reflections

Dealing with Illness: An often untold detail of my Convert Story

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

Today I want to write about something that is actually a big part of my journey to Islam, but not actually something I talk about a lot.

Around a month after I got home from London, had already  met my fiance, and begun to study Islam, I got very sick.

It started with about a week of neck and head pain, that I just chalked up to my system being a bit out of whack from travelling, and perhaps sleeping in an odd position.

Then I began to get migraines. I’ve always had migraines, every since I was young, but these were particularly bad, and lasted for days at a time. One day, I got one that was so bad I couldn’t even speak, and my mom finally caved in and took uninsured-me to the emergency room. Crying and shaking uncontrollably, my mom had to hold my hand to help me sign the papers to be admitted.

They gave me an IV of morphine, and laying in that dark, quiet room, for the first time in weeks I felt some relief. They kept me in for a few more hours and another round of morphine just to make sure I was doing better, and then they sent me home.

I was feeling particularly dehydrated, so on our way out I took a few sips from the drinking fountain. Then I promptly ran into the nearby bathroom and threw up.

My mom, thinking it was just from the meds, packed me up and took me home.

For the next 24 hours, whatever I ate, even if it was just a sip of water, I ended up throwing up 3-5 minutes later.

Plus the migraine was back, and I couldn’t keep down the meds that they had sent me home with.

I remember my sister finding me at one point, just done with throwing up, laying on the floor in the bathroom, crying from the pain of the migraine.

She asked me, “Are you OK?”

And I pathetically replied, “No.”

She asked me, “Is there anything I can do?”

And I replied even more pathetically, “Nooooooo.”

Looking back now, it was a somewhat comical episode (and I wish I had taken advantage of the rare display of sisterly love!), but in the moment it was anything but.

At any rate, by the afternoon I had begun to turn a bit yellow, and my mom took me back to the hospital.

They re-hydrated me and gave me a cocktail of pain-killers and anti-nausea medications to calm me down, then decided they needed to run some tests to check out my gallbladder.

Home again.

The next day the migraine and the puking were gone, but a severe sore throat had set it, and the neck pain was back in full swing.

I couldn’t even breathe without feeling like there was a fire in my throat.

This lasted for around a month (during which I could essentially only eat vanilla ice cream, because even pudding was too painful).

After numerous tests, scans, and appointments that I had to drag myself to with the aid of my mother, they had finally figured out that it was a viral infection, and I just had to wait it out. They gave me drugs for pain, and something anti-inflammatory for the neck pain, none of which did much of anything for me.

And after the pain had subsided, I still faced another two or so months of weakness and sheer exhaustion.

And all this time, I was still studying Islam, making so many dua for forgiveness and guidance, and reading the entire Qur’an.

To be honest, this was one of the worst things I have ever experienced in my life. I wasn’t sure I was going to get better at all, and especially scared during the first couple of weeks.

But it was no coincidence that it happened when it did, just a few short months before I would embrace Islam.

I was just reminiscing with my husband the other night about those months in the very beginning of our relationship where I could barely get on Skype, and if I did all I could do was lay there and look at him, sometimes whispering replies to his questions.

And he told me, “When a Muslim is sick or in pain, God uses that to forgive someone’s sins and clean their heart. It’s like God was purifying you; you came to Islam so clean.”

Though all of your sins are erased when you embrace Islam, I feel like God put me in that situation not only to test my patience and fortitude and show me that this was the right man to marry (he was so amazing through the whole thing, though I had only known him on Skype for about a month), but also to really purify my whole being—mind, body, and soul, so I would be fully ready for my shahada a couple of months later.

Because during this time, my body was being purified and my sins were being erased, but when this kind of sickness occurs, that is something like you have never experienced in your life, you also really have a chance to reflect on what is important, and in some cases, become an entirely different person.

Again it makes me reflect on how lucky us converts, and really any Muslims who are actively choosing Islam as their way of life every single day, are. How much must God love us to choose US, over anyone else, anywhere in the world, to find, embrace, and love Islam?

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