Thursday, August 19, 2010

Calamity (Part 1)

The last several weeks have been unbelievable. For the first 10 days I was in disbelief. It seemed like I was in a nightmare, but it was, all, real.

About five weeks ago, on a Saturday, I got a phone call from my nephew, Firuz, from the emergency room of a hospital in Nevada. He was unable to breathe, he had a high fever; his left lung had stopped working and was filled with fluid. There was a mass in his chest cavity. He had been told that there was a 60% chance that it could be cancer. In the subsequent phone calls, I found out that the mass in his chest was a cancerous tumor, which had spread to different parts of his abdomen.

Life was already very difficult for him before all this, how could it get any worse? He has been dealing with another chronic illness not related to the cancer for most of his life, which at times has paralyzed his life and has nearly brought it to a halt. I have seen him suffer greatly and fight vigorously. I always worried for him and tried to help him. He came to live with me and my ex-husband as a teenager, and he has been a part of my life since. Given the challenges that he already faced, this was more than he could handle and more than I could bear to watch.

I never forget the phone call that put all doubt and hope to rest, the one where he told me that it was definitely cancer. My heart dropped, I started to cry and didn’t know what to say to him. All I could say was, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry that you have to go through this.” I couldn’t believe this was happening to him, he was so young only in his twenties. I wanted to spare him from the pain and agony that was waiting for him. I wanted to make it better somehow, but there was nothing I could do. All pain was just starting, and I already felt that life had come out of him, the physical and the emotional pain was all too much for him to go through and too much for those of us who love him to see.

Three weeks before the day he called me from the emergency room, during the early hours of the morning, I had a dream about him. I dreamt that I was hearing him calling me from the depth of a well saying, “I have fallen into a well, and I don’t know how to get out.” In the dream, horrified, I looked down the well realizing how deep it was I thought, “Oh my God, this time I cannot help him.” I woke up in horror. I was so relieved to realize that it was just a dream. But three weeks later what I felt in the dream became a reality, and there was no waking up.

Soudi, my sister who is nine years older than me and is Firuz’s mother, lives in Iran with her husband. I am the closest person to Firuz in the US, and he has always come to me in times of trouble. So this time also I was the person he called from the emergency room, and the person he continued talking to as things unfolded. The emotions he felt ranged from horror to devastation, depression, anger and despair. I felt all those emotions along with him. I felt his pain and was angry at God for testing him so severely, feeling helpless just like my dream; I tried to be there for him. I kept telling him that I love him, and that I’m here for him. Between me, his sister and his dad’s sister, we made sure that someone could be with him at all times. He had 4 operations in the span of two weeks. His days were filled with agony and pain, and my days were filled with the thought of his agony and pain.

When Firuz was first diagnosed with cancer, advanced stage three Lymphoma, his initial reaction was that he wanted to die and didn’t want to fight it. His compassionate oncologist is credited with igniting in him hope and optimism. A week after his diagnosis Firuz decided that he needed to tell his parents in Iran that he had cancer. He first told my sister Azi, his aunt, in Iran via a painful and emotional phone call. Then he called me and said that he didn’t have the heart to tell his parents, and he wanted me to tell them. We arranged for me to call them on Friday afternoon at about 4 PM Iran time, which would be 5:30 AM Friday morning Mountain Standard Time in the US. We asked that my sister Azi be present at Soudi’s house when I call. On Thursday I pretty much cried all day at work. I just couldn’t stop the tears. I didn’t know how to break the news to my sister Soudi. How was I going to tell her that her young son had advanced cancer? I wasn’t able to sleep that night. I tossed and turned and went over what I was going to say over and over in my head. I wondered about my sister’s reaction when I would tell her. At 5:30 Friday morning, I got up, said a prayer and dialed Soudi’s number knowing that what I had to say to her would devastate her and change her life. I already could feel the pain that was going to be inflected on my sweet and loving sister. The phone rang and Soudi answered the phone. I said hello. I could hear the anxiety in her voice as she spoke. She knew something was wrong, otherwise why I would call her at 5:30 in the morning. She immediately asked, “Is Firuz OK?”…….To be continued.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I'll write soon

A lot has happened in the last 3 weeks. I have not had time to write. I will post something within the next week.