» Getahead » She has just one year to live. This is how she plans to spend it

She has just one year to live. This is how she plans to spend it

By Rediff Get Ahead
October 22, 2018 12:56 IST
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Her story is sure to tug on your heartstrings. 

Photographs: Courtesy Fatima Ali/Instagram

Meet chef Fatima Ali. A Top Chef contestant, the 29-year-old had dreams of exhibiting her culinary skills to the world.

She dared to dream, and like everyone else was looking forward to her 30th birthday, but a shocking diagnosis turned her world upside-down.

In 2017, Fatima was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. She underwent several rounds of chemotherapy and got the tumor on her left shoulder surgically removed.

However, after been confirmed that she was cancer-free earlier this year, she got complications post her final chemo in August.

On October 9, she revealed that her cancer had returned and was no terminal. She had just a year to live.

This year, she's spent more time in her hospital room than her apartment. 

'This has become my new home, and the staff a part of my family. I wonder if I'll accidentally call my nurse 'Mom' when she sneaks in to check my vital signs in the middle of the night, Fatima wrote in a letter revealing her struggle with cancer. 'My blood pressure always stays on the low side of calm. Everyone’s amazed that I'm taking it so well. But when you hit rock bottom, there really is no place to go but up,' she added.

But not living to live in fear or sadness, Fatima has decided to pen down a bucket list of things she would do.

She's booking a table at all the restaurants she's eager to try.

'I am desperate to overload my senses in the coming months, making reservations at the world's best restaurants,' she wrote.

'I used to dream of owning my own restaurant. Now I have an ever growing list of the ones I need to visit.

'From decadent uni and truffle toast at Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare to spice-laden Szechuan hot pot in Flushing, I'm sketching a plan to eat my way through New York and the boroughs while I can.'

Scroll down to read some of her inspiring messages.


Radhika called a local hair stylist to come to her hospital room to dye half her hair platinum blonde and buzz the rest.

'He panics a little as he's setting up, whispering to my brother in his thick Italian accent. 'The dye… it won't, uh, burn her scalp will it?'

'I tell him to carry on even if it does. It’s the only sense of control I feel like I have right now. I have embraced my alter ego. She doesn't hold back.'


'They think I'm brave, but really, I’m not. I’m scared. I suspect I won’t last very long. There’s a faint feeling deep inside my gut like a rumble of passing air, ever expanding and filling slowly until, one day, I'll pop.'


Fatima with her cat. 'Until then, every day is an opportunity for me to experience something new. I used to dream of owning my own restaurant. Now I have an ever growing list of the ones I need to visit.'


A pic of Fatima before she was diagnosed with cancer. 'I was always deathly afraid of being average in any way, and now I desperately wish to have a simple, uneventful life.'


Photograph: Courtesy Padma Lakshmi/Instagram

Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi dedicated an inspiring Instagram post to Fatima:

'Dear friends,

'I have seen @cheffati grow and blossom every day I walked into the @bravotopchefkitchen.

'I have seen Fatima's ambition sharpen over weeks of competition, seen her soar along with all of you.

'Since her diagnosis I have been fortunate enough to get to know her deeper and in a new light.

'Over these months, I have come to know her family. Her mother has shown me her older writing which is just as poignant.

'I am pleased to share my friend's story with you all today. I am so proud of her.

'I can tell you that in these months, I have not only seen her continue to find her voice, but been inspired by her exponentially.

'I have gotten to know most of her family and in them I see my own. I was in the hospital with her the morning she had surgery months ago and witnessed her courage.

'The day after my @nytimes piece came out, I went to see her, and she cheered me on by holding my hand from the hospital bed, assuring me I had not flayed myself in vain.

'I was with her last night as she went in for radiation and she still turned back to smile at her mother and me when the nurse with the wheelchair came.

'I hope that this year brings her as much as she can hope for. You've said on the show that growing up I inspired you. But Fati, now, it's you who inspire me. Everyday. I love you Fati.'

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