BLOG SERIES: MY JOURNEY
After we were married, Ahmed and I set about making a home for ourselves. That first year was a big adjustment for both of us, but for me especially. I had never lived away from home before. So I was married, moved away from home, and moved to a new state all at once.
Needless to say, I was a little overwhelmed in the beginning. I moved from my parents’ home into my husband’s home. Wow! What an adjustment that was.
I knew no one in my new town, nor did I know my way around town. In the beginning, I would sit around the house all day waiting for Ahmed to come home from work.
But after a while I did start to become comfortable being married. And my husband’s home eventually became my home (our home).
Because we were in a tiny one-bedroom studio apartment, after only a couple months of living in cramped quarters, we did finally move into a bigger two-bedroom apartment. And after two years of marriage we bought our first home.
Ahmed was a very good, loving, and attentive husband. He was always very thoughtful and considerate. He wanted to protect me, and give me the best. He took care of everything; I never had to worry about a thing.
I worked a few jobs here and there, but I always called my money “fun money” as Ahmed mostly took care of the household expenses. He made sure the bills were paid on time, and was very handy around the house.
Because his dad owned a few rental houses, and he would often help out with those, he could take care of most things around our home himself. As I said, I didn’t have to worry about anything.
We were so very happy. Because I didn’t finish my degree before we got married, I transferred whatever credits I could from my college in Michigan to a college in Illinois and set about finishing my degree.
I never could really settle on what I wanted to do. And because of this, I became somewhat of a “career” student. It took me quite a while to finish my degree, but I did eventually finish it.
I loved being married. I seemed to settle into this role quite nicely. It also helps when you’re married to a great guy, as I was.
We took trips together. Ahmed took me to my first-ever movie: Aladdin. (Growing up in a strict Pentecostal Church, we were always taught that we couldn’t go to movies because of the “environment” there. Well when I looked around, all I saw was people eating popcorn and watching the movie. The same thing you would be doing at home if you were watching a movie at home. Huh…Imagine that!) I also started wearing make-up and got my ears pierced for the first time. I can imagine that my church back home must have thought I had backslidden. 🙂
Ahmed was very active in Tae Kwon Do, and Toastmasters. We would occasionally travel for tournaments, and I would attend his Toastmaster events, but I never joined. In fact, I was never comfortable speaking in public. And when I was applying for jobs I would look at the job descriptions thoroughly to make sure that my duties wouldn’t require any public speaking or presentations on my part. This is how much I disliked speaking in public.
Needless to say, this little fear limited my job prospects some. But this didn’t really bother me, as long as I didn’t have to get up in front of people and speak. (Side Note: We should probably start our children off young getting up and speaking in front of people so that they become comfortable with it, and that this type of fear doesn’t immobilize them their whole lives.) But I avoided public-speaking like the plague.
For our fourth wedding anniversary Ahmed and I decided to buy anniversary rings for each other. And boy, you would have thought we had committed a cardinal sin in buying anniversary rings on our fourth anniversary!
People had a LOT to say about that. People were convinced that this is something strictly reserved for a 10th, 15th, or 20th anniversary. Why would you go and purchase anniversary rings on your fourth anniversary? Now you have nothing to look forward to. But what we did not know at the time is that we were about to experience a major shake-up in our lives.
Ahmed had always been very active and healthy. He worked out regularly. And as I said before, he was very active in Tae Kwon Do. It must have been shortly after our fourth anniversary when Ahmed starting exhibiting signs of what he thought were sinus issues. He was starting to feel pressure in his head and in his sinus passages. He would take sinus medication for it, but this didn’t seem to help.
We eventually started noticing that his balance, his equilibrium, was off. When he could not seem to walk in a straight line and his body would involuntarily lean to the left when he sat down, I insisted that he go see a doctor.
There was a nurse practitioner who examined him, and when she tried to send him home with a prescription for sinus medication, I insisted that there was something else wrong with him. Finally, she gave in and ordered a CT Scan.
On the morning of Ahmed’s CT Scan, I was sitting in the waiting room when the doctor came out and asked if I would please come with him. After one glimpse of his CT Scan, the radiologist had called in a doctor to take a closer look at it. And when the doctor showed me a massive tumor that had lodged itself in the frontal lobe of his brain, I was in shock. I was speechless.
The doctor immediately began the process of admitting him into the hospital. I was standing behind Ahmed with tears quietly rolling down my face. I didn’t know what to do. I was trying to hold it together, but mostly I was in shock. I didn’t want to cry in front of Ahmed.
I remember running home to grab a few things for Ahmed after he had been admitted into the hospital. Tears were still running down my face during the drive home. I was still trying to hold it together; trying to make sense of all of this. But once I got home, as soon as I made it into the house, I remember falling down to my knees as this rush of emotions finally overtook me. I was no longer able to hold it in, as I cried out to God, as these deep wailing sobs took over my body.
This all made no sense to me. Why God? Why? Why is this happening to us? After a few minutes, as I was starting to calm down, I distinctly remember hearing God say: everything’s going to be alright.
I got myself together enough to make a few phone calls. I wanted to call our families back in Michigan. Ahmed had been admitted into the Intensive Care Unit, but I didn’t have any more to tell them.
We eventually did get a diagnosis. After a biopsy, it was determined that Ahmed had a stage 4 Glioblastoma in the frontal lobe of his brain, and it was inoperable. Cancer. This diagnosis came right around the time of our fifth wedding anniversary.
Because the tumor was inoperable, the doctors wanted to start chemo and radiation right away. This would be their only course of treatment because if they had tried to operate on him, it would have killed him right away.
How do you watch the person you love go through something so horrific? But because he was my husband and I loved him, we went through it together.
I watched this disease take my husband’s strength. The drugs from the chemo, and the radiation took his hair. There were multiple hospital stays, and a cocktail of medication.
Ahmed remained strong in the beginning, but I watched him slowly, overtime begin to deteriorate. He had to have physical and occupational therapy as he slowly began to lose some of his mobility.
The tumor on his brain was causing so much pressure that the left side of his body (his arm and leg) became weak and almost useless. He would sometimes fall as he would lose his balance because of the weakness of his left side and the pressure from the tumor. And I would have to struggle to pick him up, which was not easy to do since he was 6’2” and I was 5’2″, and he weighed more than I did.
Once, a neighbor had to help him up and back into the house after he had fallen when he went outside to take the garbage out. By this time, he was off work and I was working only part-time.
There was another time I remember being at work and all of a sudden this funny feeling coming over me. I immediately picked up the phone to call and check on him. And when he didn’t answer the phone, I told my supervisor that I was going to run home to check on my husband.
When I got home, I discovered him on the floor of our bedroom. He had fallen, and was unable to get up. I helped him up and fixed him something to eat. He said shortly after he had fallen the phone rang (it was me calling to check on him) but he was unable to get to the phone to answer it. And then he heard me pulling into the garage. He said he lay there on the floor wondering if this was how he was going to die.
The side-effects of some of the meds he was on were brutal. One of the meds caused him to have these incessant hiccups, and no matter how hard we tried, we could not seem to get rid of them.
He also contracted shingles on the left side of his face. Shingles is a form of the chicken-pox virus. And because I had never had chicken-pox as a child, you guessed it, I contracted chicken-pox. This virus had me out of commission for about two weeks.
We went through a lot during this time. But looking back on it now, I don’t remember Ahmed complaining once. He went through all of this like a trooper. I guess I didn’t really realize how much he was suffering at the time since he never really complained.
Of course, he was disappointed that all of this was happening to him, and that his mobility had been affected, but he didn’t let it destroy his spirit. He was my hero.
About 2 1/2 years after that fateful diagnosis, this disease did take his life. On Sunday morning, December 23, 2001, I received a call from the hospital asking me to come right away to the hospital. When I got there, Ahmed was already in the stages of death. I prayed and cried, then prayed and cried some more. Finally, the doctor told me “you’re going to have to let him go.”
He was supposed to come home from the hospital that day. I was having a hospital bed delivered to our home on that very day so that he would be more comfortable. I didn’t know how I was going to take care of him, but I was determined to find a way.
I had previously resisted the nurses’ suggestions, on several occasions, that I put him in a nursing home. I refused. Not my husband. I’ll find a way to take care of him.
But on this particular day, Ahmed closed his eyes and took his final breath. He was finally free from the prison of his cancer-infested body. He was in no more pain. But my suffering had just begun.