Three months before she lost her battle with bone cancer, ‘Top Chef’ star, Fatima Ali penned an emotional essay, where she candidly spoke about the effects of her chemotherapy, her career and more about her life leading up to death.
Fatima Ali passed away from a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma on January 25. The beloved former Top Chef contestant was only 29-years-old. Three months before she died, the reality TV star opened up about her life in an emotional essay for Bon Appétit, which was recently released online, and will also appear in the magazine’s print issue in March. After got candid about her childhood in Pakistan, where she was first introduced to cooking by her grandmother, Ali went on to discuss the beginning of her career. Then, she candidly wrote about her cancer diagnosis.
“When I got diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Ewings Sarcoma, I had just finished filming Top Chef in Colorado,” she wrote. That’s when she was in the midst of one of her first signs that something was wrong. “It was 2017 and I was working at the U.S. Open with my friend Joe Flamm, who was the winner and had opened up a pop-up restaurant there. I’d had this weird ache in my shoulder for the past couple of months that I’d been ignoring. You know, popping a couple of Advils, going to sleep. But one day, in the middle of lunch, my shoulder swelled up and the pain was mounting literally by the minute. I had to go to the emergency room.”
After an MRI and a visit from an “exceptionally handsome doctor,” he later phoned Ali to tell her he wanted to refer her to see an oncologist. “That was just the beginning,” she wrote. “They didn’t discharge me from my first hospital admission for three weeks.”
Ali’s experience with chemotherapy — “Honestly, until your first chemo cycle, I don’t think it really hits you. Then your hair starts falling out, and finally you’re like, ‘This is actually happening. This is the rest of my life.’ I did eight rounds of chemo. It was horrible, but at the end, my scans were all clear. I thought I’d beaten it,” she wrote.
She briefly went into remission in July, but learned that the cancer had turned in October. “Then it came back,” she continued, adding that it was “worse than before.”
“It was metastatic. It had spread to my lungs. The doctors told me I had a year to live.”
Then, Ali was about to dye what was left of her hair platinum blonde. But, her plans were derailed after another round of chemo completely made her hair fall out.
“That sucked, but I was like, ‘You know what? Stop feeling sorry for yourself.’ I‘ve been to hospitals in New York and I‘ve been to hospitals in LA, and when you‘re around that much sickness, and you see people from all sorts of backgrounds, all sorts of ages, in all stages of disease—it really gives you perspective. Because even now, it could be so much worse than it is. I‘m still very lucky to be able to do a lot of the things that I love.”
Instead of spending whatever time she had left “lamenting all the things that weren’t right,” she decided to make the most of it. “I’m using cancer as the excuse I needed to actually go and get things done, and the more people I share those thoughts with, the more I hold myself to them,” she wrote. “If I write this intention down, if I have it printed somewhere like I do here, I have to hold myself responsible, because I have people counting on me.”
Ali continued: “What’s my intention? To live my life. To fulfill all those genuine dreams I have. It’s easy to spend weeks in my pajamas, curled up in my bed, watching Gossip Girl on Netflix. I could totally do that. And don’t get me wrong, I still watch Gossip Girl. But now I’m doing things. I’m going to eat. I’m making plans for vacations. I’m finding my experimental treatments. I’m cooking. I’m writing.”
At the end of her essay, Ali admitted that there were days that were more emotional than others. “There are days that I’m exceptionally afraid. There are days I sit alone and cry, because I don’t want to do it in front of my family. And there are other days that we all sit down and cry together, because it is such a scary thing. But at the same time, you can’t let that fear cripple you. It’s harder being miserable than it is to be happy.”
Read the full essay on Bon Appetit‘s website (linked above). Our thoughts are with Fatima Ali’s friends and family during this difficult time.
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