Pakistani-American chef Fatima Ali, who had touched the hearts of people around the globe wrote a powerful and moving essay three months before she lost her battle against cancer. She was only 29.
In her essay for Bon Appétit, the reality TV star was candid about her experience with the disease, talks about her dreams and her love for food. The full essay will be in the magazine’s March print edition, but was shared online “to honour her memory,” according to the website.
She started by sharing memories of her childhood in Pakistan and her early days as a low-level cook and manager in New York restaurants after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America. She made it to Top Chef in 2017 and was voted a fan favourite.
Fatima recalled, “When I got diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called Ewings Sarcoma, I had just finished filming Top Chef in Colorado. It was 2017 and I was working at the US Open with my friend Joe Flamm, who was the winner and had opened up a pop-up restaurant there. I’d had this weird ache in my shoulder for the past couple of months that I’d been ignoring. You know, popping a couple of Advils, going to sleep. But one day, in the middle of lunch, my shoulder swelled up and the pain was mounting literally by the minute. I had to go to the emergency room.”
“Honestly, until your first chemo cycle, I don’t think it really hits you. Then your hair starts falling out, and finally, you’re like, “This is actually happening. This is the rest of my life.” I did eight rounds of chemo. It was horrible, but in the end, my scans were all clear. I thought I’d beaten it. Then it came back. Worse than before. It was metastatic. It had spread to my lungs. The doctors told me I had a year to live,” she continued.
“I’m using cancer as the excuse I needed to actually go and get things done, and the more people I share those thoughts with, the more I hold myself to them,” she wrote. “If I write this intention down, if I have it printed somewhere as I do here, I have to hold myself responsible, because I have people counting on me.”
“What’s my intention? To live my life. To fulfil all those genuine dreams I have. It’s easy to spend weeks in my pyjamas, curled up in my bed, watching Gossip Girl on Netflix. I could totally do that. And don’t get me wrong, I still watch Gossip Girl. But now I’m doing things. I’m going to eat. I’m making plans for vacations. I’m finding my experimental treatments. I’m cooking. I’m writing,” she added.
Fatima also wrote about how she and her brother decided to write a recipe a day, she planned on eating at the city’s wide variety of restaurants and were planning a trip to Italy.
She concluded, “There are days that I’m exceptionally afraid. There are days I sit alone and cry because I don’t want to do it in front of my family. And there are other days that we all sit down and cry together because it is such a scary thing. But at the same time, you can’t let that fear cripple you. It’s harder being miserable than it is to be happy.”