Sumaira Flower

Sumaira Flower

November 12, 2015

Oh Brother, Thou Art Here

I don't write as frequently as I once used to - I've got a lot going on. But, I have a story to share that I've kept to myself for most of my life. I'm not sure what has prompted me to share it now, maybe the tragic death of my mom's brother, but I'm ready. 

Only a few people know this but... I had a brother. I remember that day as if it was yesterday: the first time my parents told us about him. I was four years old, sitting in between my two older sisters (of course, because they never let me sit near the window) in the back of our car, waiting in front of Rickel's, a hardware store in Holmdel, NJ. Even though I was so young, this vivid memory never left me; I was devastated, grief stricken and heartbroken. My parents recognized this too so they gave me the only photograph we had of him and told me to take good care of it. I guarded this picture with everything I had.

As with most siblings, there was a lot of bullying and fighting in our house. Correction: I was bullied by my older sisters. In retrospect, I was definitely the easiest target being the youngest and all. When they really wanted to be mean though, they'd say things like "if he were alive, you wouldn't be here!" Awful, I know, but we were kids. It's totally normal to be nasty towards one another - I don't hold it against them.  However, a part of me knew that they were in fact correct. My parents wanted three children so technically Diana would've been the youngest and... I wouldn't have been here. From then on, we rarely spoke of him. It was too painful and sad. His story, the picture, and the imaginary memories I created with him became an unspoken part of our lives that I made conscious efforts to not think about.

Fast forward 20 years circa 2013. I was with my former roommate/good friend/soul sister getting into deep, existential conversations. That night, I said something out loud that I'd never said, understood or realized until then. 

"I've never stopped thinking about my brother ever since I found out about him."

I immediately covered my mouth with my hand thinking, "OH. MY. GOD." It was the greatest epiphany of my life. The next day, I texted both of my sisters asking if they ever thought about him assuming they'd respond similarly, to which they both replied something along the lines of, "it's been years." Interesting.

But it's true. He's infinitely in my thoughts, whether consciously or subconsciously, and it's been this way ever since I can remember. Though I've never met him in the flesh, he's a part of me and I know him better than anyone else. He and I are cosmically connected and I am the living embodiment of him. Our lives draw so many parallels it's uncanny. I never used to believe such things but I genuinely believe that my brother is my guardian angel and protector.  During my sickest of days, I'm certain that he kept me from dying to not only protect me but to also avoid having my parents lose yet another child. Today, despite all the scary situations I'm faced with, I'm fearless because I know he is always looking after me.

A couple of years ago, I gave the photo back to my parents. I didn't need photographic evidence anymore because he's with me all the time; they deserve to have a piece of him too. I dedicate this post to my parents, especially my mother, who have seen too many deaths in a single lifetime. I want to tell them that he is still very much present and with me all the time. 

My brother's name was Istiaque Ahmed. He died from an illness on August 16, 1986, just two weeks after he was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Today, he would have been 29 years old and probably one of the coolest, funniest, and most profound people you ever met.

September 25, 2015

UberPOOL: The Latest Buzz in Blind Dating?

I've been using Uber since it's beginning days of when it was just a black car service. (Read my post here) I didn't use it as religiously as I do now largely due to the fact that it wasn't as financially practical as it is now. Nevertheless, I used it on occasion when I wanted to feel like a famous person ;)

As per usual, I enjoy chatting with Uber drivers - learning about if they work outside of Ubering, why they started, do they love it? does it financially make sense for them. You know, like really personal questions. And they almost always, have very interesting stories and insight to share making the ride fly by!

Which brings me to the topic of this post... So, UberPOOL was debuted recently. UberPOOL is 30% cheaper than UberX. The flat rate is displayed to the rider before they confirm the request. The caveat is that you consent to other riders being picked up and dropped off along the way to your final destination. This model has apparently led to the birth of the newest, most efficient way to go on blind dates. SAY WHAT?! Yes, you read this correctly.

An amused Uber driver shared some very interesting stories with me during my first UberPool ride the other day. I asked him what his thoughts on UberPOOL were. For the most part, he seemed slightly annoyed but heavily entertained. Apparently, the concupiscent (avoiding the use crass language here - thanks!) lot of single folks in Boston are using UberPool as a way of meeting new suitors whether short or long term, but according the driver, mostly short. He recounted tales of a couple (sometimes more!) strangers/riders coming in the car with separate destinations ending up at the same destination merely minutes after meeting each other.

He referred to this as the "new age blind dating" No kidding! I don't want to sound old-fashioned but using Uber as a dating tool might be a little too advanced for me. I somewhat see the logic behind it but I don't know... I mean hey, if it works - great! I guess ya never know. But, I fear the day people will say "I met my husband through UberPOOL" and it'll be totally normal! Can't we just go back to traditional dating as archaic as it may seem nowadays? It worked pretty well for a long time!

Anyway, thought I'd share this with you guys. Thanks Uber for helping people get from place to place and now, facilitating casual hook-ups in our lovely city! Feel free to share your thoughts and/or experience with UberPOOL below!

PS. There is a very relevant quote I'm tempted to reference but can't because of how inappropriate it is but it's from Sex and the City Season 5 Episode 7 when Carrie and Samantha take the train to San Francisco. if you know it, write it in the comments section below ;)

September 11, 2015

Farewell Boston Laser

You haven't heard from me in a while and I assure you there is solid reasoning for it. I've been a pretty busy lady if I say so myself. In summary, there have been some life-changing moments, decisions, and soon-to-be experiences...

Let's recap. Since I last posted:
1. With some serious help from a childhood friend who works for LinkedIn, I planned, hosted, and successfully executed a fundraiser at the EMPIRE STATE BUILDING (yes, you read this correctly) for The Sumaira Foundation.

2. I accepted an incredible career opportunity in an industry I've always wanted to be a part of!

3. I'm traveling to Europe tonight visiting Paris, Geneva, and Brussels. I booked my trip 2 weeks ago.

Sheer insanity right? All in just 6 weeks.

Evidently, change is in the air. I can feel it in my gut. I can even smell it. Something unfamiliar yet thrilling. I like it but I'm nervous about the unknown. I truly believe good things are coming my way.

After 5 1/2 years, I'm leaving my job. Boston Laser has acted as more than a place of employment for me. It became a second home where coworkers became best friends. I was just 20 years old when I started working here - it was my first "real" job after college. It's all I've ever known in my adulthood.

Emotionally speaking, I've felt like a psychopath this week. I've never felt so excited yet so sad at the same time. I didn't even know it was possible. What a dichotomy of feelings. While I'm so happy to be going on an EPIC Euro trip & "starting over" especially now that I'm in remission (or some place close to it!) I'm simultaneously very sad. I feel like I'm leaving my family. It is here where I acquired skills professionally as well as lessons for life. Boston Laser will always hold a very special place in my heart.

Thank you for teaching me so much over the years. For giving me the richest of experiences professionally and personally. For giving me priceless memories and the greatest laughs. And  of course, for taking care of me during my sickest of days. Farewell to my colleagues, friends, and the patients of Boston Laser. I love you all so much and will miss everyone more than words can express. :,-) <3

I'll post about my trip when I return next week. Until then... Ciao! xx Flower

PS. If you're in the New England area and want LASIK or have any eye care needs - go to BOSTON LASER! They are truly the best.

PSS. Just for memory's sake - here is my video from my LASIK surgery back in April 2013 :)

July 09, 2015

A Memoir: The Most Obvious Next Best Step

A couple of weeks ago, a friend suggested a book she read that reminded her of me. Knowing my aversion to reading, she prefaced this by telling me about the audio version. SOLD! The book, The Sound of a Wild Eating Snail (by Elisabeth Tova Bailey), is a memoir about a young woman who became chronically ill overnight with a mysterious ailment. I finished the audio book in 2 days and craved more. 

I started Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness (by Susannah Cahalan) last week and finished this morning. Despite our different diagnoses and symptoms, our stories are uncannily similar. As I listened to her story, I was confused at times because it was as if I was listening to myself talk. So much of what she touches upon, I too have felt, experienced, and vocalized almost verbatim!

Suddenly, the loneliness that encroached on my life a year ago diminished. 

On a much smaller scale, in the same way that these books have been helping me, people have reached out about how my posts have helped them. These are priceless moments, every time. 

I've been told to write a book for some time now and while it was an appealing thought, I wasn't ready. Opening your life up and revealing some of the most personal of feelings and experiences takes an incredible amount of courage and I didn't have it. Even though I've shared a bit through my blog, there has been SO much that I've kept to myself. However, the time feels right and writing has been nothing but cathartic for me throughout this entire health saga. 

I may not be the most prolific writer who uses fancy vocabulary but  I have one helluva story to tell. I promise to write this with integrity and be as raw and candid as I always have been. And you better believe I'll be narrating my own audio book ;) xx 

May 18, 2015

Rising from Rock Bottom

Whether it was relating to my physical health, my mental sanity, or my emotional stability - over the last couple of weeks - without question, I can tell you with full confidence... I hit rock bottom. I've reported many "first times" during this entire health catastrophe but... for the first time, I felt like I lost control over EVERYTHING.

It all started 2 weeks ago with the devastating, last-minute cancellation of a trip that I'd been diligently planning and eagerly awaiting. Almost immediately after, things plummeted. I fell sick. I rapidly lost vision. Got off chemo. Frustration arose from all around. Fear ensured within me. Still no definitive diagnosis. Injection in my eye. Back on chemo. Shuttling back and forth between specialists every single day. Three doses of IV steroids in less than 48 hours. My head was spinning. Inexplicable madness, mayhem, and exhaustion. I was drained. 

It's been so long since I've been pumped with IV steroids that I nearly forgot what kind of an unpleasant toll it can take on you. Let's put it simply. I experienced some SERIOUS ROID RAGE! Not only did the medications send me into a complete frenzy, I became overly sensitive, emotional, and the "bad" in my life amplified and shifted to the forefront of my thoughts. My head was in a fog. Whatever was happening was crushing my soul 

I spent most of my weekend crying, commiserating with myself and so depressed that I was physically aching and unable to move. I have NEVER felt so low, lost, weak, and directionless in my life - it was frightening! I'd been doing so well up until then - staying positive, weathering through, and battling with elegance. Was I now losing control over my feelings too? I prayed so hard that these emotions and lethargy were direct effects of the synthetic medications floating around my body and not how I actually thought and felt. 

Out of desperation to get myself out of this funk, I visited an old Chinese healer on Saturday afternoon who told me, 
"Things get really bad before they get better."

And then, on Sunday morning, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The negativity, depression and bad juju dissolved in my sleep. It was like I woke up from a nightmare; I felt like myself again. Thank goodness - I bounced right back as the medications exited my system. I put my warrior tiara back on (um... yes, literally LOL) and gained more determination than ever before to get my life back. I've sort of accepted that I can't control a lot of what happens with my body but I am definitely not going to let this thing consume my spirit or my life anymore and that's a promise. Of everything I've experienced, feeling complete loss of control over all aspects of my life was by far the scariest. I'm relieved that I hit rock bottom because this was a springboard to the only direction I have to go from here - UP

On a side note: After having experienced this awful bit of depression, my heart is broken for those who suffer from forms of heavy, sad feelings daily. I'm one of the lucky ones who suffered temporarily and circumstantially but it saddens me realizing there are people out there who struggle with this weight constantly. Through this horrific yet strengthening experience however, I'm more driven to develop the support element of my foundation. It is equally as important as finding a cure and raising awareness <3

May 05, 2015

It Was Almost Too Good To Be True

There were less than 48 hours left until the beginning of my life-changing journey. From the outermost layer, I was about to go on this insanely awesome Asian tour, visiting 5 countries in one month. But at the core, I was about to embark on my internal healing process.

When I booked my tickets for Asia, it had been approximately seven months into this whole debacle and soon after my PET scan results. I planned this spiritual journey out of desperation to save myself from going off into the deep end because I felt myself starting to "go there." As soon as my plans were finalized, I finally breathed a sigh of relief. There appeared to be a light at the end of the tunnel regardless of what turn my health took. Almost instantaneously, I started feeling better physically because I had something to look forward to. Something I was doing for myself. Something I was doing for my heart and mind. 

Monday - I got the call. "You're unfit to travel. Your WBC count [white blood cell] is dangerously low. I'm sorry but, you can't go." I lost it. I couldn't breathe - I was crying so hard. I'd never cried like this before. I couldn't speak. My heart was broken. I was shaking uncontrollably and feeling dizzy. My insides were turning.

Then I asked myself the question I swore months ago that I would stop asking, "why me?" 

Since receiving yesterday's call, I've felt defeated. For 10 months, I've struggled and suffered with this unpredictable, unconfirmed illness with as much grace and positive attitude as I could manage. But now I'm angry and feeling the ultimate betrayal - by my own body. I've been asking myself all day - "why are you doing this to yourself? I'm SO good to you". I feel like a human punching bag. How many more blows can I take? I know there are people who have it much worse but enough is enough. I'm sick of it.

I've been searching for peace - peace I'm unable to find here at this juncture. I'm looking for answers - answers to questions I probably don't even realize I'm asking. I was eager to learn about acceptance and patience. I was hopeful to gain some clarity and potentially understand the incomprehensible. I wanted to be reassured that my pain has left me with bruises and not scars. I was eager to return to Boston with a clear head, having left behind any negativity and ready to start over. This trip was more than a vacation to me. This was my way of temporarily liberating myself from reality. I just want to feel good inside again - I deserve it.

I know myself and I will bounce back from this. I'm sad, disappointed, and angry but I've been through much worse. I just need time to myself and to brainstorm what I can do alternatively to avoid feeling as lost as I do. Anyway, I'm done complaining, no more crying, and most importantly, no more feeling sorry for myself. Health is wealth and without that, I couldn't do anything anyway. If what everyone's saying is true, something better will come along soon enough. Until then, thanks for listening. xx Flower