The power of positivity

In June 2017, Noor Talib was preparing for her end of year exam when she began to feel unwell. She persevered with her studies for several weeks until she realised something was seriously wrong. She was rushed to hospital in an ambulance and underwent an unsettling period of test after test, not knowing what was wrong. When the doctors eventually told her that she had Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, Noor and her family were shaken to the core. Noor spent nine months at University College London Hospital, undergoing four rounds of chemotherapy.

Rewind 12 months and in 2016 Noor had just joined the Chance to Shine Street cricket project: the Redbridge Rangers under the watchful eye of coach Saba Nasim. Saba noticed quickly that Noor had a real eye for the game and was a calm and committed member of the project; always the first to arrive and the last to leave. Although initially quite shy, Noor’s quiet determination soon impressed Saba and won her the support and admiration of her peers. Her mum Shabnum also saw the development in her daughter: “Since Noor’s been playing cricket, she has gained so much more confidence.”

When all this was swept away from her and she was in a bed on a hospital ward, Noor naturally found it incredibly challenging. “I just missed playing [cricket] with people that I knew, socialising with everyone. Saba was giving me updates with what was going on. That connection was really important because I did feel a bit left out being [in hospital] by myself.”

With the full range of medication entering her system, there was one drug that Noor was missing from her life: cricket. As she began to improve, she asked her physio to include cricket in her rehabilitation process. In July 2018, Noor was discharged from hospital having gone into remission. The relief for Noor and her family was indescribable. The first thing on Noor’s mind was to get back playing the sport she had so missed.

Before her first Street cricket session, Noor admits she was a little apprehensive “When I came back I was worried I might feel out of place but everyone was really nice. They made me feel really welcome and I felt like I came back to where I was.” For Shabnum, seeing her daughter free from illness was an emotional moment: “There was a sigh of relief that she was just doing normal things again.”

For the other participants, Noor’s journey is inspirational and Saba has seen what impact it has had on them: “The story that she’s had, to come back from the illness. The girls really look up to her and they say, ‘we want to be like Noor!’”. 16 year-old Esheeta says “It makes me proud of her, what she went through all that, it shows how strong she is.” For another friend Anjali, it’s Noor’s positivity that is so incredible: “She’s gone through a lot but she’s not sad or closed about herself.”

Since her illness, Noor has been keen to take on more leadership in sessions, at first supporting Saba with setting up, then leading warm-ups and she is now undertaking her ECB Level 2 coaching qualification and wants to give others the love of the game that supported her through such difficult times.

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