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In 2012, Munira Premji was an active woman filled with the joy of life. Her career was satisfying, her marriage was wonderful, and her grown children’s successes filled her with happiness. On February 3 that year, however, her life changed dramatically with a diagnosis of Stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma coupled with Stage 3 multiple myeloma. She fought both cancers fiercely, understanding that there is no current cure for multiple myeloma. Then in 2015, just when she felt ready to live the life she had to put on hold, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Now, in her book Choosing Hope: One Woman 3 Cancers, Premji shares her journey as not a victim but as a champion.
Premji is an engaging writer whose job as an HR rep worked in her favor when she was able to acquire a new cancer drug she needed at no cost through her employer. Still, her anxieties about the cost of treatments, medications, procedures, and care are never withheld as she and her family navigate the Canadian health system. She makes it clear that cancer is a costly disease on many levels.
At her daughter’s urging, Premji began chronicling her journey by blogging, keeping family and friends updated, expressing her emotions and drive to survive while documenting the processes she endured. The entries—included in the book—also reveal a courageous and resilient woman. Her anecdotes are set in the chemotherapy clinic, the hospital rooms, and her home with an extraordinary mix of humor, appreciation, and seriousness. Some are amusing, others are painful or introspective, and others celebrate the bonds between cancer patients during treatments, while in the hospital, and at support group meetings.
Although she doesn’t recount every chemo session, drug, healthcare worker, or needle stick, she gives the reader plenty to absorb. Premji is a realist, yet she remains positive when discussing foggy “chemo brain,” recalling each time her hair fell out, or reliving her struggle to produce enough stem cells to warrant surgery. To her credit, she always moves forward, even when her world looks bleaker than the day before.
Choosing hope merged with her faith when one of Premji’s chemotherapy nurses presented her with a bracelet that read, “Once you choose hope, anything is possible.”
Premji embraced the concept, which strengthened her resolve during countless chemo sessions, hospital stays due to febrile neutropenia, the long wait to have stem cell transplantation, and the days in between chemo when she’d feel anything from energized to simply unable to move out of bed.
Premji continues to maintain her blog, has a YouTube channel, and in June of this year, she happily checked off a bucket list item by launching a podcast, Choosing Hope: Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things.
Jeanne E. Fredriksen lives in both Carolinas where she is a Books for Youth reviewer for Booklist magazine/American Library Association and a member of WCPE-FM The Classical Station’s Music Education Fund committee. This review is dedicated to her brother, Ron, who has been battling multiple myeloma.