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The Man who Conquered Cancer


I once asked Dr. Walter Lami, the professor of philosophy at the American University in Cairo, about the difference between an atheist and a believer; he first narrated the story of an atheist friend, who was a cancer patient and in her last stage, she was extremely anxious and scared as she was not prepared to die, then he added:” this is the main difference between a believer and an atheist, the latter has not enough strength to face death.”


What is Strength?

When I was young, I used to think that a strong man is a man of physical power, one who is tough enough to conquer his enemies in the battlefield. Of course, he has to be athletic, energetic, courageous, quick at kicking and anticipating. But, when I grew older, I found that strength is much more than being physically strong. Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) once quoted “a strong man is not the one who is good at wrestling, he is the one who controls himself in a fit of rage”[1]. When we compare this quote with the definition of strength as “the capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure”[2], we find them very similar. Although some people may think that a strong person is one who is able to control a group of people or even a nation, however, I believe that controlling ones’ self is the hardest task, as you have to control your temper, conquer your fears, restrain your desires and endure calamities, but when is this possible?

The Story Unfolds

I once knew a strong man in every sense of the word. He was a scholar, a very successful physician and a very capable manager, very charismatic, extremely giving, caring and devoted. In his final days, he became a cancer patient. He promised himself not to give in to his illness and emotionally dies before he actually dies.

As a physician, he knew very well the nature of his illness and how it is progressing. Despite his full awareness that he has only a few months or maybe days left, he never stopped going to his clinic, attending family events, mingling with others, listening to his favorite singer “Um Kalthoum” every night or even taking a dive in his swimming pool every morning. He was very active and vivid till his last day. When his family members and friends paid him a visit, they could not believe how pleasant, accepting and full of hope he was despite his illness.

When he would accidentally bump into any of his old colleagues or students who fail to recognize him because of how this malignant disease changed his appearance, he never felt uncomfortable or unhappy; on the contrary, he would call them and without any hesitance introduce himself to them. His smile did not fade away for one second; he was always strong, so sure of himself!

The Doctor and his Distressed Patient

He once soothed his grieving nephritic patient after knowing that his kidney has completely stopped functioning. His comforting words made his patient leave his clinic in an ecstatic state, almost dancing of joy, believing that a failed kidney is the best thing that could ever happen to him.

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The words that calmed the miserable patient were: “your condition is much better than your doctor’s. Your kidney has stopped functioning, while all the organs in your doctor’s body are nearly dead, thank God that he gave us the spirit and will to function despite of our conditions”. Indeed, we are living by God’s will, permission and power, not with the help of our body organs.


The Real Reason Behind Strength

I am proud to say that this man was my father, and it is quite obvious to me that he derived his strength from his deep faith. He taught me, by example, that faith is not just reading prayers, or reciting verses from the Quran or the Bible. True faith is to have complete trust in God, thus believing that everything that happens is for the best even if it does not explain itself. With this faith, one becomes the strongest person on earth, and so was my father.


[1] [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].


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