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Mona Hadeed’s journey of faith

Sunday, March 9 2014

Mona Hadeed’s journey on the path of life has is one filled with hope, dreams, joys, sorrows, struggles and victory.

A mother of three, Hadeed, 61, a Roman Catholic, held true to her faith, the crutch she held on to as she dealt with her husband’s cancer and his eventual death, then her own bout with cancer and subsequently her daughters’ own trials.

In an interview with Sunday Newsday, Hadeed said a friend told her she could write a book about her life. She proceeded to do just that.

In her autobiography, The Healing Desert: In the Sands of Time, Hadeed tells of how he faith in God guided her and gave the strength to believe, and to never give up.

The book is a compilation of 20 years of a journal she started when her husband, Aziz, was diagnosed with cancer.

“I started writing at the times when I was very low and feeling despair and wondering when all of this was going to end because when something like this happens, you are faced with all of this uncertainty of where is your life heading.

“For 20 years, he (her husband) battled all different types of cancer and surgeries which was a challenge in itself, but he was a very strong man. He had the will to live so with his will and my faith, he battled for 20 years.

“He was always such a marvel to people. One day I just got this urge to start putting together all of these things in a journal,” Hadeed smiled as she recalled the strength of the man who made his first journey to Trinidad at the age of 21.

In her book, Hadeed spoke of the young love between herself and her husband that was a struggle in itself since her mother was against the union.

Dealing with her husband’s cancer was not the first trial Hadeed had has to deal with though. Thirty-one years ago, while in the prime of her life, and as a young wife and mother, she got the shock of her life when she diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, a type of cancer.

This was when her journey with the Lord began.

“I was in the prime of my life and out of nowhere this thing happened. I had to go abroad and do all the testing and scans. It was after one of these scans on my stomach that the doctor said he saw cancer cells as big as his fists. I was devastated because I wasn’t expecting this. My kids were young at the time, between the ages of three and nine.

“Somebody asked me if I was brave enough to ask God for a miracle and I said yes, and it was such a simple yes because at that time I wasn’t very spiritual. I went to stay with my family in Miami, and I started to pray for a miracle.

“ I said Lord, let it be different when I go back to the doctor, let it be that he made a mistake Just that simple prayer,” Hadeed said as she sat in a cozy den at her home in Goodwood Park, on Thursday. On every wall of the room were family portraits, photographs of her children Dominic, Rhonda and Karlene, her grand children, and her late husband.

Hadeed prayed for a miracle while friends and family gathered in Trinidad to pray for her.

And she received that miracle. What the doctor thought were cancer cells in her stomach turned out to be air bubbles in her intestines, she said. She was treated, received radiation and given a clean bill of health.

“It was like an awakening when I realised our God reigns. It is only when you can come from that deep experience, that personal experience you’ll know that what the scripture says is so.

“I still did two weeks of radiation. That is what really started my journey of growing in the Lord. While I had received a physical miracle, the true miracle was the conversion of my soul,” she said.

Hadeed’s life would again be thrown into turmoil when in 2007, her daughter Rhonda, who was five and a half months pregnant with twins, suffered a seizure and collapsed, losing consciousness. She was immediately flown to a hospital in Miami where she underwent a series of tests. It was found that she had a tumour in her head.

“They wanted to abort the babies because when she got the seizure, she lost consciousness,” she said.

For six months, Hadeed left everything behind and stayed with her daughter, watching over her, praying and hoping.

“I think that time was when I had my hardest test of faith. Your child is your child. Her husband was so devastated I had to pull everybody together. That is where my life of spirituality, which started when I too discovered I had cancer 31 years ago, my faith journey and deep spirituality began.

“That whole story was such a witness of God, divine faith, divine miracle, in my life and the lives of my family. What seemed like something that was going to have a tragic end was very fruitful and positive, even though it was very trying,” she said.

Hadeed said with what happened with her daughter, she saw that God, even while growing in her spirituality, was strengthening her for that moment because of all the crises, that was the most heart wrenching for her.

“It called for a lot of faith, courage and trust. If I ever had to say to anyone ‘surrender’, I can say I had that experience with the journey with my daughter. She finally had the babies by Caesarian section. The baby boy was perfect, but the girl is physically challenged,” she said.

Hadeed said her second daughter, Karlene, may not have been alive if she had followed doctors’ advice to have an abortion after contracting toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease caused by infected animals, mostly the cat family.

The doctors said it was okay once she was not pregnant, but Hadeed was pregnant at the time

“The doctor said I had to abort. It was after wards I realised that the seed of faith had been deeply planted because I said no, I could never consent to this. I started to pray. I said Lord, if something is wrong with this child, let me abort on my own. Today she is the most beautiful child and a special needs teacher.

“The miracle was God giving me the grace to say no. I can’t take credit for it because it was something the Lord had planted deep within me. I never worried even though my spirituality wasn’t what it is today.

“Having written the book has taught me that we have nobody really to depend on except God. “The doctors, the medicine, are there which the Lord has provided which we have to use. “Sometimes our family are there, but ultimately we are alone . That comfort from people can’t be there 24 hours, and that is where, along my journey, I realised that God was that abiding one, always at your side no matter what,” Hadeed said.

She advised that tragic situations of people committing suicide or turning to drugs and alcohol, could all be avoided if only people would only come to understand the love of God, and how to depend on him.

“Writing the book, to me it was a complete journey of faith. I thought that if I ever got to publish this book, that is the message I wanted to reach my readers…never give up no matter what you’re experiencing. All things are possible with God, you just have to turn to Him,” she said.

Hadeed felt that the world was just trying to take God out of the equation of life. She said everything in society had become about “me and I”, which was why many people have lost that sense of hope.

“The’“me and the I’ could never give us what we want when we are in situations that are challenging, trials and tragedies. In schools now you can’t even speak the name of God, you can’t even tell somebody ‘God bless you’ and we are reaping the fruits of that.

“All the violence, the anger, the drug addiction, are coming from people not having anywhere to turn to, no real source of hope and courage,” she said.

Hadeed said she hoped that people read her book, her life story, and see that it was through her faith and her relationship with God that she survived.

“What I saw through my journey was that the Lord gave me a love and a compassion to care for my husband and other people I may have met along the way. My I message is about hope because out there the world is too ravenous. There are a lot of things going on that we are not aware of, that distract us and take our vision. If you are not spiritually anchored you could be fooled and could be led astray. I think that is why a lot of the young people today are suffering so much,” she said.

Because of her experience with her granddaughter’s physical challenges, Hadeed said she was made painfully aware of the lack of special care clinics in Trinidad.. She said there were just small cells of people who offered physical therapy, but felt much more should be included, including speech therapy, schooling and teaching.

“What we have to offer the children now is so limited. It is so wrong that these little children cannot have the best to help them. When I see what it costs to do therapy I think about these other children whose parents do not have the money for their therapy, and they have to be left at home without being given the chance,” she said.

And so, with her book launch on March 13 at West Mall, and the sales of her books, Hadeed said all proceeds will go toward the building of a special needs clinic in Trinidad.

“That is what I feel the Lord is calling me now to do,” she said.