Written by Patricia Darwish.
In sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, through the good and bad I will cherish you. Vows people make when they form a union.
Someone dear to me said these words today leaving me to reflect on its true essence. It hit me hard! I began to think, these are not just vows made during a union between couples; it’s a union I had to learn to promise my physical body and my soul through my cancer treatment.
My name is Patricia Darwish and I want to let you in on my journey with cancer.
The ugly “C” word that no one wants to hear. I’m not the first, nor the last to have gone through this. I’m sharing my story with you because I found through my own experience that no one wanted to talk about it — at least not out loud — and it made me feel alone. I’m here to tell you that you are NOT alone. I understand what you are going through. I know your fears. I will be honest with you.
So here you go, I promise to be honest and raw with you because you deserve the truth.
On Dec. 3, 2015, I went to the emergency room for a stomachache that wasn’t going away. So I picked myself up off the couch at 11:30 at night, told my kids I’m going to the ER to see the doctors, and that I’ll be back. I drove myself to there, signed in and waited for my turn.
“Patricia Darwish, you’re next,” the nurse announced. I got up and walked to the back of the hospital where I changed into my gown and waited for the doctor to come in.
“What’s wrong, what brings you in today?”
I told her I have a stomachache and it’s been hurting for a couple days now and it’s not going away. She sent for routine X-rays and urine samples. Nothing to worry about, I said to myself, it’s probably a UTI.
I came back to my room and waited for the doctor. I could tell something was wrong as soon as she stepped back into the room. She gave me a look, pulled her seat next to me and held my hand. They found something on the X-ray, she said. I was at a loss for words, scared to ask anything and a little confused. I asked her to repeat herself.
She said to me again, “We found a mass in your lungs, and you immediately need to go to the doctor’s tomorrow.”
I heard the words coming out of her mouth, but it wasn’t registering in my head. I looked at her and she said it again.
In my shaking voice I whispered, “You found a mass?”
She nodded her head and my heart sunk to the ground. I could not talk — I just looked at her and for a moment time stood still. She wasn’t joking. There was a mass in my lung and a mass meant cancer.
FUCK! Are you serious?
The doctor continued to say, “We can’t treat you here; you have to go see your doctor tomorrow.”
I remember thinking, NO!TREAT ME NOW! TAKE IT OUT! How could I possibly have a mass in my lungs?
She left and I just sat there and cried and cried and cried. The nurse came into the room and asked me if I was okay. I just looked at her and shook my head. She handed me my discharge papers and told me the doctor wants me to see my doctor tomorrow. I just nodded again, took the papers out of her hands, put my jacket on and walked slowly out to my car.
At 2:30 in the morning, I found myself in the parking lot of Henry Ford Hospital, sitting behind my steering wheel crying. I sat there talking to myself. Did the doctor just tell me I have a mass? How the hell do I have a mass in my lungs? She must be wrong, there’s no way I have a mass. How! How! How! I hit the steering wheel so hard I hurt my hands. I think for that moment I blanked out. I don’t remember driving myself home. God took over that steering wheel for me, because there was no way I would have made it home with the way I was crying.
Once home, I hung up my keys, took off my jacket and went up the stairs. My children were sleeping and I didn’t want to wake them up. I checked on each one of them touching their foreheads like I always do when they sleep and went to bed. I found my youngest sleeping in my bed, so I laid down next to him. I put my left arm under him and my right arm over him and just held him tightly while I wept quietly so as not to wake him, but my body was shaking from the inside out. He woke up and looked at me asking, “What’s wrong mama?” I just held him and I told him I’m okay, but I just had a bad dream.
I didn’t sleep that night. My thoughts ran wild. Do I really have cancer? Who’s going to take care of my kids? How long do I have to live? Why is this happening to me? What did I do wrong?
The questions didn’t stop. I was scared and did not know what to do. I had to be strong again in life and I didn’t know if I could do that. I closed my eyes and talked to God that night. There was nothing I went through in life — from my marriage to my divorce to having everything stripped away from me that wounded me more than this. I begged God to not let me have cancer. I begged that the X-ray was wrong. I begged for my life to not be taken so fast so I could be there for my kids. I begged…
Patricia Darwish has chronicled her life journey in her fight against cancer. She shares this with you in hopes that she can break down the walls of shame from talking about this disease. It is through her journey that she hopes she is able to reach out to some of you that might be going through the same struggles. Please follow her on Muslim Girl, as we learn to cope with and fight against this thing called cancer. Please keep up with Patricia’s “In Sickness and in Health” every Friday.