Rahat Mahmood & I first met on Twitter several years ago. I found her to be delightfully infectious in many ways – her beauty, sense of humor, compassion & love for family & friends, & her food… Ohhhh, her GLORIOUS food! She would post images of the dishes she was preparing for her family & during the holidays & I always wished I could have a seat reserved for me at her dinner table. Her entire family is lovely. Over the years, I’ve been able to watch her children grow up via the images & life stories posted on social media. Rahat & her husband, Inam have done a beautiful job raising such bright, talented children. It’s obvious, there is a lot of love in this family – a family who lives, loves, & laughs together. I’m thrilled to have had the chance to interview Rahat & am VERY excited to share her story, including a music video montage at the end of the post. I’m sure you will enjoy her as much as I do!
Tell me a bit about your MS story – when were you Diagnosed (Dx), how old were you, & how did it affect you then & now (symptoms, emotions, meds, etc.)? Also, you have a BEAUTIFUL family! What was their reaction to your Dx – then & now?
At the tender age of 23 (June 2007) I lost my vision in my left eye. So many changes in my body I couldn’t understand why. I would blame my lifestyle I mean I was working full time, two kids and a housewife so that is a pretty tough job not forgetting my active social life! By December I was seen by a neurologist who told me I had the onset of MS. When I got home I googled it and to my horror I had every single symptom. In February 2008 I had a Lumber Puncture test then on February 27th, 2008 I saw the neurologist again who said, “Rahat, I’m sorry to tell you, you have Multiple Sclerosis.”
That was the day my life changed forever and I just cried and cried. My family cried with me and I don’t think they understood what it really was at first.
They are supportive and help me out a lot so I’m lucky. My daughter was 6 and the little man was just 3 I didn’t know how to tell them at first until one day they asked me why I was always tired and I told them. I wanted them to know at that age so they understand it well. Over the years they have said I have gotten worst and I know I have I just tell them I have no control over MS. MS affects my vision and mobility but it’s kind of different every day. I wake up and check what part of the body is working I’m used to it now.
How has your MS changed your life overall – whether it be positive or negative or both?
MS has changed my life so much – I take each day as it comes, enjoy my life more than ever and try to do as much as I can because I always think life’s too short. Before MS I did enjoy my life but I’d always say ‘oh I will do it tomorrow’ whereas now if I have my mind set to do something I will just do it. I try to stay as positive as I can but sometimes I just give up … I feel I have lost so much because of the MS.
You are quite a fun loving, creative person who brings joy & laughter to so many…have you always been so uplifting, or has your beautifully infectious outlook changed because of (or in spite of) your Dx of MS?
I have always been a “laughing out loud” person but ever since having MS I have become even more cheery. I can’t be miserable or angry for too long because it’s so not me then with having MS I tend to show people the ‘look at me I have MS but I’m still smiling. Ever since my diagnosis I live each day to the full despite all the aches and pains I have (trust me I have so many). I have a big family and when they are having a terrible moment/crisis I often remind them that no matter how bad they say there life is, they have good health so they should appreciate what they have.
I see you have quite a colorful background which include wonderful travels, education, career, & other life experiences! Tell me more about these adventures, Rahat. Any upcoming plans or vacations on the horizon?
Oh, I love travelling even though my last holiday was to Pakistan three years ago we haven’t been away since! Only because we have been so busy spending money on the house which is more important right? We are always going to the Middle East for holidays but our next one is Mexico in March 2018 two weeks away from the horrible British weather! The kids are older now so we can travel a bit far away plus I want to see if I can manage a ten hour flight!
Regarding my education, my response is, WHAT education??? When I was 15 my parents told me I was getting married as soon as I left school,so I didn’t bother with school any longer. When I was 17 years old, I married a man I’d never met – a stranger. Mum gave me a picture with three blokes on it and said,”pick one.” I chose the nicest looking which was a bad idea (LOL!), but the best thing about him was he let me go back to college & study so I could get a good job.
I understand you retired from your work at AXA Insurance in 2014, yes? What was your position with that company & what did that entail? Also, I understand it’s not at all easy leaving a job in which you were highly valued, skilled, proficient, & most importantly, a job you truly loved for many years… Tell us what retirement has been like for you & your family the last few years?
I worked at AXA for nearly ten years (I think) in the Motor Engineering Department and I absolutely loved it. Finally I had a job I loved, no more working in a call centre this was the best job I ever had. Little did I know that it was going to be my last paid job (housewife/mother is a voluntary job, haha!). I loved this job very much but mostly I loved the people I worked with as over time they weren’t colleagues they became my family. Everyone I worked with here in AXA respected me for the person I am and they would never judge me. The amount of love and support I got from AXA is out of the world I have never seen any other employer do so much for an employee. A year before I retired I became very ill it was relapse after relapse and so many problems. I took time of from work because the doctor & MS nurse said I need as much rest as possible. I finally listened and as time went by I saw the AXA doctors who told me that my MS isn’t getting better I should think about ill health retirement. That’s when I knew that he was right even though deep down I didn’t want to I knees I had to finally put my health first. When I went into the office to sign the forms it must have taken me over half an hour as I just couldn’t bring myself to sign… I finally did and that was it. That day I went home and just cried and cried thinking MS has even taken my job away from me I felt as though I had lost everything. I was upset for days until my daughter said to me ‘just think mum you get to spend more time with us than worrying about cars’ she was right. My wardrobe still has my work clothes hanging because when I ‘left the building’ I told my unit manager that as soon as I am cured I will be coming back. Every single day I miss work although I know now why I was so ill – I mean working and managing house was too much for me. Work threw me a huge office leaving party and I also had a retirement party (yes I love my parties) yet I haven’t felt any kind of closure or should I say I haven’t come to terms with having to retire. My family were devastated when I had to retire but they knew it was for the best. I remember Zaynab (my daughter) saying ‘oh my god mum if you retire who is going to pay for the holidays?’ Inam (my husband) doesn’t like spending money whereas me well… life is all about designer handbags and shoes? Few holidays here ‘n there! I have told him he will be the richest guy in the cemetery! What are your favorite activities these days – what do you most enjoy getting involved with (whether it be social, community, volunteering, or solitary activities)?
I love swimming! Five days a week and it’s got to be done. I go to our local MS Society branch and do as much as I can. To be honest my days revolve around the kids and making sure everything is done for them as well as being a good wife! What the hell? Me ? Good wife? LOL!
Do you have any new ideas or projects up your sleeve in which you’re interested in exploring? Any plans or goals for the near or long term future? Personally, I think you’d make a wonderful blogger/writer, or something where you’re involved with event planning or food!
OMG, I so want to be a blogger I just don’t know how or where to start it. Why I want to be a blogger is because I want to show people that just because I have MS I am still a human. Also because I am a British Pakistani you don’t get many Asians talking about their illness because they think it’s a taboo subject. I have always been open and honest about my MS I’ve educated many family members/strangers that they need to read up on what MS really is. Maybe in the future I will become a speaker for the Asians with MS. Food… OMG, Mary you have known me long enough and you just must know that I love food, LOL! Any kind of food I will try. Cooking is my hobby I like to cook new things all the time. My favourite food is lamb pilau rice with a chicken meatball curry and the yogurt salad oh god my mouth is watering right now.
MS is such an unpredictable beast & we’re all different as to how it affects us. However, resilience is a powerful trait I’ve noticed in so many of our fellow MSpals – including YOU! Rahat, what are some things you do to lift your spirits, stay positive & keep smiling whenever days are rough or when your MS can try to get the best of you?
Having MS I have many aches and pains with each day being different. There’s two things that keep me going which are seeing my children laugh and joke around and second just smiling through the pain and staying positive! I was that kind of girl who used to spend weekends dining with friends and staying out until the birds were tweeting in the early hours! I miss those days do much! My friends and family are so supportive they help me through everything on my bad days they listen to me moan about how MS has took away the things I love!Many of our members (including myself) have known you for years prior to the actual formation of MSpals. In fact, I believe you are one of the “founding members” of our special community & you are LOVED by so many! Tell us, what do you enjoy most about MSpals (e.g., the various platforms & special interest groups available)? Do you have any ideas, activities, or additional insight as to what could be of particular interest to the group – any thoughts as to what we might consider to be an asset or helpful in order to improve the overall experience of being a member of MSpals?
MSpals is a brilliant group and I know I can rely on you all for help and advice. The best thing about it is they all understand what fellow MS’ers go through. They don’t judge you in any kind of way, I love the group even though I don’t post much on there I like to see how everyone is. Lots of support through the toughest times I have had!
This next question may seem quite broad & possibly hard to specify or put into words, but it’s also one of great purpose & potential intrigue for the readers. What inspires you most? Are there any dreams or passions you’d like?
My dream is to travel more than I already have, in all honesty I’m waiting for the kids to grow up so I can leave them at home lol! I want to be recognized in the world as ‘the Asian lass with MS’ reason for this is being a Pakistani, knowing other Pakistani/Indians/Asian people with MS they don’t speak up. This is why I want to be known – I want to tell them that having MS isn’t a shame, it’s not catch able and you can’t pass it on to your children. I know one day I will reach to the top, just don’t know when!
Are there any words of advice or encouragement you would like to give others with MS?
Live, Love, Laugh… that’s what I say! Every day is a new day!
Have you found a new purpose or a new chapter in life? If so, what would that newfound purpose be & how/when did you come to discover this?
In April this year I went through a very tough time in my marriage, I made myself so ill that I couldn’t even get out of bed. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought ‘what am I doing to myself’ I woke up the next day thinking to myself I’m going to live my life, I don’t care what anyone thinks I’m just going to do as I please and I won’t let MS beat me!
Lastly, do you have a favorite quote, song, book, or phrase you’d like to share?
To this day I haven’t accepted my diagnosis of MS I have just learnt to live with it… we just have to make the most of the best & least of the worst so Live, Love & laugh as much as you can as we all know life is short.