Friday, 12 October 2012

Ayra.....Afzal's Very Own Niece

I know many relatives and friends my age who are blessed with not one, but many beautiful grandchildren. I have always wondered how my grandchild would be like and how it would feel to hold one in my arms. Last May 21st, 2012, Allah answered my prayers and granted us Nur Ain Umairah binti Mas Jaffri or Ayra, as we fondly call her.......a bubbly, adorable but cautious baby girl - my very own grand-daughter...Afzal's very own niece!

There were many occasions when we all felt that if Afzal had been around, it would have been so convenient to seek his advice on issues relating to Ayra. Times when she cried so much that we wondered if it was colic or spiritual interference. Times when we were not sure if we should start on something on such a young baby or wait till she gets older. During these times, I got to thinking, why I could not be the one giving those advises considering I have 5 children of my own! Well, when it comes to your very own grandchild, nothing suffice other than the best and Afzal would have given us the best advice.........

Today, Afzal would have turned 28. Happy birthday my dear son. As I reminisce on events that unfolded after Afzal was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in December 2008, I realised just how great Allah's blessings had been on me and my family. I may no longer have the opportunity to enjoy my son but He gave me every opportunity to prepare for that loss gracefully - I was able to travel to UK 4 times to take care of Afzal. I even succeeded in bringing my whole family to UK (never in my wildest dream would I thought that be possible considering how much it would cost!) and Afzal came back and passed on in Malaysia, among his family -  He gave me every opportunity to amass an abundance of memories with Afzal that I otherwise would not have thought of doing - Afzal was always well enough to follow me around on my out-station trips, sharing my work and passion. Those nights we spent in hotel rooms, performing our solat together, helping him cope with pains at night, having meals and conversations together, driving long distances together, now forms a favourite chapter in my heart, that I can relive each time missing him became too much to bear.

I feel that I make too many assumptions in life. I assume tomorrow will come so I can wait and tell my sons, daughters and husband that I love them tomorrow. I assume this weekend will come and I can visit my ailing father then. I assume that I can wait till later to finish up that work my boss gave me because the deadline is not up yet. But what if my time is up before tomorrow, then I would leave so many loose ends, sorrows and unsatisfaction behind. I pray that Allah gives me the strength to not put till tomorrow what I can do today, just like Afzal would have done......Al-Fatihah.......Mama.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Writing From The Heart

It has been a while since I last posted on this beautiful blog. It's not because I have been busy, but more because it is not easy to find something meaningful to write on. Finally, I told myself, just write from the heart...........

Yesterday, a friend told me ..."my nephew just got back from UK. It seems many babies born recently have been named Afzal!"...MasyaAllah, it never ceased to amaze me just how much Afzal had touched people's lives that it frightened me sometimes. But at the same time, it gives great comfort to this heart that is still sorely missing him, knowing that he is remembered even after more than a year since he passed on.

As I leafed through past emails, I came across one from the Consultant Haematologist at Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, who treated Afzal from day one at Ward O2. He wrote..."He was brave and always so polite and respectful. Despite his illness and suffering, I never once heard him complain, It was a priviledge to look after him..."

Another of Afzal's friend from his school days in Kota Kinabalu wrote in her blog ".....we met again in 2002 @ Pusat Asasi Sains. He was there a few months before he was offered to pursue medicine in Sheffield University. Me and my sister called him our "green button" because by seeing his face with his braces & curly  hair, would always make us smile...there is always "nur" in his face. He will always be smiling...."
This friend also wrote:
     If tears could build a stairway,
     And memories a lane,
     I'd walk right up to Heaven
     And bring you home again.
     Although it's difficult today to see beyond the sorrow,
     May looking back in memory help comfort you tomorrow.

Thank you Azwa.

We celebrated this year's Eid without Afzal, again......and as I went round shaking my families hands, asking for forgiveness and hugging them praying for continued happiness and well being, the tears fell freely because the one person I longed to hug is no longer there. I am so thankful to be surrounded by close and concerned family members. They are all my pillar of strength....and honestly, there are many times when this supposedly "strong mother" need a shoulder to cry on (even if it's only in silence).


Eid family photo minus Jep who's still in Aussie....

Miss hugging Afzal on Eidul Fitri morning....

Every now and then, I would meet people, some I only know by sight (because we bump into each other in the lift at my office) and others who are complete strangers, who would ask when I was going to update Afzal's Blog! One of them is an officer working in the ICT Department at my office who is suffering from kidney failure and who needed dialysis 3 times a week. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for her, to endure the suffering and bear the financial costs and yet still turn up for work everyday, smiling. She would smile at me every time we meet and would ask me when I would update Afzal's Blog. For you Ros, I'm writing this entry from my heart and I pray that you recover soon. Afzal would have advised you to keep fighting and not give up....remember he said "cancer is a word, not a sentence".

As I continue with life, I gain wisdom from reading and re-reading Afzal's entries, drawing comfort and strength from his absolute trust and believe in Allah's planning. I hope others out there continue to benefit too and may we remain always blessed and  guided to the right path...Allah's path......Mama Afzal signing off writing from the heart.

Afzal's resting place as it looks today....

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Remembering My Son Dr. Mas Afzal, on Mother's Day.....

On this Mother's Day, there will no longer be wise words from Afzal for me.....It is just going to be Mama remembering a much-missed son..........pieces of memories that's clear as if it happened yesterday.............

May 22nd, 2009
Afzal sent me an sms to say he passed his final OSCE(Objective Structure Clinical Examination) and MEQ(Modified Essay Question), officially making him a qualified Doctor! I was actually boarding Flight MH002 from KL to Heathrow, London, at 11.20pm (Malaysian time), and my last sms to papa, before I had to switch off my hand phone was "Our son - DR. MAS AFZAL"...My heart was bursting with so much pride and with it came the tears of joy. I was thankful for the dimmed lights as the flight prepared to take off, allowing me to thank Allah in private, for his blessings over my child. I was on my way to UK for the second time since Afzal was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, to be with him as he was given his 12th and last dose of chemo, scheduled on Friday, May 29th, 2009.

May 25th, 2009
Afzal started distributing his medical notes to his juniors, " that they too can benefit from these notes because they were very helpful to me when I was preparing for my exams", Afzal said then. He had so many books and notes which he loved but felt that it would be much better shared with other students in need of them. I still kept one of his favourite revision book that even he thought he'd keep in case he needed to refer to it while at work. He still kept revising using this book throughout his days at home and only stopped when he was warded at Ampang Hospital on December 2nd, 2010.

Word about him passing his OSCE and MEQ got around fast among family members. Jep wrote in his blog post..."He's been known by many names, including 'Kundur' and more recently 'Chemoboy',  but I am ever so proud to call him DR. MAS AFZAL MASARUDIN"...

We only knew Afzal was serious about taking Medicine when he brilliantly scored straight As in his SPM examination. He got a few offers from oil companies to do Engineering which he graciously declined. Even with good results, it wasn't easy for him to secure a place in a good preparatory school though. He was actually offered to further his studies in Kota Kinabalu, at a college that is not a preference even among the locals. He was so frustrated then. I remember he said, “kalau macam ni, tak guna dapat straight As ma!” (If this is how it is, what's the point in getting straight As ma!).

Papa went to the Matriculation Department, Ministry of Education, to appeal for Afzal to get into Asasi Sains, University Malaya. The officer there said “...we don't want to open the flood gate. If we consider your son, we have to consider others too!” we were so stunned by such an attitude. Papa told the officer “...if my son score anything less then straight As, I would not bother...” Authorities at the Pusat Asasi Sains University Malaya said "we would love to take in your son!" To cut the story short, Afzal got into University Malaya and stayed for about 2 months before JPA offered him a scholarship and a place at KYUEM (then known as Kolej Yayasan Saad). That was the start of a beautiful 2 years in Lembah Beringin for Afzal, who later managed to secure a place at the Sheffield University, to read MEDICINE!

KYUEM is 45 minutes drive from KL. Away from the hustle and bustle of busy KL, it provided the ideal environment for students to bloom. Afzal loved the place, the teachers, his friends, the staff...everything about KYUEM. It was a place where his personality developed through his studies, religious and social activities involvement. He kept going back to KYUEM every year after he graduated, to help prepare students for everseas study, giving them advises and tips as how best to balance between the responsibility of a student and the opportunity to experience life in a foreign land.

Thank You Doctors in Kota Kinabalu
While pursuing his Medical Degree, Afzal would always return to Kota Kinabalu for his elective postings. He loved being "attached" to Hospital Queen Elizabeth's Accident & Emergency Department. I remember one time when he came back after "work" at about 5pm and 10 minutes later got a call from the Hospital to come back in to "help" with a case...."Mas, kau bulih datang balik ka? Ada peluang kau practise satu precedure ni!" ( "Mas, can you come back in? There's an opportunity for you to practice a procedure here!")  "Help" here actually meant he was given an opportunity to perform a procedure on a patient, under the supervision of a qualified nice of the staff there.

I also remember Afzal said that the doctors he was "shadowing" in HQE's A& E Department often said this to him "...apalah kau ni Mas, duduk kat sini dari pagi sampai petang, tak nak balik ke?.." ( "Mas, what are you doing here from morning till evening? Don't you want to go home?.." ) Afzal said by being in the hospital, he stood a chance of getting to attend to procedures or see patients with ailments that before this he had only read in his medical books. I can't remember the names of all the doctors, nurses and medical assistants Afzal mentioned who helped him, but, thank you Datuk Dr. Rahimah Mohd. Said, Dr. Heric Corray and thank you all of you at HQE who helped made his short stint there a memorable one.

He also spent some time at the Tuaran Area Health Office, under the supervision of Dr. George Mathew and Hospital Likas, under Paediatrician Dr. Soo Thian Lian's wings. Thank you both of you, for accommodating my request and Afzal's wishes! Afzal even experienced assisting in delivering a baby at the Hospital....I am forever thankful to the Sabah State Health Department for giving Afzal the opportunity to taste what it was like to be a Doctor!

The eyes still tear,
The heart is still in pain
But (with my tongue) I will only say that which is pleasing to Allah......

Happy Mothers Day, my dearest Dr. Mas Afzal............Mama, drawing strength and comfort from my beautiful children.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Happy Birthday, Andi.........

Mentor and mentee?

Mas Affendi, aka Andi is Afzal's eldest brother - my first born! Unlike Jep who can be an open book at times and Afzal a true blue fighting spirit, Andi is a bit mysterious because he does not reveal much. I am sure Jep and Afzal must have had a tough time at school because Andi was a tough act to follow. He excelled in both academics and co-curricular activities. I can imagine how it must have been for his two little brothers when their teachers found out Andi was their big guessed it - they were expected to excell too. His reputation became the driving force for both Jep and Afzal, pressuring them to do well at school.

Andi accompanied Afzal to watch Maher Zain perform at UIA in 2010.

I suppose being a first born can be very difficult because there's nobody to confide in other than the adults and there can be times when adults may not understand enough. By the time Jep and Afzal were old enough to become his confidantes, so many things have already happened in Andi's life, and there are also so many things he wanted but did not happen.

Sweet memories at Lake District- July 2009.

......Today, as you celebrate your birthday, my son, regard all that you have gone through as your lessons in life and all those things that did not happen as things not meant for you, just as Allah has planned. But nevertheless, the future holds so much potential for someone like you. Afzal had the opportunity to spread his wings and explore that potential by being on his own. Jep is living that potential now as he ventures into parenthood. My prayer for you is that you choose wisely and as Afzal always said..."never give up".

Mama's boys(minus one...).


Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Happy Birthday, Jep............

Proud parents to two beautiful children.

When I received news about Afzal's Hodgkin's Lymphoma in December, 2008, the first thought that came to my mind was, "How soon can I get to him in U.K and how am I getting there?" The next question was "I would like to go with someone, but who?"

Jep was the chauffeur  when Afzal wanted to go to Thetford

As it turned out, Jep was the best person to accompany me because he had finished his Masters and was only due to leave for Australia to pursue his PhD in Mac, 2009. I bought 2 return Thai-Airways (the cheapest flight I could find then) tickets for the two of us, but with Jep coming back to Malaysia much later than me. I could only manage a 9-day leave, but I was thankful because it meant that I was able to be with Afzal for his first chemo, due on 22 December, 2008.

Jep had been to South Korea before this, during his undergraduate days at University Malaysia Sabah, but this is the first time he is going to the land of the "whites". Afzal and me were excited to see Jep's reaction to the weather when we walked out of the Heathrow airport building that cold 20th December morning. It was indeed hilarious to see him shivering and complaining of the cold and yet refusing to wear a snow cap to cover his freezing ears because he said,  "it'll mess up my hair!" He kept asking if his nose was still there or had dropped off..."It's so freaking cold, I can't feel my nose!" he kept saying. Afzal said the weather was actually ok, not too cold, much to Jep's sneer.

In between chemo treatment - a visit to Buckingham Palace

But then, Jep is such a drama king. He exagerates a lot. Everything is either sooo good, or sooo bad. Still, I am so grateful to this second son of mine. He stayed to look after Afzal for 7 weeks, when I went home on 31st December, 2008. He cooked for Afzal (Afzal loved his beef stew - said it was even better than the one I made!), accompanied Afzal up the hill to the mosque for Friday prayers on days when Afzal was strong enough, scoured the supermarkets for fresh fruits, juices and other food stuffs for Afzal's daily meals. He was my representative to look after Afzal, while he went through 3 doses of chemo.

It was the saddest day when I left Jep and Afzal at the Sheffield Bus Station, to catch my flight from Heathrow, back home to KL, that 31st December , 2008. Seeing my two sons waving goodbye from the bus really broke my heart. I could see them both trying hard to fight back their own tears, putting on a brave face for the sake of each other and me. I could feel they were seeing me off with heavy hearts - as heavy as mine!

Afzal(3 months), Jep(24 months) - Both still babies.

All the way to London, I kept thinking how noble of Jep to agree to look after Afzal. He was still a baby himself when Afzal was born (Jep was 1 year 9 months when Afzal was born). Fussy as a baby, beautiful as a toddler and responsible as an adult. He is the court jester of the Masarudin clan, always cracking jokes and making fun of things to lighten situations, much to everyone's pleasure. The close bond between him and Afzal was very evident. He even gave Afzal the nickname "Chemoboy" when Afzal started his chemo treatments. I believe the two of them shared many secrets.

They could pass as twins!

Today, 26 January, 2012, 1 year, 1 month and 9 days after Afzal left us, is Jep's 29th birthday. Happy Birthday Jep. I am honored to dedicate this entry to you on your birthday. I pray that Allah continues to bestow upon you His blessings and guidance so that you may live this life loving Him. Nothing pleases me more than to see you happily married and soon to be a father yourself. Alas, I am proud to have you as my son......Happy Birthday my son!...Mama.