Fatima Ali, the feisty 29-year-old Pakistani chef from New York City who was voted "fan favorite" during the last season of Top Chef, revealed some grim news about her nearly year-long battle with cancer: She only has a year to live.
In January, Ali was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that grows in the bones or the soft tissues around the bones. After removing a tumor from her shoulder, doctors declared her cancer-free in February, and she returned to cooking at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival in April.
But last month, Ali said, doctors told her the cancer had made an aggressive return in her left hip and femur, leaving the chef with a grim prognosis.
"My oncologist has told me that I have a year to live, with or without the new chemotherapy regimen," Ali wrote in an essay in Bon Appetit. "I was looking forward to being 30, flirty, and thriving. Guess I have to step it up on the flirting. I have no time to lose."
Chefs from across the culinary world have offered words of support for Ali, including fellow Top Chef contestant Chris Scott, a Coatesville, Pa. native who was was among the last contenders voted off the show.
"When I first saw this, I went literally numb. I lost my mother to cancer years ago, and now reading this about my friend….. it broke me," Scott wrote on Instagram. "She is by far filled with strength and courage and bravery, and I am truly blessed to know her.
Ali said that with the time she has left, she plans on using her "illness as a tactic" in order to cram in as many experiences as possible, including taking in a meal at the popular Copenhagen restaurant Noma and grabbing a piece of uni and truffle toast at the three-Michelin-starred Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare in Manhattan.
"An odd sense of relief has settled inside me, knowing that I can finally live for myself, even if it's just for a few more precious months," Ali wrote."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."