Thursday, February 16, 2012

One year ago today, everything changed...

See that guy in the green? That's my dad - Tarek Fatah - holding court, telling stories, entertaining (and sometimes motivating and/or enraging) the masses. This photo was taken in September 2010 on the day of my wedding, which I think was the happiest day in MY PARENTS' lives. Don't get me wrong, I was happy too. But I think - like many South Asian parents - this is the day my parents have been living for. This is the happiest I've seen my father. And I clung to this joy in him for the past year.

One year ago today, my father went into St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto for back pain and numbness in his legs and within a few hours he was diagnosed with cancer. They found a massive tumor on his spinal cord which was crushing his nervous system and had to be surgically removed immediately. I was in the room when they told him he had cancer. I was the first person to see him when he got out of surgery at five in the morning. Over the next eight months, my father lived between four different hospitals, receiving treatment not only for his cancer, but intense physiotherapy because he could no longer walk. My dad is now cancer free, and with hard work he will soon be walking normally again. Much has happened in this year - it's a year that has changed my life completely, and for the better.

My father has always been my hero, someone I've admired deeply. But, this past year he set the gold standard for handling difficult times with graciousness, good humor and positivity. Never once did he say "why me?" or "this isn't fair." He handled it with class and never let anyone feel bad about the situation. His bedside was always more like a house party than a hospital room. Hell, we had not one but two musical concerts performed at the hospital for him.

And then there is my mom. My mother did was she has always done, carried the heavy load and did it quietly and with dignity. During the first week of a year of life in hospitals, I noticed my mother was dressed impeccably, while I looked like I had just rolled out of bed. She wore a green blouse, a beautiful multicolour glass necklace my father had given her for her last birthday, and silk scarf he had picked up for her on his many international trips. I asked her why she was so dressed up, and she told me that she wanted to look good for my dad. That she wanted him to feel good when he looked at her. She has no idea how those words moved me. Beauty, art, music, fashion, style, joy, laughter, happiness, love can make all the difference. I changed my attitude immediately. I too started dressing well, if just to sit in my dad's hospital room all day. And, when I started this blog in November, it was that conversation with my mother that gave me the confidence to put myself out there like this.

So today, this blog post is dedicated  to my dad, who can add cancer survivor to his list of  many accomplishments. And my mom, for her strength.
In Saudi Arabia, I wanted to go to work with dad.
Doing the holy pilgrimage, it was so hot, and it made little me super cranky.
From left to right: My friend Shetal, my father, my husband Chris and me dancing at my friend Geeta's wedding.
My mom's birthday. My dad tells her every single day how much he loves her.
At our wedding, my dad leading the parade of friends around the neighbourhood. He never lets it rain on his parade.
Dancing with my dad Bhangra style!
This video has to be one of my most favourite things in the whole world. Thank you to the person who recorded this demonstration of dad's love for my mom. I will cherish it always.

I love you dad, can't wait to dance with you again soon!
I must thank the wonderful people at St. Michael's Hospital who saved our family.
Thank you also to our family and friends, here and all over the world, who checked in, visited, sent love and well wishes. You saved our spirits.
You read about my dad's experience because he wrote a piece from Toronto Life here.

36 comments:

  1. aww a nice post about family , how warm and fuzzy ^^ thanks for sharing your story xoxo

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  2. What a beautiful, touching post!

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  3. Ohhh what a beautiful post! I am all emotional after reading it. I'm so happy that your dad is feeling better. It's so lovely to hear that everything worked out and that he will be walking soon. Beautiful photos and beautiful story, my dear. Have a lovely morning. xo

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  4. I have followed your dad on fb for a couple of years. His fight against cancer was the most passionate story I saw anybody sharing on a public platform. He is a source of strength. No wonder he seem so happy on your wedding. He has a daughter to be proud of.

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  5. What a heart warming story! Your father is a rockstar. I am so glad he is feeling better and will be walking again soon. Thank you for sharing this wonderful part of your life. Such an uplifting post. I wish your parents many many years of love and togetherness.

    ♡ from © tanvii.com

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  6. An incredible heart warming post my dear! I had a big lump in my throat through reading this and not just because the sadness that comes with your post but also because of the happiness,the positivity and the strong sense of family that shines through your story! I wish your Father and your family lots of health and happiness :)

    Take care,Daniella xox

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  7. You brought tears to my eyes. What a special, appreciative daughter and human being you are. I am so blessed know you. You are such a role model and inspiration. xoxxoxo

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    1. Shirley! We wouldn't have made it through the last year without your beautiful smile and spirit.

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  8. This is a wonderful post! I'm so glad your dad is ok now! Family is so important!

    www.raindropsofsapphire.com

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  9. Really beautiful post! I'm so glad that your Dad is recovering - he and your Mom sound like amazing people.

    -Steph

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    1. Thank you Steph. Yeah, they are pretty awesome people.

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  10. Sniffling at my desk reading this. Your whole family is so strong and it's so true, your dad was cracking jokes at the hospital, helping people get on WiFi, offering us chocolate and sharing more of his incredible stories. Donnie and I are so very glad he recovered. I wish I could give you a big hug right now :)

    XO - Sabrina

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    1. Thank you Sabrina, I remember when you and Donnie came to the hospital. It meant so much to all of us. It feels like a lifetime ago, and then again, it feels like it was yesterday. Love to you both.

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  11. this was beautiful :)

    http://www.the-beautiful-things.com

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  12. This was just wonderful. I am so happy to hear that your father is doing better.

    The family is one of nature's masterpieces.
    -- George Santayana

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  13. This is such a beautiful post Natasha and brought tears to my eyes. My father had throat cancer but unfortunately did not make it and passed away in 2010 and this post reminded me of the strength that my mother had during the whole process as well!

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    1. Honey, I'm so sorry about your dad. I know you must have been a source of great strength and pride for him. xoxo Natasha

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  14. such a wonderful post. i was moved to tears reading it.
    good to read that your father is doing better ...

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  15. What a touching post.

    Your family is so strong, and it truly is incredible how your father maintained his calm nature throughout the entire affair. ACTUALLY, not only was he calm, he was jubilant, and to be honest, it was like he was entertaining us, and not the other way around like we had intended.

    I am so happy that your father made it through, and that he is going to be able to walk again! :D

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    Mark

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    1. Thank you for being a part of our journey Mark. And for those high class chocolates. ;)

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  16. This post put a lump in my throat. You have a fantastic, courageous and loving family and your parents have a relationship we all wish for. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  17. Cheers Natasha... You have one great family.

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  18. i love this post, natasha!!! well-written and so poignant.

    lisawearsclothes.blogspot.com

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  19. What a sweet story! I can't imagine going through all this, but you and your family seem to have come through it beautifully:) Lovely pictures!

    xoxo

    Ashley

    http://textbooksandtofu.blogspot.com/

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  20. Wonderful! Your dad is a force! God bless him!

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  21. Such a touching story. You have a great family.

    Patience
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  22. My dad is my soft spot in life. This is truly amazing so thank you for sharing it with the rest of us. God bless your family xo

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  23. aww what a sweet post, it was very touching!

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  24. Such a beautiful post. So happy to hear your dad's dtory and tat he is recovering well.

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  25. Me ha hecho emocionarme este post. Admiro la valentía de muchos pacientes de cáncer, entre ellos tu gran héroe, tu padre. Me alegro de que ya esté bien y deseo que esa fuerza que tenéis os acompañe toda la vida. De las fotos que has puesto la que mas me emociona es la de cuando eras pequeña y querías ir con tu papá al trabajo.¡¡¡adorable!!!!
    Un beso

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  26. Love this pic of you and your dad dancing -- darling! I attended a Bollywood dance class at the Y last week and had a bunch of fun :)

    Sarah
    Cable Car Couture

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  27. What a beautiful post! I got all choked up seeing the clip of your parents dancing together.. Indeed a very precious possession.
    My grandfather always used to say: "Love your husband even more then you love your children, because that will make your children happier too". And my parents are the best and most loving parents in the world, but the way they love eachother, like when my father cooks dinner and he saves the best piece of meat for my mother, or when my mother laughs at my fathers jokes, that makes me happy the most.

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xoxo
Natasha

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