My Daughter, My Hero

My name is Sakina Changi and I have had the privilege of being Sameera Changi’s mother. Last September, I experienced firsthand what we call “the circle of life”. Just as I spent 9 months nursing my child inside of me in 1986, in 2015 I spent 9 months trying to nurse her back to a full life. While I did everything in my power, and more, to help my child escape the clutches of her disease, it is with great pride that I can say that Sameera instead helped us escape the clutches that we unknowingly put upon ourselves in our quest to lead great lives.

Sameera was my pride and joy for 29 years and she continues to be just that to this day in the form of her 4 year old daughter Armeen. On this day, exactly 1 year after my older daughter took off on an adventure of her own, I wish to share everything that was going on during the 9 months leading up to her passing on.

Sam had been married to Abizar for 5 years and had started a whole new life for herself in the US. No matter how busy each of us would be, we’d make it a point to Skype religiously every weekend, even if just for a few minutes sometimes. It was in November 2014, that my sister’s son was getting married in Mumbai. I am extremely close to my sister and Sam was extremely close to her cousin Abbas. She knew we would all be very busy with the wedding preparations. She was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in the first week of November, but decided to keep that from us till 3 weeks after the diagnosis so we could enjoy the wedding celebrations of one of her favourite cousins.

After the wedding was over, I got a message from my son in law saying he would like to Skype with all of us as he had something to share. It was a weekday and we were pretty confused as to what it could be. While my younger daughter thought Sam was pregnant for the second time, I was worried that she had done something to upset Abizar. My husband was away on a business trip to New Delhi. We were on line in a few seconds. Abizars face was sad and with tears in his eyes he broke the news to us that Sam was diagnosed with cancer three weeks ago. Because she knew we were busy with the wedding preparations, she didn’t want to upset us by telling us earlier. She was going to start with her chemotherapy the week after that. When we spoke to Sam the next day, she smiled at us and said, “Don’t worry, I’m gonna fight this!” She didn’t want us to tell any of our extended family members about it because she was so sure that she was going to be fine and didn’t want everyone to worry for no reason.

I told her I’d be flying out immediately to be with her. She insisted that I come a couple months down the line because it was winter and the snow in Cleveland could be very depressing. She assured us that everything was under control and that she would manage by herself for a while. She attended her first 2 chemo sessions by herself, and never forgot to send us pictures of her getting her medicine. She even told us on Skype that once she was done with all of her treatments, the first thing she would do is get a tattoo that says “Armeen” on her arm.

She finished with all her chemo sittings in 3 months and then had to undergo a surgery. She was so particular about her looks that even in the operation theatre, she would dress up with her make up on. Doctors and the staff loved her as she was a very cheerful baby.

In June, she finished all her treatments and there was just the final round of radiation left. Everything seemed to be going as per plan, so I decided to pre-pone my trip and return to India. Once I was back however, I did not like it one bit and would think of her and Armeen all the time. About 20 days after my return to India, when my husband Hasnain and I were on our way back home from a relatives place, we saw a plane that had just taken off in front of our car. At that point, I looked at Hasnain and told him to book me a ticket as I wanted to go back to my Sam. We both spoke about it for a while and decided it wasn’t the best idea to go back so soon, since everything seemed to be getting better. Call it a mother’s intuition or the universe conspiring in ways we’d never understand, but 2 days later, we received a call from Hasnain’s friend telling us to get on to the next flight to Cleveland as the cancer had spread!

Hasnain and I flew out that night and reached Cleveland some 24 hours later. We had decided to surprise Sam with our visit. The look of joy on her face when she opened the door to her house for us was one that we will never forget. We hugged and cried together and assured each other that everything is going to be alright. We had a great time, going for picnics, dinners, concerts, etc. After a month, Hasnain came back to India while I stayed on with her. She would buy me baking stuff as I love to bake, she would look out for classes for me that I could attend in my free time, she would take pictures of the stuff I baked as she wanted me to start my business with a facebook page. In short, she’d spend every waking moment of hers worrying about how she could keep me entertained. There were different flavours of ice cream in the refrigerator every single day, we’d sit together and watch Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Dr Phil and various other shows on Netflix. She even planned her dad’s surprise birthday party with Zeba from the hospital! During her last session of radiation, she had taken a box of sweets to distribute amongst the nurses. She had also told her husband to tell her work people how sorry she is, and about how she had wanted to do great things for them!

While to many it may seem that my daughter lost her battle to cancer, I know that she fought as hard as she could and ultimately, she emerged the winner. The number of lives she has touched in the short span of time that she has spent on this earth, the number of people she inspired while fighting her disease, the number of good wishes and prayers she has earned after her passing on, are all testimony to the great life that she has led. Maybe her purpose on this earth was to show us how to live, how every moment is to be cherished, how our relationships are to be nurtured and how our potentials are to be exploited till the very end. Maybe she was here to teach us the true meaning of love, of loyalty and of living each day as if it were your last. Maybe she was here to show us the real meaning of parenthood, of sisterhood, of companionship, of friendship. Because, trust me, Sam fulfilled each and every role that she took on in her 29 years of existence with so much ease, with greater courage and with the most amount of integrity that could ever be expected out of anyone her age. I miss her every second of every single day. I know a lot of you reading this do too. But I cannot thank her enough for giving me the honour of being her mother. I only hope I am able to repay her kindness by being even half the mother that she would have been to Armeen. And that is all I strive to be every day.

Till I hold you in my arms again Sam



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