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  • Writer's pictureSaira Sufi

Keep Climbing - "We Just Chilling"

This post is written by the lovely Samia Masood whose son, Tariq was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma. She recently sent me this picture and reminded me how our sons were swinging side by side in May of 2017 and life was so different. We also discussed how sometimes you just need some Biggie to get through the day, even in Ramadan. "Now I am in the limelight cause I rhyme tight."


As we drove to yet another doctor's appointment, Ali and I calculated it out quietly and then confirmed together and my heart sunk just a little. Today is a scheduled follow up with ophthalmology that we have every few months to verify that all is well.  It also happened to fall on the exact day two years ago, May 24th, 2017 that I took Tariq in to this specific doctor's office, expecting to hear that he may need glasses. I felt something much more alarming through the doctor's expression and changes in his tone as he examined Tariq closely. He, Dr. Wortham, wanted to speak with our pediatrician. Not in the coming weeks or the next business day, but right then, mid appointment. He took the call in his office and came back to us as Tariq and I blissfully played silly games that thrill five year olds.  I picked up on the urgency in his voice as we left his office but still had no idea what was to come next. All I knew was that I had promised Tariq some Panera's as we left Dr. Wortham's office and thankfully, there was one in Stony Point Mall across the street. 

The following day, Tariq went to preschool and I spent it on the phone trying to obtain insurance approval for a three hour MRI scan. While calling every hospital in Richmond area that might be able to accommodate such a last minute request, still, I wasn't worried. Tariq was running around the house chomping on strawberries. He looked fine, not at all sick.  Not what you would imagine a kid with a brain tumor might look like.  

Then came May 25th, 2017. I took Tariq in to Ali's hospital in hopes that they could sneak in an MRI and he was NPO (no food after midnight). Several hours went by and Tariq was getting hangry and so I asked his pediatrician when we might be able to head home.  Just to ease everyones concern, a CT scan was ordered and I texted Ali to bring him some chips and fruit from the hospital cafeteria so it was ready for him as soon as the imaging was complete.  I fully expected to have all this alarmed concern on the faces of all these medical folks dismissed, the ophthalmologist, my husband and now the pediatrician.  Tariq was fine, I wanted to say, "just LOOK at him". Yet, even though CT's are known for their grainy rough imaging, it was clear that something was wrong. There was a mass in his brain where there shouldn't be and I was being shown these images with the expectation that I would process them as reality. When I heard the words tumor and cancer, I looked at this little boy in my arms and wondered how could this be possible? He's been the healthiest pregnancy and baby, Alhamdullilah (thank God). 


Bad Luck. Thats what they call little children who end up with a diagnosis of childhood cancer. There isn't verified genetic or environmental components that directly links childhood cancers, especially brain tumors and so the most state of the art medical facilities of the United States with the brightest of minds are still struggling to understand the whys behind this terrible diagnosis. His hair was once straight like mine and now, due to treatment, he has untamed curls that I'm learning to work with. 

So, fast forward to our ho hum ophthalmology appointment today, May 23rd 2019, except no drive to a clinic is ever a calming experience for me anymore. I stopped by Stoney Point and picked up something to give to Dr. Wortham as a sign of our gratitude. Without his ringing of alarm bells, we may have still been in a fog of confusion when Tariq occasionally felt nauseas.  As Tariq said thank you to Dr. Wortham for his time, a fleeting thought ran through me that without this man's insight and steps, I might not have all that I have with me today. Nothing is promised for tomorrow but tonight, Tariq is running around the Stony Point Mall playing like he did that day two years ago and I feel grateful for such a relaxed Ramadan afternoon after the storms of the last two years. I remind myself not to make this day a huge thing and yet still feel compelled to write these words.  So, currently, I'm cleaning up, wearing my brightest lipstick and chanting, "Don't look back, we're not headed that way" until it feels like a reality. 

There is no might nor power, except in God. So I'll submit my little family to Him and keep on climbing.

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