Masjidul-Quds was a vision of marshmallow pink as hundreds of women donned their pink headscarves in honour of annual Pink Hijab Day. Marked every year in the last week of October, Pink Hijab Day forms part of Breast Cancer Awareness month and is a solidarity event for those impacted by the disease. The event was hosted as part of Global Pink Hijab Day, an initiative that began as an experiment by founder, Hend El-Buri in Columbia, Missouri. It was directed toward breaking stereotypes about Muslim women while encouraging a dialogue around breast cancer.
Tuesday’s event was attended by a multitude of women, from cancer patients, survivors, or relatives who have been diagnosed with some form of the disease. Though the impact of cancer in the life of the patient can never be quantified, those who provide the day-to-day support often go unnoticed.
Speaking to VOC News, imam of Masjid al-Quds, shaykh Abdurahman Alexander says that the event has been hosted at the masjid for the past three years in a bid to increase awareness about cancer, particularly the scourge of breast cancer that appears to be on the increase within the community.
“We need to create support structures so that people empower others by informing them that cancer is not a death sentence.”
The shaykh said while numerous cancer awareness programmes exist, there will always be room for more and encourages individuals to go for regular screening.
“It is amazing that the amount of cancers that you hear of today you did not hear about it years ago,” he added.
Quoting the ayah of the Qur’an in which Allah says (which may mean) that he is closer to His servants that their life vein, Alexander encouraged cancer patients to remain steadfast in their battle and to remember that they are never alone.
Gadija Erasmus recalled her journey after her mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer. She cared for her mother until her final hour. She says that while her mother is said to have lived with cancer for years, her mother prior to being diagnosed was thought to be suffering from a stomach ulcer. Due to the progression of Erasmus’ mother’s cancer, doctors were unable to prescribe her any treatment and she later past away in early 2016.
While the loss of one’s mother is naturally accompanied by great sadness, Erasmus says that she views the cancer diagnosis as a blessing that provided her with an opportunity to care for her mother in her final days while cementing their bond.
“It’s been me and my mother all the years; we have lived together all the years and we have never been separated. Allah gave her this illness [for me] to prepare. So, I took it as part of my journey,” she tearfully stated.
Overcome with emotion, Erasmus asserts that as a care-giver of a cancer patient she would advise that the patient is never made aware of difficulties that accompany their rehabilitation or treatment.
“When I would come into her room, she would look at me as if asking if she is a burden for me, but when I came in I would always smile, although me picking her up would hurt [my back], I would never show her. I would always turn something negative into something positive for her.”
Providing insight into an average day in the life of a care-giver, Erasmus explains that after her mother performed both Tahajud and Fajr prayers, she would routinely place her in her wheelchair and, thereafter, take her to the lounge area where she would recline while keeping a steady eye on the view from the window.
Erasmus would then tidy her mother’s bedroom, transfer her mother to the bedroom and feed her. This routine would be followed by her mother’s bath.
“I would still apply her roll-on, do her hair, put her clothes on – I would dress her like every other day,” she added.
Two weeks prior to Erasmus’ mother’s passing, her mother lost all mobility, but would continue performing her prayers, assisted by her daughter, who would don her headscarf.
In light of expected pressure that caring for an ailing family member may place on a marriage, Erasmus asserts that she received unwavering support from her husband, who eagerly assisted in caring for her mother.
“He used to help me carry my mother and it was never a burden for him. He never ever questioned [me], because he knew how important she was to me.”
Despite her continued longing to be reunited with her mother, Erasmus says that she is satisfied with the manner in which her mother departed the world, holding on to her faith and parting this world while reciting the Shahada.
She advises all children of cancer patients to view the task as an honour and never to waver in granting them the same care and patience that was afforded to them in their youth.
“Do it with love. Every time I looked at my mother I saw her as my baby. So too, your mother can never be a burden – I would do it over in a heartbeat,” Erasmus continued. VOC