A delightfully husky overtone to Cik Siti Nurbaya Zakaria’s youthful voice belies the fact that she has been combating cerebral lupus, a chronic auto-immune disease. Diagnosed in 1997, Siti, the youngest of six siblings, was on the threshold of womanhood.
At first, Terengganu-born Siti, an active second year student at the Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang ignored the persistent flu-like symptoms but finally, she was forced to seek medical attention in Terengganu.
The diagnosis would have shattered a weaker person but not Siti. “I was relieved that they had pinpointed what was wrong with me after an endless battery of tests. I had got to a point where I was just fed up feeling unwell all the time,” says Siti. After the initial shock, she promptly joined the Malaysian SLE Association in Kuala Lumpur to understand the disease that was changing her life. She proved an invaluable addition to the Association. Her enquiring mind and interest in SLE was, and continues to be, an inspiration to many. Siti participates in the Association’s activities in Kuala Lumpur and also attends SLE Association functions in Kuantan.
True to her resolve of meeting problems head on, Siti did not hide her disease from anyone, including her husband-to-be. She insisted that he know exactly what pitfalls awaited him. Che Ku Abd Halim was undaunted and the two married. Despite the medical uncertainties, Siti wanted children.
Under strict medical supervision, her first pregnancy went smoothly and she had a healthy son, Mohd. Mustaquim, who is now two years old. Siti experienced a few years of remission but her second pregnancy was fraught with anxiety. “I suffered a relapse and the SLE advanced to the second stage – lupus nephritis - an inflammation of the kidneys that is serious as the fetus is deprived of oxygen and there is a danger of losing the baby. It was a harrowing experience,” recalls Siti.
In fact, with the lives of both baby and mother threatened, the family prayed for her as Siti’s second child was born by C-section. The healthy baby boy, Abdul Mubin, is now 7 months.
At home, Siti is easily exhausted and is unable to undertake any strenuous activity because of the many side effects of the medication, including weight gain. She used to enjoy traveling but that pleasure is curtailed now. She is very thankful to her supportive husband and mother for their help. As a mother, seeing her sons after a exhausting day and knowing they want only her, brings her the greatest relief.
Never one to accept second best, Siti lives life to the fullest despite the ravages of this debilitating disease.
After graduating in 1999, she became a secondary school English teacher based in Trengganu. In fact, Siti is a ‘born teacher’ - her voice fills with pleasure when she talks about teaching, specially the happiness of being a friend to her students. Even though she suffers severe joint pains and cannot ‘take’ the sun, she still participates in outdoor activities and coaches the netball team. In fact, her team has just won the netball competition!
Asked what she wants in life, Siti answered – “I have everything - a loving husband, healthy sons, a career and a good life”. Siti says she inherited her determination and optimism from her late father but the 32-year old mother has herself to thank for empowering herself - with motivation, courage and fortitude.
2nd Prize - Lee Pei Sun
3rd Prize - Jessica Dias
Consolation Prize Winners:
Kamisah Binti Jalil
Yap Fui Keian
Yap You Moi
Fauziah bt Raji
Nesamary Sheila Roch
"Special Moms Unite!" Contest 2006
“Special Moms Unite!” High-Tea
Mothers With Chronic Illnesses Show True Courage
They Are Beautiful
Devoted Husbands In Sickness And In Health
Cannies Tham: A Guardian Angel