If you don't know who Munira Premji is, it is definitely time to meet her. It was 2012 and I had just started as a henna artist with Henna Heals the year before. One day I was called by Frances Darwin, the founder of Henna Heals, to go to the home of Munira to do a henna crown on her. When I got there I was greeted with the biggest warmest smile, which I soon learned was connected to one of the warmest, friendliest, most gregarious people I have ever met. This was a surprise to me, as Munira Premji, as I came to learn, had been diagnosed not only with an incurable blood cancer called Multiple Myeloma, but also with stage 4 Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
I got to work on her henna crown and she was very chatty telling me all about her cancers. It was hard to believe that this upbeat, seemingly happy person had just been diagnosed with not only an incurable cancer, but a second, late stage cancer as well. It was a delight to work on her, she was so positive and optimistic. She talked lovingly about her husband and two grown kids, whom she is so proud. I met her sister and mom who were intrigued with the henna crown I was applying to Munira, and, being from a henna practicing culture themselves, knew all about the craft but had never seen such a novel use for this wonderful stain.
When I was finished, Munira went to the mirror and fell instantly in love with her crown and how it looked on her. It made her feel beautiful, although she is already a stunning woman without it. She couldn't stop gushing about it, and complimenting me on the design. Here I was helping her to feel good during such a devastating time, and instead she ended up making me feel wonderful with her admiration and encouragement. But that is who she is, so full of gratitude, positive vibes, and enchanting charm. She has the ability to lift the spirits of everyone around her. The energy in the room was palpable that day and left a huge impact on me.
As it so happens, shortly after that first crown, CTV contacted Frances Darwin wanting to do a segment on Henna Heals. So I found myself back at Munira's home applying another crown in front of the camera and being interviewed along with Frances and Munira. It was an exciting day for everyone and Munira was definitely the star.
Front Row (L - R) Frances Darwin, Munira Premji, Tarquin Singh
Even though Munira's Multiple Myeloma went into remission and she recovered from Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, unfortunately four years later she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Munira just couldn't seem to catch a break! Thankfully today her breast cancer is in remission, and there is no sight of the Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, however, the Multiple Myeloma, because it is incurable, has to be treated approximately every 5-8 years and in fact she had her second stem cell transplant last year. Needless to say I have done several henna crowns on Munira over the years.
First photo above ©Henna Heals
The thing that strikes me about Munira, through all this misery, is her amazing, inspiring spirit. She is a SURVIVOR and has made lemonade out of lemons. She has made her experience into something positive and her resilience shines through in all the work she does. She not only had a small film made about her experience and journey through these cancers, but she also started a blog, wrote a book, and got into Podcasting! She grabs every opportunity, finds the joy in life, and pursues the things she's interested in and loves. She lives life to the fullest in spite of her diagnosis, or perhaps because of it.
I encourage you to go out and buy Munira's book, Choosing Hope. It was one of 40 works of Canadian nonfiction to watch for in the spring of 2020 according to CBC Books. It is full of humour, hope, love, courage, and resilience. You can find more information and purchase her book here. And if you are interested in her blog, where she has written extensively about the details of all her diagnosis, treatment and recovery, you can find it here.
I had the great fortune of being her very first guest on her new podcast, Choosing Hope: Living Courageously Through Adversity. She interviews me about my henna business and we talk all about henna and how I got into it etc.. She also shares with me how she felt when I first applied a henna crown to her which she describes as empowering and like a cancer warrior. It was such an honour to be part of this new adventure of hers, as well as an honour just to know her. You can access her podcast here.
I hope you look her up and that you enjoy what you learn about her, I'm sure you will find her courageous, resilient, and joyful!