs your way! Saira Nasirdin

    • Premji Family , July 7, 2012

      Thanks Saira. I feel the hugs and prayers! Munira

  • Dilshad Nathoo , July 5, 2012

    Hey Munira Mukhianima,
    The power of words….truly significant and can have such incredible impact!

    I have had the privilege of being in several of Dr. Buckman’s lectures and in-services when he was at Sunnybrook. He was not only a phenomenal Oncologist but a wonderful human being. He was funny, kind, down to earth and treated everyone with so much respect. His sensitivity and humour enabled patients to bear the news of having cancer. I believe he taught the new residents about “How to Talk to Patients Who Have Cancer???” – bedside manners (one of the most important prerequisites in my opinion in the process of becoming a doctor!!).

    You should be so proud of yourself for your strength, courage and the BIG life lesson not only YOU have learned but are educating others with!! You are wonderful Ms. Munira!!

    I can’t wait to see you again. It has been way too long. Just sitting here and waiting for the OK from the family.
    I just want to make sure you are well, your immune system is not compromised and you are ready for one of my visits and “mango delites!”

    Lots of love,

    • Anonymous , July 5, 2012

      Continue to keep up the positive spirit, Good nutrition and whatever exercise you can do will also do wonders for you . Gulshy

      • Premji Family , July 7, 2012

        Gulshy. How is Atlanta?! You will be so proud of me. I am working on good nutrition and will be starting an exercise program as soon as I am able (I am already registered). So great to hear from you. Munira

  • Lucy , July 5, 2012

    Remembering you always. Thank you for taking the responsibility of encouraging others. Be encouraged. HUGS of encouragement to you Munira and family.

    • Premji Family , July 7, 2012

      Lucy. Thank you for your prayers. God listens! I am so looking forward to meeting you in person the next time I come to Mombasa. Munira

  • salome , July 4, 2012

    whatever it means, does it matter?by the end of the day its how you take it , no matter how convincing or negative the meaning of cancer… Mukhiani maa! you are an educated, religious and knowledgeable person, you have educated family members,friends, nurses, and doctors around you, to guide you
    take each day at a time ,my mom always said”tommorrow is definately going to come and it will be different,
    with economy so bad , people cant predict long term goals anyways,
    shukar , you are under recovery process, keep stron,g keep reminders everywhere to be strong

    • Premji Family , July 7, 2012

      I also see the value of having reminders everywhere to keep one grounded! Munira

  • Afsan , July 4, 2012

    Hi Munira, my sweet angel I miss you dearly….I can’t even begin to describe how much I truly miss you. I always come on your blog to get an update on you… You are an inspiration to me, a woman so strong, confident, and powerful that can take on any obstacle in life…Munira give me some of your courage and strength 😉 I’ am sure that millions of people who are your dear friends and family member pray for your and all I can say is that you are a loving mother, wife, and friend. I want to always keep you in my life and I can’t wait for the party you promised me…I love you and wish you the greatest and best of all…<3 hope to see you soon….I LOVE YOU MUNIRA 🙂 your always friend/sister Afsan.

    • Premji Family , July 7, 2012

      Dearest Afsan I promise to come by next week to see you! I was so happy to hear from you! Guess what, chemo did not remove my eyebrows or eyelashes. I am so grateful! I am at the hospital today and hope to be released tomorrow. Feeling strong and happy today. You are an inspiration to me and I am just so glad our paths crossed (almost 9 years ago?). I heard you went to Cuba a couple of weeks ago? Love you, Munira

  • Julie Nunes , July 4, 2012

    I miss you. Know what else cancer can’t do? Give you a big fat hug. But I can.
    PPPTTTHHH!!!! Sending one your way!!

    • Premji Family , July 7, 2012

      Big, fat hug back to you at the cottage! Miss you Julie! Munira

  • Fatima Khemani , July 4, 2012

    That is such a powerful perspective. Side note,when I first read the title of your post, I was alarmed because I thought you said, “Cancer is so limiting”. I am delighted that you used the word “limited” instead. Your post shows the power of one’s words on themselves. By rearranging and a little revision of words, one can alter their entire understanding of themselves. It is similar to biblical quote, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue”. I think we sometimes forget how powerful our words and thoughts can be. Thanks for the reminder! So thankful that you are not only surviving, but are thriving! =D

    Sending lots of love and prayers your way,
    Fatima (Chicago)

    • Premji Family , July 7, 2012

      So, so true Fatima. When I think of relationships that have broken because of words…. In retrospect, I should have probably called the blog (Cancer is so limited – What Cancer cannot do!). Working on thriving Fatima. Nice to hear from you! Munira

  • Shaun , July 4, 2012

    Well said Munira. Cancer makes us look inward and tells us – whether suffering or simply helping the afflicted – that life is like wine: sip slowly and savor every moment.

    • Premji Family , July 7, 2012

      Life is truly a gift that we do take for granted. There is so much to savor if we only took the time to look. Thanks Shaun!

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