Throughout my nearly 4-year leukemia journey, I've always rejected the question: why me? Why not me? I had lived a privileged life until leukemia derailed me. Fear, pain, guilt have wracked those 4 years, but there were some extraordinarily happy times sprinkled throughout the ordeal.
I just finished a memoir written by a Somalian woman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. What this gutsy woman experienced her entire life makes my misery ridiculously short-term. Hirsi Ali is the kind of person I was thinking about when I rejected the "why me?" question.
The major themes of the book are Islam, women's rights and politics in Africa, Holland and the United States. Hirsi Ali, now employed by the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (Washington, DC), tells the jaw-dropping story of her Somalian, Ethiopian and Kenyan childhood, her escape to Germany (to avoid an arranged marriage to a Canadian Muslim) and eventually, asylum in Holland. Her time in Holland radicalizes her. Everything works; everyone, including refugees, are accorded basic human rights and then some; violence is uncommon. Most puzzling is that Hell is nowhere to be found. She begins to see Islam through Dutch eyes, becoming a citizen and then being elected to serve in Parliament. Violence re-enters her life when a colleague with whom (Theo van Gogh) she makes a short film is murdered by an Islamic extremist. A fatwa is issued against her, and she spends months in hiding, heavily guarded. The memoir ends with her moving to the United States and writing Infidel. She returned to Holland in 2007. Death threats are still tossed her way.
Hirsi Ali and I were both dealt fates we wouldn't wish upon anyone. Our battles are ongoing, but she carries a lifetime of scars, abject fear, and confusion on her shoulders. She defines bravery. As a 4-year leukemia survivor, I just try to put up a good front.