“I had my first cancer when I was 10 years old. It was bone cancer on my left leg’s femur bone. I did chemotherapy and surgeries – and I survived, I am ok…

“I had my first cancer when I was 10 years old. It was bone cancer on my left leg’s femur bone. I did chemotherapy and surgeries – and I survived, I am ok. I have metal plates inside my leg, as cancer eats your bones, the bones have to be scrapped away. When I was 12 years old, cancer spread to both of my lungs – a recurrence. It was at the terminal stage (stage 4), it was quite serious. There was 2.6 litres of water in my lungs, and a lot of tumours, about 9-10cm nodules. I relapsed. I also survived. I did chemotherapy and surgery again. They operated both of my lungs and removed the modules and minimized the tumours.

When I was 13 years old the metal plate in my left leg broke, and I needed to get it amputated. It wasn’t actually an amputation, its where they take my left leg and folded it into my thigh. But my body cells rejected the new organ, and it was swelling and bleeding non-stop and I was in a critical condition.

The doctor asked my mom if I wanted to amputate it and I immediately said just do it, and do it fast because it was very painful and swollen. This was the most painful moment of my life. I couldn’t sleep.

3 days later, I got the amputation. And when I woke up, the first thing I wanted to do was call my friends and tell them that I don’t have a leg anymore! I know, to me it was funny.

When I was having my cancers, my family was very positive and they didn’t make me feel down – in fact, they made it feel as though I was just having a fever.

And since I survived the first time, I was confident that I will survive the second one. Friends and strangers were supportive, and even my primary school did a fundraising campaign and help write to the media.

During the fundraising campaign, my mom told me of this very old lady, who had a picnic basket, and we thought she was going to the pasar (wet market). But then she explained that it contained money for my operation.

I missed school as I was in bed the whole time. Previously I was in Taekwondo since I was 6 years old and I am a black belt. I was very much into Taekwando and won the bronze medal at the state championships.

My friends didn’t discriminate me as well. At Standard 5, on my first day of school, the teacher asked the class, who wants to help her? I was on a wheelchair and was bald due to my chemotherapy session – and everyone in class raised up their hands.

It is amazing how there are people who don’t know me, but they are willing to help me.

Also, I find it interesting that, it is the older people who say that I am beautiful, but they say that I should also wear long pants or a long dress. I myself have no fear wearing anything I want.

I hope to inspire others to appreciate everything around you and not give up easily. At least you try, and move forward.

I always tell people, think of your abilities rather than your disability. It’s better to go slower than not moving forward at all or overexerting yourself and becoming worse. So take care of yourself.

Everyday is my happiest moment – because I am alive. Now I appreciate my life. I don’t want to give up”.

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

Photostory by Mushamir Mustafa

“My auntie died of cancer, she was never married, and she was only focused on her career. When she was diagnosed with cancer, she had a spiritual experience towards the last moments of her death.”

“My auntie died of cancer, she was never married, and she was only focused on her career. When she was diagnosed with cancer, she had a spiritual experience towards the last moments of her death. She started to have hallucinations and having vivid conversations with someone that we can’t see. She would talk to us about how she was talking to this person, and how he had brought chicken rice for us to eat, and that his name was Ah Meng. I was shocked, and asked her ‘What? I brought food for you auntie’. She responded, saying Ah Meng had given the food already.

My auntie said that they always had deep conversations, and how he bought a lottery ticket and how he had won the jackpot and how he wanted to distribute the winnings.

Ah Meng would also mention my other aunties’ names, and whom not to give his winnings to.

And most of all, I really cannot forget about the time she looked into my eyes, and said that they both have a son together.

It sounds really crazy, but its real, and I swear, I had goosebumps. We called a psychiatrist, and the doctor said it could be her medicine (she was on steroids), or because of her staying in a hospital for long periods of time.

It gave me goose bumps, and I thought maybe he was a grim reaper. Maybe she was high on steroids, but whenever she talks about Ah Meng, she’s the happiest and liveliest I’ve seen of her.

When she snaps out of it, she’s super quiet and just keeps to herself.

So one day I want to do a film on her, and Ah Meng. I want to make this film as homage to her memory.”

Photostory by Mushamir Mustafa

“My name is Afiq. I’m that guy whose story went viral, where I worked as a cleaner in the UK, to pay for my parents’ flight so they can attend my graduation. This is my story.

I didn’t do well for PMR and was kicked out of my previous school but now, I am the first person from my kampung to ever study in the UK, graduating from the University of Essex with First Class Honours in Accounting and Finance.

I received 4As for my PMR and did not meet the school’s 6As requirement, so I had to leave the school along with 5 other peers. I felt horrible – out of 200 people, I was one of the 6 who had to leave because we had the lowest scores. I missed school for about a month because none of the schools near my area wanted to accept my application.

I didn’t really think much about it but my mom was very disappointed in me. She went to the Jabatan Pendidikan Negeri and pleaded to the Director to place me in a good high school. I ended up in the Accounts Stream, and all of my previous schoolmates looked down on me. I felt left out and told myself, ‘kau tunggu la’. I eventually fell in love with Accounting and worked hard to prove them wrong.

Alhamdulillah, I received 10As and 1B for SPM and was offered a JPA scholarship to study in the UK. However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. At one point, I wanted to give up on my studies and go home to help my parents. My dad was against the idea and urged me to continue studying. When I got accepted to study at the University of Essex, my dad performed korban (sacrificial butchering of cows and goats for a feast), and 500 people from the kampung came to our house.

Growing up, my father did mostly kerja kampung. He planted palm oil and herded cows and goats at our small farm. At one point, he even sold fish, operated a kedai runcit (grocery store), and was a tauke getah (he acted as a middleman by collecting produce from rubber tappers and sold them to factories). During school holidays, I would help my father do things like cutting grass, mending fences and even taking care of the goats. He was earning RM 1,500 a month for the whole family.

In my first year, I took up a part-time job as a “Premise Assistant” under the Student Union to earn extra money. It may sound fancy but I was actually working as a cleaner.

My day started at 4am. Then I’d cycle to the university, and started working at 5. I had to scrub the floor, rearrange the chairs, clean the tables, and then clean the toilet. It’s not much, but I felt happy when I knew that I helped others by making the university clean. It’s actually much easier than working in the kampung. I didn’t have to work under the hot sun, do hard labour, and lift heavy things.

Honestly, I felt lazy to work as a cleaner because I had to wake up very early to work. My own friend who recommended me this job left after working for 2 days. And I had to work every weekend. My supervisor said I was a good employee, and he eventually granted me more flexible working days.

I worked 3 days a week, for up to 20 hours. 5-6 hours a day, earning £7.50 (RM40) an hour. I got about £100 (RM 500) a week and finished my shift at about 11am.

I highly recommend listening to ‘It’s a Hit’ on Spotify when you are cleaning. I have even used the mop as a microphone as I sang Awie’s ‘Tragedi Oktober’. I liked working as a cleaner because I can concentrate on doing my tasks. Unlike those who work at restaurants, they have to deal with people and customers, especially during peak hours.

In the UK, people don’t pandang rendah if you are a cleaner. They are considerate and apologise when they accidentally step on the spot I was cleaning. They also respect and greet cleaners by saying ‘Good Morning’, or ask me how I am doing. In Malaysia, if you see a cleaner, you throw rubbish on the floor, expecting them to clean after you.

For the first 2 years, I spent on things I never got to buy when I was younger. Eventually, I saved the money for my future from my cleaning job and managed to raise enough money, which was about £2000 to buy flight tickets for my parents to come to the UK.

It was their first time on an airplane and travelling outside of Malaysia, and I knew it meant a lot for them to be there with me. I wouldn’t be here today without them.

InshaAllah, I hope one day I can afford to pay for their Hajj trip to Mecca.”

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

The post that made Afiq’s story viral can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/590015750/posts/10157230804490751/

Photostory by Yasmin Mortaza and Mushamir Mustafa
Edited by Sydrah Mustaffa

“I am known as the ‘Dancing Lawyer’, because despite having achieved my dream to study, graduate, and become a lawyer – I eventually had the realisation that my real talent lies in the performing arts, doing acting and voice-overs. But when the time came for me to quit my job as a lawyer and pursue this full-time, my parents could not accept it. My dad cut me off and stopped communicating with me for the next 3 years, and they have never gone to any of my shows in the last 10 years.

I was a practising lawyer at a law firm, handling corporate matters and doing litigation work for 6 years, until I realised that something was missing because all this while I had my interest in singing.

Despite feeling afraid, I took singing classes for fun, joined a hip-hop dance class at a gym, and formed a dance group at the gym to promote fitness, before finally ended up on the first season of “So You Think You Can Dance?” competition.

On the second season, I surprisingly passed the auditions and made it to the Top 50 and was sent to a boot camp. This is how I got my name as the Dancing Lawyer, as I was still working as a lawyer at that time.

A TV station interviewed me, and a friend of mine sent me an email about a talent audition that required some acting, singing and dancing skills.

He challenged me, I went for it, and when the doors opened, somebody shouted: “Hey I know you!”. It was Pat Ibrahim, a judge from ‘So You Think You Can Dance’.

He recognised me from the programme and it turns out that it was an audition for ‘Putri Gunung Ledang’. I panicked because I saw their amazing show last year at Istana Budaya. And I got the part!

So I needed to make a decision on whether or not I should quit my job, as the rehearsals are full-time and I didn’t think I could commit.

At first, I asked for a 3-month leave from my boss, only to be refused as there were a lot of cases to handle.

So I immediately resigned, because I was really tired of working as a lawyer and all #ThatCorporateLife. I felt tired and needed a break. I told myself – ‘I am doing this musical theatre as a short break, maybe for 3 months and then go back to being a lawyer’.

I followed my instinct without even thinking of the salary.

My dad did not know about my resignation yet at that time. I was 29 and they didn’t know I had quit, as I told them I was taking a break – and even then they weren’t too happy about it.

Then one day he found out when they came across a newspaper article about me acting in ‘Puteri Gunung Ledang’.

I told the reporter from The Sun to not disclose the fact that I had quit my job and instead just mention that I was on a break because my parents didn’t know.

But that was when, during rehearsals, my story got published on the front page, with the title “Lawyer Ceases Practice To Do Musical”, with a picture and a whole page that featured just me.

That was how my dad found out – and he didn’t speak to me for the next 3 years. I was met with silent treatment at home.

Whenever I called him on the phone, he wouldn’t pick up and instead pass it over to someone else to answer. It wasn’t a big emotional fight – he just cut me off, as I wasn’t staying with my parents anyways.

But everytime when I go back to the kampung, my mom still hopes till today that I will go back to my day job at the office.

So right after I starred in Puteri Gunung Ledang, I went for another audition at Istana Budaya and before you know it, I was working with Fauziah Nawi who trained me, and performed in numerous shows, such as ‘Mahsuri’, ‘Cuci The Musical’, ‘Lat The Kampung Boy’ and ‘MUD: The Story Of Kuala Lumpur’ before moving on to ‘OlaBola’ Season 1 and 2.

My advice to others is to follow your instinct, for we have a very good natural instinct for what we want to do. Trust your instinct and take the risk.

It has been 10 years since I quit my job as a lawyer, but I do miss practising law from time to time, especially when my lawyer friends advise me to find a way to do both.

Right now, I am thinking of renewing my legal practitioner’s license, but with the intention to focus on media and entertainment law. Despite so, my love is, and always be in the performing arts.

And I can see there are more opportunities and growth in this industry – such as producing, directing, and advising up-and-coming actors and actresses.

Dad, if you ever read this post, I really hope that you would understand. You have never come to watch any of my shows for the last 10 years. You know that this is my passion, you were a musician before this (and worked as a government servant). So you know where my talent comes from.

I hope you are willing to accept me for who I am and be proud of what I am doing. Whatever it is, deep in my heart, I do love you and mom so much and I am willing to do anything for both of you and make everyone happy.

I just hope that whatever I am doing after this will bring you happiness and that you don’t have to worry about me. I can take care of myself and everything is fine”.

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

Photostory by Mushamir Mustafa
Editorial assistance by Aiman Mustafa
Edited by Sydrah Mustaffa

– Zukhairi Ahmad recently performed in The Working Dead, a comedy-musical theatre about working hard, and working till death literally tears you apart! He plays a raging workaholic at the office, who makes the ultimate sacrifice for his family. Check out the page for future shows!

 

“My mother passed away due to diarrhoea in 2014. She probably ate unhygienic food and we didn’t suspect anything. I mean, who dies from food poisoning in the 21st century? She was sick for just 1 day. And it shocked me, that she passed away after just 1 day.

My last words with her were when I took her to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), when the nurse didn’t let me go with her when they were pushing her to the ICU lift.

She looked at me …. In a certain way, and stared – and I felt like she knew this was going to be our last moment together. And true enough, she didn’t make it out alive from the surgery.

She had severe diarrhoea and from there she had septic shock, and all her internal organs shut down and had a heart attack.

She passed away on April 14 – which is the Bengali New Years Day. It is always the biggest day for us as a family and for Bangladesh, where I am from.

She had told us for tomorrow morning, if you don’t wake up early for the day’s activities, she would have just left on her own. And she did.

Now on this day, we all feel only sadness. Even my dad met and fell in love with her on the same day, and this day really bothers us.

She had gotten New Year’s clothes, and bought nothing for herself. We just felt like, maybe she just knew.

And now I live with lots of regrets that will be with me all my life. If I had known more about the diarrhoea or sent her to the hospital much earlier…

I regret not spending more time with her, like when she’s cooking, she would expect me to stand and talk to her and wants to talk to me a lot, and I would sometimes feel annoyed – now I wish I had spent time with her.

There was this one time I got accepted into a university in the States, but she told me she wanted me to study in Bangladesh instead, and I did not like her decision. But looking back, it was a chance for me to spend more time with her before she passed away.

And if I was given 30 seconds to make a phone call to her, I would tell her, that I love her and miss her. And I hope that she is well up there, and that I will keep doing good things to make her proud, that I am taking care of myself and my sister, and that she doesn’t have to worry about us.

I just want to listen to her voice, her complaints, her nagging – it’s not easy for me to say I love you and I did not say it enough.

When the nurse invited us to go to the ICU room to see her one last time, we saw her body.

In Islam, there’s probably a saying that you shouldn’t cry when someone has died, that we shouldn’t cry in front of her dead body. So we did not shed a single tear until we got home. Once we reached home, we both started crying uncontrollably.

I could not expect that someone could die from diarrhoea; It wasn’t even a big disease, and she was just fine the day before.

I could not forgive myself. I did research and found out that 45,000 people in Bangladesh, where I am from, die from diarrhoea every year.

And diarrhoea is the leading cause of death for children under 5 years of age – and 2.5 billion people don’t have access to proper sanitation.

I realized it’s not just us who are facing this – it is a global problem.

Then I thought I needed to do something about this – my family told me to stay and just grieve for my feelings, but I wanted to take action and help others, in case other people might lose their own moms, too.

And that’s where four days after her death, I conducted a Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Campaign at an excluded community (the untouchables) of 3000 sewerage workers. I felt that I need to reach out to them and that society doesn’t value and appreciate them.

I became a WASH activist, where I teach people the importance of drinking clean water, maintaining basic hygiene, showering, keeping your nails short, menstrual hygiene, how to properly filter water at home, how to wash your hands properly (using the 7-steps technique) – things which many people didn’t know.

And in the past 7 years, I have reached out to 70,000 people, and now run my own organization called Awareness 360 in 23 countries, where I work with school children, slum dwellers, and sex workers – marginalized communities who do not know of this issue.

Right now in Malaysia, I notice that the Orang Asli community could use some help with the WASH education, which is why I will be going to Sabah and Sarawak to give a WASH talk.

To all Malaysians, do join our initiatives.

And most of all, value your parents when they are still alive, and for the youth, give back to the community now, not only when something tragic happened to you.

Find your passion in something that bothers you. We connect passion with a positive feeling – like music. But you can also find passion in something negative, and something you wish did not happen, and which bothers you. Each young person has all the potential to change the world for the better, only if they start bit by bit”.

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

If you would like to help or support Preva, please check out their Facebook page Awareness 360.

Photostory by Mushamir Mustafa

 

I came to Malaysia to run away from my family because they caused me too much pain. I had a struggling relationship with my father. He persuaded me to come here to further my studies since it’s quite a popular destination for those from the Middle East. But my goal was to get my ultimate freedom. I thought that if I changed my location, I would be a different person. But I wasn’t in good company. I smoked, drank, partied every weekend, and became selfish. I was trying to fit in since my own parents couldn’t accept me. I thought that was cool even though I didn’t like the lifestyle. I had no dream at all, and my goal at that time was to only study, make money, die and that’s it.

It all went on until one day when I woke up, looked in the mirror and I couldn’t recognise myself anymore.

The war (Arab Spring) started in my home country Syria in 2011, which pushed many Syrian families to move to Turkey as refugees. I decided to go to Turkey to volunteer as I thought that if I help someone else, I could help myself too. I witnessed the horrific situation at the Turkish-Syrian border and it was terrible. Upon my return to Malaysia after staying there for several months, my appearance changed. I had grown my long beard, which made me look like a religious person. It was because having spent time with a lot of the good people, I felt the need to look like them.

One day during the Ramadhan month, I saw on Facebook that a group of students was doing fundraising work by cooking meals and selling them to the public. I volunteered with them and we visited an Iraqi single mother. There was no sight of food inside the house even though it was Ramadhan. Then it hit me. It reminded me of how good my life is because I always have food on the table despite the strained relationship I had with my father.

From that day onwards, I started to visit and help more refugees and homeless people. 3 years later in 2016, I founded Give and Go, a social enterprise that aims to inspire others in the act of giving and reaching out to all refugees in Malaysia. We believe that everybody deserves to be helped, regardless of his or her background.

We also help the homeless and orphans, but our primary focus is still the refugees. We give them necessities such as towels, combs, and stationery sets. We even hosted the ‘Refugees Got Talent’ competition because we believe that refugees are talented, too. Many of them can sing, dance and play the guitar well. Our goal for that program was to make sure they have fun because many of them have mental health issues and psychological problems resulting from their traumatic experiences. But they are afraid to ask for help. When you reach out to them and want to provide counselling, they will never come, and it’s just not easy.

The refugees in Malaysia struggle a lot. Nobody likes to be called a refugee because it makes one feel vulnerable, to keep asking for help. Most refugees coming to Malaysia don’t speak the local language and couldn’t understand the culture. No one teaches them the dos and don’ts over here. It’s always good to have the proper guidelines available because they have never lived in a foreign country before.

Sometimes, it takes a long time for them to finally be resettled by the United Nations office to another country. I hope that the refugees will one day be recognised by the Malaysian government so that they can work, study, and get affordable treatment at the hospital. I have friends who have been here for almost 8 years now. Can you imagine a kid being here for that long and not being able to learn at school? Some of these refugees have come to me and told me that what they need is a proper job so they can have a steady income, and not donations.

I wish that one day there won’t be any refugee anymore and that the word ‘refugee’ will be removed from the dictionary. I hope that they will finally get to return because home is where you’re at your happiest. The one thing we won’t forget about Malaysia is that you guys opened the door for us while the Gulf countries and the rest of the Middle East closed theirs.

I haven’t seen my own family for 7 years now, so it does get lonely for me. But with Give & Go, I have my brothers and sisters here, and the people who love to be around me. By helping people, I feel like God is helping me, too. I want to let my family know that I miss them and that I’m sorry for all the things I have done in the past. I’m doing my best to be the best person I can be. And maybe one day I can build a great family of my own.

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

We will be publishing our Refugees Storytelling campaign soon. Keep an eye out on our page!

Photostory by Samantha Siow and Mushamir Mustafa
Edited by Sydrah Mustaffa

 

“A stroke is a brain attack. You end up with shells of the people you used to know, and it’s frustrating to communicate with them. For caregivers, they might shout and say unkind things to their loved ones.

Both my late mother and husband had a stroke. With stroke survivors, you have to be tough with them. They might say no to rehab, or no to exercising, but you need to be the driving force if you want to see them get out of their wheelchairs.

Families are important in the recovery process, which varies for everyone – it might take 6 months, one year, three years, or even five years. It doesn’t matter. It’s the small wins that count. At the end of the day, it’s rewarding to see someone who arrives at NASAM in a wheelchair, to be able to walk.

NASAM or National Stroke Association of Malaysia is an organisation that helps stroke survivors rehabilitate. We have 9 centres across Malaysia and have people as young as 15 up to those who are over 80 years old.

What makes NASAM so different is that we try to have fun at the centre. Aside from helping them exercise and relearn simple activities, we have music, dance and even organised the world’s first Stroke Games in 2017!”

Photostory by Yasmin Mortaza
Edited by Sydrah M. and Mushamir M.

In the next few photostories, we’ll be featuring Stroke patients and the cast for a theatre play called “Transitions”, a story about a radio station founder who suffers an unexpected stroke after celebrating her radio’s 10th anniversary.

Transitions is sponsored by Yayasan Sime Darby and supported by the National Stroke Association of Malaysia – NASAM

“To count by the month of fasting, we have been doing this family business (selling fried mee at the bazaar) for 15 years already.”

“To count by the month of fasting, we have been doing this family business (selling fried mee at the bazaar) for 15 years already.

We also have our own permanent job at the night market but we are selling tofu instead.

Hari Raya is coming and I will celebrate it with all of my family members here in KL.

We do not go by different theme colour every year but instead, we have our own name theme and for this year it is Mee Goreng Power!

But actually, this name is already famous in Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman where we used to be.

My advice to everyone during Raya is please do not waste food, buy at an appropriate amount only and let’s be jolly! Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri!”

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

Photostory by Alexandrea Malinjang and Sue Jiun
Edited by Sydrah M.

 

“It all started as a dare. I was watching a show called “Comedy Kao Kao’, hosted by Dr Jason Say Keong Leong at The Bee, Publika. One of my friends told me to give stand-up comedy a shot, and even though I didn’t put much thought into it, I got myself a slot for my first stand-up in the next show.

I finally came to a realisation that doing stand-up comedy not just merely for fun or a one-off thing, but more of something that I truly enjoy. Ever since then, I started performing at more and more gigs, until I eventually got paid for doing it.

I’m Sulaiman Azmil. I’ve been working as a lawyer for about 25 years by now. And my message to everyone out there: Pursue your passion, but be realistic about your financial viability at the same time.”

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

Photostory by Sue Jiun Yap
Edited by Sydrah M. and Mushamir M.

 

“This is only our second year of trying to sell char kuey teow (stir-fried rice cake strips) and tauhu sumbat (stuffed tofu) at this Bazaar Ramadan. So far, business has been good and I plan to continue this every year.

What excites me the most about Hari Raya is actually working at this Bazaar Ramadan because this is where I earn my extra income.

And going back to my hometown in Pahang, where I get to visit all my relatives and neighbours. I also get to make tauhu sumbat for everyone to try out and eat.

If you were to ask me what my life motto really is, I would say it is to live better than today in terms of earning income, attaining stability in life and taking other opportunities – something that is permanent – because right now, this is only temporary for I am still focused on my full-time job.

Should a better opportunity comes in my way, I would like to turn this into a primary source of income. That is my wish for now.”

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

Photostory by: Alexandrea Malinjang and Sue Jiun
Edited by Sydrah M.