Nabeel Al-Azami and his family have been cared for by Saint Francis Hospice in Essex since he was diagnosed with a spinal cord tumour. His widow Nasreen reveals how the hospice has been invaluable, and their Muslim faith has helped them remain pragmatic faced with his terminal condition.
In March 2019 Nabeel Al-Azami was diagnosed with a spinal cord tumour. Three months later, it was revealed that the tumour had spread to his brain.
Nabeel, 39, an award-winning HR specialist and founder of training and consultancy firm Murabbi Consulting, had been suffering from crippling headaches and was admitted to Queen’s Hospital in Romford, Essex. The hospital suggested that Nabeel moved to the hospice, but Nabeel’s family had reservations.
His wife Nasreen, a psychiatrist for the NHS, recalls: “Our family had preconceptions that the hospice was a place to die, but it isn’t just that. It’s difficult to understand why someone could be better off in a hospice if they haven’t experienced the benefits.
“Within minutes of arriving, he had five people doting on him. Before any treatment had even started, you could see he was brighter just by being here”.
At the hospice Nabeel benefitted from massages to ease his pain, and the hospice provided help from a benefits advisor and counselling for the couple’s three children, aged 11, nine and four. Nasreen says the therapy is helping their children to not have a negative connection to the hospice. “The hospice is such a beautiful place, that’s the reason we’re here” she says.
She cites the family’s Muslim faith as helping them through this challenging time. At the time Nabeel was ill, she said: “We always have hope in prayer and miracles, but our faith also teaches us to value knowledge and science” she says.
“We have a pragmatic approach – we know Nabeel is very unwell, and the type of tumour he has is terminal. We rely on prayer; we hope for the best but prepare for the worst. We know that both eventualities are okay. If he does survive, then that’s okay; if he doesn’t, then that’s okay too — there will be a reason. The reason might not be apparent now, but it will be in time. There’s a good reason behind everything.
“We don’t view life as ‘ending’ when we pass — we are back with God, and another phase in the cycle of life begins”.
Nabeel died in August 2019, but he was determined not to let his illness deter him from finishing writing his first book, and last summer ‘Muhammad: 11 Leadership Qualities that Changed the World’ was published. Based on the teachings of Muhammed and how people measure up against the leadership standards set by the Prophet, the book contains the quote “Each of you is a shepherd, and each of you is responsible for their flock”, a statement that suggests we should recognise we’re all leaders at some level.
For more information visit Saint Francis Hospice
The family have been raising money for the hospice in memory of Nabeel, visit their JustGiving page