Munira Premji

Labels are for jars, not people

I will survive.

Three powerful words Munira Premji has chosen to live by since her stage three multiple myeloma and stage four lymphoma diagnoses in February 2012. It’s also the name of her inspirational blog – which has over 65,000 views across 80 countries since it began in March.

What began as a small virtual space to keep family and friends updated on her cancer journey, has quickly become a live journal capturing Munira’s most candid moments – the good, the bad and the funny.

Munira’s blog entries range from light-hearted postings about her secret love affair with oranges (a side effect of chemotherapy), to inspiring messages like ‘labels are for jars, not people’ and ‘once you choose hope, anything is possible’.

'Day of miracles'

One of Munira’s first blog entries recounts a visit to Toronto General Hospital (TGH) on March 8, 2012 – one her family now calls, ‘a day of miracles.’

Munira was admitted to the TGH emergency room after learning her hemoglobin level was 42. The average person has a hemoglobin level of 120-140; below 50 is considered life threatening.

“For the first time since hearing about the cancer diagnosis, I realized that this may be the day I would lose my mom,” said Sabrina, Munira’s 24-year-old daughter and best friend.

But Dr. Christie Cserti-Gazdewich, hematologist at UHN, dubbed ‘superhero’ by Munira, had other plans. She worked all night to ensure four units of blood – Sabrina and her brother Shayne named them, ‘Mr. Bean, Dexter, Edward Cullen and Popat’ – stabilized Munira’s condition. The transfusions saved Munira’s life.

Celebration

In June 2012, after three months of intensive lymphoma chemotherapy, Munira received exciting news from Dr. Rodger Tiedemann, oncologist at Princess Margaret: there was no sign of lymphoma. To celebrate, Nagib, Munira’s husband, booked a trip to Florida.

On July 25, Munira and her family were transported to their tropical paradise, St. Pete’s Beach, Florida, the same spot where Munira and Nagib spent their honeymoon over 30 years ago.

After seven days of Florida sunshine, it was back to reality. Munira began her chemotherapy treatment for myeloma the next day.

Everything 'pushed back'

In an October blog post, named ‘A setback or a speed bump?’ Munira outlined one of the most difficult points of her cancer journey. The myeloma chemotherapy was not responding and an attempt to collect stem cells for a transplant to put Munira’s myeloma into remission was unsuccessful.

“I had anticipated having this journey done by the end of the year,” said Munira. “I wanted to start fresh in January – but suddenly everything was pushed back. It was so disappointing.”

In early December, Munira’s spirits were back up and she was ready to try the stem cell mobilization process again – this time, with the help of newly approved drug that speeds up the stem cell collection process.

'Popping like popcorn'

A few weeks later, Munira received life-changing news – she was eligible for a stem cell transplant.

“My stem cells were popping like popcorn!” said Munira. “I was on cloud nine.”

Munira anticipates she will receive a stem cell transplant at Princess Margaret within the next few months and hopes her myeloma will be in remission by May 2013.



Follow Munira’s cancer journey in her blog: http://i-will-survive.org/about/

Munira's story is part of our World Cancer Day courage series. World cancer Day is February 4 - get the facts: www.worldcancerday.org.