Sumaira Flower

Sumaira Flower

August 17, 2017

10 Years in Boston

I moved to Boston 10 years ago as a wide-eyed, soon-to-be freshman at Boston University.


I’ll be honest, I reluctantly came to Boston. I had never intended on being here. I arrived feeling jilted because I was rejected by my dream school. I foolishly and oh-so confidently submitted an early decision application to NYU’s Stern School of Business; every other school I applied to was “just for fun”. Therefore, I was utterly devastated when I received my rejection letter and had to quickly troubleshoot my plans. Without thinking too much about it, I signed my life away and accepted the next best option, Boston University.

Coming to Boston was easily one of the riskiest and most spontaneous decisions I’ve ever made. Prior to orientation, I had never been here and had no idea what to expect from the school, the city, and its inhabitants. But with my T-pass and new friends, it only took one semester (and discovering Newbury St!) to fall in love with Boston. NYU-who?!

A decade is a long time and a lot of life has happened. Through tragedies and victories, this city has always had my back. Every time I fall, it picks me right back up:

  • This city welcomed me with open arms even though I arrived as bitter as an orange pith

  • It’s provided me with knowledge, a fabulous education, mentors, and opportunities to eventually flourish in my career

  • Boston gave me a place to call “home” after the house I grew up in in New Jersey was tragically lost to a fire

  • The beauty and diversity of the city inspired me so much that I started THIS blog!

  • The city has served as a backdrop to my love stories and subsequently, a pillar of support for the heartbreaks that followed

  • It is here where I developed life-long friendships and a "family" when my own family was falling apart

  • This city showed me what strength and unity really meant after the marathon bombings

  • Boston and its world-class physicians nursed me back to health after I got sick with a chronic, incurable, and rare disease

  • With the resources and the supportive community here, it helped me to start a non-profit organization from literally nothing

At the expense of being ridiculed for personifying a geographic location, I’m openly admitting that Boston has been the most successful relationship I could ever ask for.  The city is not just beautiful, but smart, infused with history, tolerant, diverse, and safe – after all these years, I’m still in awe of it. Everything happens for a reason. I didn’t get accepted into NYU because I was meant to be here. I didn’t last more than 7 weeks in NYC when I tried to move there in 2011 because I was meant to be here.

Thank you Boston for being as wonderful as you are and for accepting me for who I am. I am forever grateful for everything you have provided me with.

The ONLY piece of the puzzle that’s missing for me here is my family but maybe I can convince them to move here ;)

Flower: The Converted Bostonian

PS: The artwork is by one of my favorite artists, Sean Boyce

June 22, 2017

3 Years Later | Desperate to be in Denial Yet Painfully Aware

My 1st hospital stay at MGH Lunder in July 2014
It’s only been three years yet it feels like an eternity. I find myself always feeling somber, nostalgic, and reflective around this time otherwise known as my “NMOversary”. I get lost in my thoughts wondering how different or easy my life would be if none of this happened while simultaneously wondering how unfulfilling my life would be if none of this happened. In short, I’m really tired and incredibly confused.

I attach numbers to everything; it's the way my brain operates and computes. Therefore, allow me to quantify the last 36 months...

85 infusions
26,000mg of IV steroids
as much as 70% visual field loss
12 specialists involved in my care
11 MRIs
9 ER visits
5 potent / chemo-grade drugs
5 hospital stays
4 sessions of plasmapheresis via a port
4 months of menopause
4 eggs harvested
3 collapses
2 lumbar punctures
2 atypical, debilitating migraines
2 PET/CT scans
1.5 years of Plantars Fasciitis / Achilles Tendinitis
1 skin biopsy
Urodynamics test
Kenalog injection in my right eye
Intravenous Immunoglobulin

I go to great lengths to block things out of my memory and pretend as if my illness isn't that serious. If I don't talk about it or place any special focus on it, it's not real then... right? Make no mistake, I am an obedient and cooperative patient however, I've developed a habit of minimizing my issues which I imagine must be some kind of defense mechanism.

A part of me is very well-informed of the reality of the situation and the other stubborn part of me is adamantly unwilling to accept it. Truthfully, I am having difficulty accepting everything; it still doesn't make sense after all this time and I'm not certain it ever will. I don't want to believe that I have a rare, demyelinating, incurable disease. When things appear stable, I oftentimes forget what's going on behind-the-scenes. Then, something creeps up out of the blue leaving me disoriented and forced to face the facts: my prognosis is unknown, this disease has a life of its own and can turn fatal, I'm still heavily medicated and very much in the thick of things even though I don't look "sick" anymore. 

There was a time when it was visibly obvious that I was going through something. But through the great strides made towards recovery, I've reverted back to looking like a healthy young woman causing a great deal of confusion for myself and others for that matter. Sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder, "how the hell is all of this going on when I look like this?" So many slippery mind games.

When I first got hit with this in 2014, I would've never imagined that I'd still be dealing with it in 2017. I foolishly assumed I'd have to deal with it for a year (at most) and then it would vanish into thin air. It has caused so much disruption and pain in my life, continues to do so, and shows no signs of leaving me alone any time soon. Even though I don't look ill anymore, I am still quietly suffering and very much dealing with things beyond what people can comprehend or see. Perhaps it's the actress in me; I put on a great show which is why people (including myself) are always shocked to hear about what I've been through and continue to weather. 

I was a girl when this happened to me - naive, aloof, and completely unaware. When I look at pictures of myself from right before the onset, I see a girl with so much innocence in her eyes, someone who was clueless as to what was coming for her. It brings tears to my eyes because I wish I could go back and protect her. 

Everything has changed. My vision, hearing, sensations, sleep pattern, eating habits, weight, energy levels, skin, the way I walk, mood, fertility, the asymmetry of my mouth when I speak, my personal life, digestive system - you name it, it has all changed. But things have changed for the better too. What kind of Sumaira post would this be if I didn't couple the bad with the good? I've built a foundation from the ground up, working alongside talented and passionate people, to raise awareness for NMO. I've always maintained that the foundation is the greatest gift of my ailing health. I also won Miss Bangladesh-USA in 2015 representing my native country on a national platform while enduring one of the most potent chemotherapy drugs in the market. The best part? I've traveled to 15 different places all over the world since 2014! Despite losing my vision, my eyes are wide open now. I see so much more and my priorities have changed for the better. I've transformed into a tenacious and resilient woman with unbreakable strength and that, I wouldn't trade for anything else. 

I try my best to focus on all the good in my life because there's plenty to be excited about but, it's not always easy to shift the focus when symptoms compound and spread. Living with a rare, chronic illness can be very isolating. It's becoming increasingly harder for me to relate to people as the disease evolves. The loneliness is very real. It's also extremely exhausting physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

I probably exert 40% more energy than a healthy person my age to do simple things. I've made it a priority to live as normal of a life as I can in order to maintain my sanity amidst the never-ending horror. The end result of that hard work is pretty impressive if I say so myself :) With whatever time, energy, or mobility I have left, I owe it to myself to do absolutely everything I want to do in my life. There's still a lot to do and see and believe me, I will find ways to accomplish it all. 

This post is kind of all over the place but that pretty much sums up where I am at this stage - all over the place. Three years later, I'm still entangled in a medical enigma, searching for answers, frustrated and fearful, but strangely grateful and lucky. The lesson to be learned here is one of the first lessons we learn as children - don't judge a book by its cover. We're all going through something even if we don't look like it. xoS

March 05, 2017

REVIVAL | More Than My Disease

I used to be one of the most vain and confident individuals I've ever come across. I'd have professional, glamorous photos taken of me more often than the average person. I mean, it sort of comes with the territory of an aspiring actress, right?

For the uninitiated, I spent a major chunk of my life in front of the camera. Whether it was for acting, singing, dancing, or modeling, I've always maintained that my most successful relationship has been with the camera; it just gets me I suppose. 

From a very young age, I engaged in theater acting and worked my way up to starring in 14+ music videos, commercials, a documentary, performed voice over work, and was the female lead in an independent film. After giving up my Bollywood dreams, I had an epiphany - Hollywood needed someone like me in the industry. So, I planned to move to LA at the end of 2014 where I'd begin my pursuit of becoming the 1st Bangladeshi Oscar-winning A-lister. 

Just two weeks after the decision to relocate, I got the wind knocked out of me with the onset of my illness. Without a choice in the matter, I had to sacrifice chasing my dreams for dealing with the most unforeseeable circumstances. Overnight, I went from being the naive diva who I was to a young, blind, terrified and vulnerable, debilitated patient with a rare autoimmune disease with no cure in sight. 

From July 2014 to present, I was medicated with & underwent:
- IV steroids
- Prednisone aka "Satan's Tic Tacs"
- Chemotherapy / immunosuppressants
- Lumber punctures
- Skin biopsies
- Plasmapheresis via a central line catheter
- Egg harvestation
- Kenalog injection in my right eye
- Intravenous Immunoglobulin [IVIG]
- Physical therapy

As a result of the disease itself and treatments listed above, I experienced:
- Vision loss
- Weakness & numbness
- Uethoff's Phenomenon
- Hair loss
- Premature menopause
- Erythema Ab Igne
- Atypical migraines
- Neutropenia
- Pneumonia
- Depression & anxiety 
- Plantars Fasciitis
- Achilles Tendinitis

Side effects to the above have included severe bloating and constipation, acne, suicidal ideation, weight loss, weight gain, permanent scarring, skin discoloration all over my body, and facial asymmetry to name a few things. Needless to say, my body has been through A LOT and during all of this, the last thing I felt was beautiful or vain... 

Let's fast forward to 2017. While, I'm still very much dealing with my disease, I have come a really  long way. Nothing excites me more than seeing the jaw-dropping reactions most people have after I tell them about what I have and what I've been through; it's truly a very rewarding feeling. They always say, "you'd never know!" With the help of my medical team, new treatments, diet changes, psychologists, meditation, and light exercise, I look "normal" again albeit, a little different and a bit older with a few crows feet wrinkles. But truthfully, the most significant catalyst to getting to where I am now is this vehement refusal to let my diagnosis dictate every aspect of my life. The day I finally realized that I was more than my disease was the day I started living again. 

This is what prompted me to finally muster up the courage, step in front of the camera after a long hiatus, and introduce the revived, stronger me to the world the way I know best. I won't lie - I was anxiety-ridden until the photo reveal. I've become admittedly self-conscious and was paranoid about how I'd look. However, after seeing the finished product clicked by the uber-talented Sarah Hinchey, I regained my confidence and was so proud of myself. We accomplished exactly what I had intended: my disease does NOT define me nor should it define you. I believe the beauty that translated in these photos is a result of overcoming struggles and believing in myself, my strength, and my power. If I can do this, so can others. Through these new photos, I hope others are motivated to see themselves as more than their diagnoses too.

I live with an invisible disease with a mind of its own. I can relapse at any given moment causing severe, and sometimes, permanent damage. While I pray  that I never revert back to how things were during my "bad days", in the event that I do, I must always remind myself that no matter what I physically look like, 

"Beauty is only skin deep. External attractiveness has no relation to goodness or essential quality." 
- Sir Thomas Overbury

Thank you Sarah for holding my hand throughout this emotional return in front of the lens. I am forever grateful to you. Please visit and browse her beautiful work!

December 20, 2016

Farewell to You Our Friend

(This passage has been modified from the original piece written for the Bangladesh Society of New Jersey's Victory Day - December 2016 publication)

Contrary to popular belief, growing up in the garden state was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I lived a very colorful childhood which I attribute to the community I was raised in. While being wholeheartedly immersed in Bengali & Muslim cultures, my parents also made conscious efforts to ensure that I embraced being an American. My parents perceived America as the land that would offer the optimal futures for their three daughters and they're forever grateful to this country for doing just that. 

It wasn't until 2016 that being offspring of immigrants was something that I ever gave much thought to. If anything, I was always very proud to say my parents were immigrants. It actually fascinates me now that I'm an adult when I think about our parents' bravery and what they did for the futures of their unborn children. Think about it - in their early 20's, they uprooted their lives form a country where they were surrounded by the familiarity of family, food, language, lifestyle, and traveled across the globe, far away from their families, where everyone was a stranger, weather was drastically different, traditions were completely foreign, and to some, the language was unknown. Yet despite all the challenges and struggles immigrants face, our parents successfully raised 1st generation Bangladeshi-American kids. It's easy to take our parents for granted but as I get older, I become increasingly appreciative of what they did for us; they sacrificed their wants and needs to ensure that their children were equipped with the proper foundation for a prosperous future. I can only hope to be as doting of a parent some day. 

So what is an ideal 1st generation Bengali kid one might ask? Well, they're bright, respectful, talented, culturally-involved, fluent in Bangla, love "bhaath" and their families. The exemplary 1st generation Bengali kid is a chameleon - they are malleable to their environment and can charm their way through anything. This is the perfect segue to my next topic. In October, our community suffered an irreparable and incomprehensible loss, Sadaaf Mehnaz Husain. When I was asked to write this passage in honor of Sadaaf, I guiltily thought to myself, "I don't know if I'm the right person to write this." Sure, I'm her childhood friend but she had so many best friends who could recount many more detailed memories of her. That being said, I'm profoundly honored to be writing about her legacy and will write from the perspective of a great admirer of her beautiful soul. 

From near and afar, I've always adored Sadaaf. Ever since I was a kid, I used to say that she was the ultimate "IT" girl. She was intelligent and eloquent, stunning and beautiful, graceful and confident, incredibly generous and thoughtful, and just an all around cool person. Sadaaf had this aura around her like she was a celebrity; her smile and funny faces were infectious. She was the perfect hybrid of a traditional and modern Bengali woman who was respectful of elders but simultaneously shared an honest relationship with them. Family was everything to her. She was the golden child, a loving daughter, a supportive sister, an ideal daughter-in-law, and the greatest team player in her marriage. 

Sadaaf was a passionate humanitarian, a social media guru, a foodie, and a trendsetter with her unique fashion sense. I speak on behalf of our entire community when I say that we healthily idolized her but she totally deserved all the applause. She was essentially a unicorn; she was that 1st generation Bengali kid we all aspired to be like. Sadaaf is a vivid reflection of her parents, Murad Uncle and Seema Auntie, two amazing human beings who raised their children to be open-minded, respectful, easy going intellects with core Bangladeshi traditions and values ingrained in them. 

Aside from the allergy which ultimately took her life, Sadaaf was a healthy, vivacious woman with so much life ahead of her. Our entire community was excitedly waiting for her to pass her enviable traits and good genes onto her own children and be in complete awe of the stylish outfits she'd dress them in. I don't know that we'll ever be able to fully recover from this nonsensical loss; it is still difficult to digest. I pray to the almighty that her family is given the strength they need to bear their loss. The only thing I can articulate is that we're truly so fortunate to have spend the time that we did with her and the heavens are so lucky to have her as an angel. 

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Like Sadaaf and her brothers, being children of immigrants in a foreign land brought us all together through which we developed the strongest of bonds. In addition to my own parents, I have so many moms and dads from our "village" (including Sadaaf's parents) who have been influential contributors to my upbringing. We're not just a tight-knit society, we're family. Together, we will face challenges and celebrate the joys of life. We are who we are because of each other. Though I've been away for a decade, I am forever grateful to the Bengali community I grew up with. 

Life is full of ebbs and flows; all of our trajectories are unknown. Whether a sudden death or an approaching presidency unfavorable to our community, it's important that our bond remains tighter than it's ever been. We cannot be discouraged or become despondent. We must be proud of who we are, where we come from, what we represent, and stand united. 

We miss you Sadaaf
Rest peacefully & beautifully
(February 19, 1987 - October 20, 2016)

October 07, 2016


Well hello! My oh my, it's been quite a while hasn't it...but it sure feels good to be back! I was dealing with some abnormally stressful situations since I last posted 6 months ago hence my absence from the blogosphere. As I normally would have in my younger years, I have no desire to harp on what happened considering I've happily moved on with my life!  

In light of this blog's 6th birthday [OMG! She's growing up so fast] and "starting over" having come out on top, I'm re-committing to writing, sharing stories/thoughts, and just being present again. :) 

Over the years, this blog has served many purposes. Most recently, it became a form of therapy; a cathartic platform for me to vent during the darkest days of my illness. I will forever be grateful for I believe, writing those passages so vulnerably like that truly helped me discover, heal, and evolve.  

This next chapter is going to be different from the others and I'm pretty sure, the best one yet! I'm in a much better place now in all aspects of my life and can't wait to share personal tales illustrating how beautiful and bright life can be once you've weathered through the storm! Stay tuned... x Flower

April 26, 2016

From Relapse to Renaissance

During my the peak of my illness, this blog became an invaluable gift to me. I never intended for this blog to be about me and most certainly not about my sickness but overtime, it transformed into a cathartic platform where I freely expressed my thoughts and feelings during my lows with hopes of helping others while simultaneously helping myself. Which explains why I've been MIA on here.

In the last 6 months, my health and vision were trending upwards. I've been working relentlessly towards remission and have made significant strides in my recovery which re-opened the doors of excitement, laughter and happiness for me. Everything was beautiful again. I was resurrected. But as they say, all good things must come to an end...

I'm going through yet another relapse. Words cannot possibly articulate the frustration, disappointment and anger I'm experiencing. This was the longest period of dormancy during this insanely long two year episode... so long that I sometimes even forgot that I was sick! 

In addition to being an obedient patient and undergoing IVIG every month, I changed my diet. I stopped drinking coffee. My hair is growing back. I consciously avoid stressful situations. I've become more active, social, and self-aware. All contributors to good health that involve a great deal of effort, energy, and dedication. I've been committed to my internal cause and finally started seeing the positive results of all the hard work!

Gosh, I was so naive. I got spoiled and perhaps too comfortable with feeling good, regaining confidence, and seeing well again. I foolishly believed that bad episodes were far behind me and I was finally free of shackles. I assumed that feeling great again was my right. But unfortunately, life doesn't work that way. Feeling good and being healthy is a luxury that I have to work extra hard to attain. 

Though I've been through significantly worse, this relapse has been a complete shock to my system; it's hit me harder than any of the previous episodes. All the memories I tried so hard to block are suddenly flooding my mind making me feel like I'm drowning. 

But I must re-learn to combat these strong tides as these probably won't be the last to make an appearance in my life. Yes, I'm sad and angry but I stand by the oath made last year about not letting this disease tarnish or control my spirit. Through these trials and tribulations, I'm constantly learning. And today I learned, that I need to stop being in denial and accept that this is my life. There are going to be ups and downs. These are the cards that were handed to me and it's because I can handle and conquer them with grace. 

I will bounce back and be bouncier than ever when I do. I'm not giving up; I never have and I never will. If the period before this was my resurrection then the phase after this bump will be my renaissance. xx Flower 

January 20, 2016

Taking Charge of My Life

Just like everyone else, I decided that 2016 will be my year - a year of self-discovery when I will blossom into the healthiest, happiest and most successful version of me.  

I've reached the peak of tolerance with my health issues; my patience is worn thin. I'm desperate to get better because there's a lot to accomplish that's been put on hold due to my illness. I don't want to take any more pills, endure anymore arduous treatments or feel "sick" anymore. These are my goals for the year. 

It was 11 AM on the Monday before New Year's in New Jersey. Within an hour of waking up, I had a pounding headache and was a raging b&*ch! Then, I drank coffee and both symptoms magically disappeared. Then, it dawned on me. "WHOA! Coffee controls me."

I went cold turkey and stopped drinking coffee three weeks ago. The caffeine withdrawal was BRUTAL but this decision has been a game changer for the better!

Sleep: My sleep took a major hit with the medications I've been on. I took Ambien almost every night for an entire year which means I never achieved REM sleep, never felt rested and was always tired. No good. I'm still on the medications but now, I can fall asleep naturally, through the night, albeit later than desired, without the need of a sleeping agent. (My mom is especially pleased with this!)

Energy & Mood: I have new found energy! I say new found because it's truly very different from anything I've ever felt before - it's authentic and natural; not a stimulant boost. I feel "lighter" in many respects. Not sure if I'm able to accurately convey how good I've been feeling in words but just know - it's fantastic!

Money: This one goes without saying but I've saved a lot of money. Let's say you spend an average of $3/day on coffee - simple math - that's $1,095 a year! BYE FELICIA! 

Whiter Teeth: Coffee stains your teeth. Period. 

There's plenty of evidence suggesting that coffee is in fact good for you and I still believe that it can have favorable effects. I'm not here to begin an anti-caffeine crusade and convince you to never drink it again. I'm simply sharing how cutting out coffee has been beneficial to my situation. 

Caffeine withdrawal is no joke though (it's even considered a mental health disorder!) If you're considering cutting coffee out, I highly recommend staying away from human beings for the first 3-4 days. You will have the worst headaches known to mankind, be absolutely miserable and extremely irritable but it's totally worth it! Next step towards a healthy me: nutrition 180! Stay tuned on my progress :)

P.S. It's SO liberating to not be addicted to anything anymore!

December 13, 2015

Just Another Year-End Proclamation

As we approach the end of the year, I'm preparing for the inevitable, cringe worthy, year-end social media posts. You know, the ones like 2015 allowed me to grow as a person, cutting negativity out of my life! new year, new me...blah, blah blah. However, this had me thinking - with everything that's happened, what would be the theme, so to speak, of this past year for me? Over the last 2 weeks, this has become a mental challenge attempting to summarize 2015 as succinctly as possible. But before I get to it, allow me to recap so one can understand why this was no simple feat...

Weekly 7-hour chemo infusions, chopped off 9" of my hair, egg freezing, chipmunk face, Cytoxan (evil chemo drug), The Sumaira Foundation's 1st event, PET/CT scans, chronic Achilles Tendinitis & Plantars Fasciitis, loss of appetite leading to malnourishment, severe fatigue, California, Pneumonia, became the 1st Miss Bangladesh-USA, Asia trip gets cancelled, relapse #4, Neutropenia (abnormally low WBC count), injection in the eye, hair loss, Menopause, emergency halt of chemotherapy, atypical migraines, birthday celebrations, remission, 2nd foundation event at the Empire State Building, Europe, leaving my old job, starting a new job, relapse #5, back on immunosuppressive therapy, Livedo Reticularis, facial nerve issues, California, sporting a full-time boot, the beginning of IVIG (Intravenous Immunoglobulin). 

Are you exhausted? Me too. And these are just some of the climactic events. However, exhaustion is not the theme; it is learning to let go.  This concept doesn't only apply to my health but it's been true for many aspects of my life whether my love life, friendships, career decisions, family conflicts etc. To avoid this post from becoming a novel though, I'll only briefly go into it.

A year ago, I used to find motivation in fighting my fight by trying to get my old life back. It made me hopeful but I became increasingly frustrated as new circumstances made the distance from my desired destination seem farther and farther away. This forced me to troubleshoot, realizing that it's impossible, for multiple reasons, to be the way I used to be - mostly because it's scientifically not possible. And the same goes for you. 

Why is it that when faced with a bad situation, we're constantly focused on regressing to a place of familiarity rather than having faith that the unknown mixed with good karma may lead us to something unimaginably better?

I will never look the way I used to look or see the way I used to see. I may not be able to dance the way I used  to dance or walk the way I once sashayed. My hair may never be what it once was. But that's not to say that these things can't be even better. The day that I let go of this fixation of returning to life pre-illness is the day I became liberated from myself and some of the dangerous areas of emotions and thoughts that I fear so much. 

I wouldn't change a single thing from this year and no longer have a desire to be how I once was; I'm truly the happiest and most zen that I've ever been. I'm learning to open my mind, heart, and thoughts to the potential of a very bright future. Inherently, the unknown can be scary but this is also very exciting. 

Wow, I've literally just done exactly what annoys me about what everyone else does at the end of the year. LOL! Happy Holidays xx Sumaira

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.