Hana’a Iskandar, our community warrior, passed away a few hours ago. She was a fighter and a resilient young woman with a message.
I met her brother Hamza Iskandar a few days before he passed away, and a few weeks later, I interviewed Hana’a about how she fought alongside him and her plans to carry on his projects. Although I knew the cancer fighting siblings for a brief amount of time, they’ve both touched my heart for the rest of my life. Hamza with his positivity and smile, and Hana’a with the strength she displayed, a few weeks after she lost her brother.
I met Hana’a on the 6th of March. Hana’a was a wonderful person to talk to; she was positive despite her grief. If anything, we should let that be the first thing we learn from her; being positive in difficult times.
When Hana’a spoke about her relationship with her brother, I tried to understand just how difficult it must have been to lose someone you loved so much. They had each other’s back and supported each other through thick and thin. Some could say it was Hamza who taught Hana’a how to be brave and fight, but I think the fight was in her all along.
Hana’a was working hard to carry on the work she had started with Hamza. Recently, she worked with her alma mater, Dar Al Hekma, to assign a room for students who are battling cancer. The room provides facilities for students to work on their assignments and to socialize with each other in a clean and stress-free environment. Her bandana campaign, which was the talk of Bisat Al Reeh in April, aimed to raise funds for a bigger project – a support center for cancer fighters and their families. Hana’a understood the emotional difficulty of transitioning from denial to acceptance, and she knew what it was like to be the family of a cancer fighter. The cancer support center would have, as Hana’a said, “…everything a hospital doesn’t have. It will be the fun part of cancer; a community where you can meet those who are like you. It will offer therapy and support for patients and families. Our purpose would be to help those who are in shock.”
Hana’s Iskandar would want this to be the message that we embrace in our own lives: “Survive by helping other people, keep yourself busy. Don’t think about how you’re going to survive, help other people survive.”
Hana’a was a beautiful, bright soul who was showing us a better way to fight and live. She showed us it was important to take care of ourselves, and more important to help others. She has moved on, but her message will be preserved in our hearts and minds. It’s up to us now, the people of Jeddah, to carry on her legacy. It is our duty to make sure she is not forgotten, and we need to do whatever we can to make her projects a reality, because the project Hana’a was working on was not for her own gain. Those were her efforts to make life easier for people who are fighting cancer.
We need to remember Hana’a Iskandar, for her strength, bravery and the positivity with which she lived her life.