“Move back to Cincinnati?!”

I shouted into the phone as I looked out at the Hudson River on a gloomy October day. My mind was racing, my heart filled with regret. Regret for leaving Houston, Texas, a place I had called home for seven years before my husband’s promotion. For the past fifteen years of my life, I had followed my husband’s career around. First Chicago, then Houston, and we had finally, as a family, achieved what he had worked so hard for . . . New York City. As Alicia Keys says, “Concrete jungle where dreams are made of. There’s nothing you can’t do, now you’re in New York.” This had become my own personal anthem when I moved to the Big Apple. My husband convinced me to move to NYC by persuading me to apply to major designers and getting head shots for commercials, which had always been my dream.

I knew what moving to Cincinnati meant. It meant the death of our dreams, the life we’d been living for fourteen-plus years; our dreams had been shattered all because of a stupid disease. I say this selfishly, but sadly my husband, Rehan Aslam, was diagnosed with the most horrific cancer known to mankind, the most unforgiving kind, Glioblastoma Grade 4. It not only rips families apart, but it also destroys the soul; the “light at the end of the tunnel” vanishes, and there is nothing you can do.

Rehan was the first-ever South Asian to be the number one guy at the number one station in the world, WABC 7, NYC. I had never felt prouder, nor had I ever felt such excitement for our family of three. Always taking a back seat to my husband’s career I took pride in how hard he worked. I never cared that he would leave us in the middle of dinner on vacation to take a work call or that he worked sixteen-hour days, leaving me to be the sole caretaker of our only son, Rafae. When this disease hit our home, it took everything from us. Our life as we had imagined no longer existed and nor would.

As days passed, I realized the wisdom in my mother’s words, “Move back home.”

After his second surgery, life for us had changed for good. Rehan no longer could tell if I was on his “team” or against him. As I sat there fighting for our marriage, I noticed the daily well-wishes turned into maybe once a week. The care packages, which we had received daily, stopped arriving (except for the few who know who they are and what they mean to us). Reading this, you’re probably wondering why. Why? Because this is life. Initially, everyone is concerned, saddened; they put themselves in that person’s shoes. They cannot fathom the horrid day-to-day situation and want to help. But slowly, with time, our lives take over, and we become immune to someone else’s sorrow. I am sure at one point or another, I, too, am guilty of being that person.

With that being said, at the end of October, I decided to move back to Cincinnati and give it a chance.

What does NYC have that Cincinnati doesn’t?

Cincinnati has some of the most beautiful parks, including the Krohn Conservatory overlooking the river. It has the Flying Pig Marathon and is home to many notable names in history (did you know Steven Spielberg was born in Cincinnati?). It is also home to the historic National Underground Railroad, the Aronoff Center, the Cincinnati Art Museum, one of the best school systems in our country, and, most importantly for me, some of the best coffee shops in the nation (Coffee Emporium, Awakenings, Kala Coffee, Adesso, and many others).

What Cincinnati offered my family is unmatched in comparison to other cities. We have been here for over six months, and the daily calls, care packages, and love have never ceased. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t thank my mother and, of course, God for giving me the courage to move back and press yet another restart button in our lives. I am incredibly fortunate. I will be able to show my son where I rode my bike and the schools I attended. There is no price on love. And above all, I love how there are no forged friendships based upon my husband’s position. Here I can totally, absolutely, and resolutely be Sadaf.

Cincinnati Photos

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