She Runs Half Marathon… Whilst Undergoing Chemo- therapy for Cancer

Faizah completes the SCMS 2013 Half Marathon, despite undergoing chemotherapy for cancer during the time. Credit: Faizah & Farhan

Faizah (Right) with husband Farhan (left) during the SCMS 2013 Half Marathon.
Credit: Faizah & Farhan

She was diagnosed with Stage 2 Lymphoma (Cancer of the lymphatic system) in August 2013 – while she had been in the middle of her wedding preparations. Yet, four months later – in December 2013, Siti Faizah Abdul Latiff successfully completed the 21.1km Half Marathon at the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS) – whilst still undergoing chemotherapy treatment. This had been her very first Half Marathon.

Was determined to take part in the race

Explained the 31-year-old civil servant, “I had already pre-registered for the race, way before I was diagnosed. And I thought that since I had not been able to participate in another race I had registered for, the 10km Great Eastern Women’s Run, maybe I should just go ahead with the SCMS 21.1km Half Marathon since Farhan, my sister and her fiancé would be participating as well. I knew the side effects would be kicking in a day after the run, so it was purely for fun and I promised Farhan that I would stop if I am not able to continue the run. I wasn’t really expecting to finish it but whenever I kept going, I felt that I was closer to the finishing line.”

Added her husband Muhammad Nurfarhan Mislam, a 30-year-old training executive, “I didn’t want her to join the race initially because I was worried that it would be too much for her. But she insisted, and I saw how determined she was to go through it. She had to promise me that she would take it easy though.”

Struggled during the final quarter of the race

During the run, Faizah did well for the first 15km of the Half Marathon, but in the final quarter, she struggled. She explained, “My lungs became irritated and my chest tightened up when we ran the last 6km stretch along East Coast Parkway, from breathing in the fumes emitted by the vehicles travelling across the expressway. Every step was torturous as my toes became numb and my legs were hurting.

Continued Faizah, “I started thinking about giving up, but then I saw a blind runner holding to a rope tied to a middle-aged runner accompanying him and leading the way for him. The sight inspired and motivated me to push forward. Even if I had to rest my toes once in a while, I was more determined to finish the run. However, the final 3km was the greatest challenge for me. I was so close to giving up altogether, but Farhan, who was running beside me the entire time, held my hand until we got to the finishing line.”

Added her husband, “I was constantly observing her conditions and was prepared to pull out the minute I saw signs of her passing out. However she persevered and I held her hand the entire time, spurring her on and giving her words of encouragement.”

The happy couple at a Bone Marrow Donor Programme event. Credit: Faizah & Farhan

Farzan & Faizah at a Bone Marrow Donor Programme event earlier this year.
Credit: Faizah & Farhan

Surged with pride when she crossed the finishing line

And when they crossed the finishing line together, hand in hand, Faizah herself felt so proud of what she had just accomplished. She said, “I didn’t think that I could actually do it. It was an incredible accomplishment for me. All the pain in my legs was gone and the only thing i needed was a cold drink.”

Faizah managed to complete the run in 4.5 hours – which was better than she had ever expected, as she had thought she would drop out midway during the run.

Added her husband Farhan, who had been with her all the way during the run, “I was so proud of her when we completed the Half Marathon. 21.1km is not a short distance and not any average Joe would be man enough to complete it. But Faizah, with her current condition, was able to complete it. She was out to prove a point to everyone that nothing in this world is impossible. All you need is the support of people you love around you, and faith.”

Faizah & Farhan at their wedding. Credit: Faizah & Farhan.

Faizah & Farhan at their wedding.
Credit: Faizah & Farhan.

A stark contrast to the devastation she felt when she was diagnosed

Indeed, Faizah’s accomplishment at the SCMS 2013 were nothing short of amazing – considering how much shock she had been in when she was diagnosed – as well as the subsequent pain she was subjected to while undergoing chemotherapy.

Explained Faizah, “Prior to the diagnosis, I had been leading a healthy lifestyle, doing all I could to be fit by being physically active and watching my diet. So finding a hard lump on my left collarbone was worrying. I went through many tests and when it was confirmed that the diagnosis was cancer, it was devastating for both me and my husband. I also found myself worrying about my family, my career and the future we were looking forward to together.”

Chemotherapy treatments were physically and mentally draining

And being subjected to the gruelling chemotherapy treatments got no easier for her. Said Faizah, “The chemotherapy treatment was physically and mentally draining. The fear of having burnt veins kept coming as it happened during the second cycle and it was painful. It took some time for the pain to go away. I had to tell myself not to think about it and go through the process no matter what happens.”

Added her husband Farhan, “I felt helpless too, not knowing how I could make things better for her. I didn’t know what to do at first because this was the first time someone I love is going through this.”

Declared as cancer-free in March 2014

So then, it came as music to both Faizah and Farhan’s ears, when she was finally diagnosed as cancer-free, on 31 March 2014. Said Faizah, “It was the best feeling ever. I felt relieved and happy, though the fear of the cancer coming back would always haunt me.”

Added Farhan, “I was thankful to God that he has given her another chance in life. This entire ordeal has made me appreciate her even more, to never take things for granted and to love her with all my heart.”

Inspired her husband to give the gift of life

Indeed, Faizah’s ordeal and her subsequently receiving of her second chance at life, had even inspired her husband to become a bone marrow donor – and give someone else a second chance at life too.

Explained Farhan, “What Faizah and I went through was just so difficult and had me feeling helpless. I did as I could I could to ease her pain but it did not seem enough when I saw what she was going through.”

Faizah & Farhan participate in the Bone Marrow Donor Programme. Credit: Faizah & Farhan.

Faizah & Farhan participate in the Bone Marrow Donor Programme.
Credit: Faizah & Farhan.

“But then in August 2014, I learned that someone else was going through what Faizah went through, but this time I happened to be that patient’s 1 in 20,000 chance to survive and could do something to help. So if I could make a change to someone’s life, I didn’t see any reason not to do so.” Farhan added.

The recipient of his bone marrow had been a woman in her 40s who was suffering from Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Farhan has no regrets about his decision to give another person a second chance at life. He said, “The donation process itself was not difficult or painful for me and I was well taken care of during the entire process. I recovered quickly too, so looking back, it seemed like such a small act that went such a long way for another person. I ask nothing in return and I wish her all the best in her recovery.”

Grateful for how things in life for them has turned out for the better

Indeed, both of them are very grateful of how things in life have completely turned around for them. Said Faizah, “Cancer is not the end. It can be a start to an awesome life. It was really a blessing in disguise for me after going through this. I got closer to my family and i learnt the real meaning of true love just by seeing how my husband stayed with me throughout. These people never gave up on me therefore I should not give up on them. Take it a day at a time and do things which will make you feel happy even when it is just stepping out of the house for some fresh air. Anything is possible if you’d at least try.”

Added Farhan, “We also hope that our story will cancel out and dispel all the bad rumours and misconceptions about bone marrow donation. It is painless and you are well taken care of. You have a chance to save someone. That someone can be somebody else’s spouse, child or a family member.”

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