'Top Chef's' Fatima Ali Wrote A Powerful Essay About Living With Cancer Weeks Before Her Passing

Date January 30, 2019

Larger-than-life, cheerful, kind, adventurous. These are some of the words that describe chef Fatima Ali perfectly. Sadly, her life was cut short when she was in her prime.


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The Pakistani-born chef and Top Chef fan favorite passed away on January 25 following a battle with Ewing’s sarcoma, an uncommon type of bone cancer. She was only 29.


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Although Fatima didn’t get to open her own restaurant and fulfill other wishes, she lived the time she had left to the fullest.

Cancer couldn’t get her spirit

Fatima found out she had bone cancer shortly after filming for season 15 of Top Chef wrapped up in 2017. The young chef had surgery to remove the tumor from her shoulder bone and underwent chemo, but the cancer came back months later.


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Fatima was told she had about a year to live. She was absolutely floored when she heard the prognosis and was in a state of disbelief at first. The reality soon sank in, but the young chef didn’t fall into despair.

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Knowing she didn’t have much time left, she set out to make the rest of her life as full of colorful experiences as possible.


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She wrote in an essay for Bon Appétit:

I decided not to spend whatever time I had left (whether it’s a year, a month, another ten years—you don’t know until you’re gone) lamenting all the things that weren’t right. Instead, I’d make the most of it.


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How Fatima spent her final months

Knowing she had nothing to lose, Fatima set out to absorb bright experiences and leave something meaningful for her fans and loved ones.

Some of these experiences were fun. While undergoing chemo, she dyed her grown-out hair blonde. It soon fell out again, but she didn't care.


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Fatima and her brother also came up with a fun challenge to write a new recipe every day, she wrote in her essay. They thought of plenty of dishes and new variants of dishes and tried them out. Fatima’s brother now has a notebook of recipes which he might turn into a cookbook one day.


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And, most importantly, the chef had quality time in quality places, in the company of her nearest and dearest. She wrote another essay published on Bon Appétit's website after the cancer returned:

I am desperate to overload my senses in the coming months, making reservations at the world’s best restaurants, reaching out to past lovers and friends, and smothering my family, giving them the time that I so selfishly guarded before.


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Fatima left this world knowing she accomplished something, and that in itself brought a degree of peace and comfort.

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