I was there for the last 10 days of Ramadan (June) 2019 and a month more. During the last days of Ramadan, my father’s urine was getting darker according to mom, but she thought it was due to his fasting and dehydration. So, they didn’t give it much thought. During the days of Eid, and while we were on our final preparation for my sister’s wedding, my mom noticed that dad was noticeably yellow. He was yellow enough for my mom to ask him to go to the ER. He waited for a long time, almost the whole night spent waiting for a room to be admitted. It was the night before my sister’s wedding. The hospital was nice enough to let him leave for the night, and reserve the room for him.
Anyway, my father came back home to get ready for the wedding. We welcomed him home and were very concerned. But he celebrated the wedding all night long just fine. Do you know how weddings are supposed to be very happy occasions? I can’t fathom the worries my mom was suffering from during the wedding, how my bride sister was feeling during her photoshoot with my jaundiced father. Going back home after the wedding knowing he was going back to his hospital room was depressing as fuck! He spent over a month there, in which I had to go back to the States. I said goodbye, but I refused to believe it might be the last time I see him. I assured him I was going to come back in September to see him. I cried, he cried! He asked me not to forget praying. I was once again torn apart between going back to my everyday life, or just dumping everything and staying home by his side indefinitely. But that felt like waiting on him to give up, which was very disrespectful.
My father was still holding his strength. His weight was still stable. They found out that the lymph node blocking the bile duct is getting bigger. He cared about his test results asking us to check them for him. He cared about the count of bilirubin in his blood. He desperately wanted out! They had to put a stent to bypass the dark amber substance that we kept seeing in a catheter bag. For some reason, the stent wasn’t working well. They kept taking him in and out of the procedure room, replacing it with a bigger one, or a different material or some other kind of problem. All situations needed a “non-invasive” procedure that he was required to be put under some medication that made him drowsy and weak the whole day!
Over a month of dealing with fevers, and treating an infection after another, and seeking a second medical opinion, he was finally “stable” enough to be discharged. He was still pale, yellow, and now depressed. The second opinion was a little bit hopeful. And maybe that was the reason we all kept high hopes. After all, no one wanted to believe that the man they looked at as Superman was dying! The second opinion suggested that we could transfer him to another hospital, replace the stent with a bigger one, and start him on medical therapy. The only condition was ridding him of jaundice. But that was never going to happen. It was as if my father spray-painted himself yellow permanently.
Now we go back to my grandmother. Ironically, my father and she were getting worse over the condition of the other, or at least this was how the family observed it. She got sick, he got depressed, then he got sick, when she bounced back, she got depressed, she got sick, then he would bounce back … it was a vicious cycle of in-and-out of hospitals that continued and exhausted the whole family emotionally, if not physically.
I couldn’t go back to Saudi Arabia to see him as I promised in September. I had lost my Green Card and was stuck in San Francisco. So I made a deal with my twin sister that whenever she sensed that things were going badly very rapidly, she needed to let me know so I’d have an excuse to risk my visa status and reentry to the States. I had multiple talks with David regarding our situation. I made clear that once I went back to Saudi Arabia, I might not be back for a very long time. Because when I went back, I would only go back when he was very weak, but I wouldn’t be able to predict his time of death. That September when I lost my green card, another frustration was added to the list. I had another reason to panic and be bitchy! The mental state I was in could only be described as distress. I talked to dad, he acted as if he was fine. I talked to my sisters, they told me he was feeling down and was getting worse.
Finally, when my grandmother finally gave up and passed away in November of 2019, my father seemed like he also had given up. He no longer had anything to live for. He gave up the fight. And right then and there, cancer started to win the battle.