Just a few months ago, Khurram, a first-time father, was grappling with a terrible prognosis. Not for him, but worse: for his infant girl. Though he and his wife are both medical doctors, there was nothing they could do to save their baby. Then came a chance for a cure. As his first Father’s Day approaches, Khurram reflects with gratitude on how life has changed.
On a Friday in November I received a message about the meaning of my life. On that day, my wife, Sarah, and I welcomed to the world our beautiful baby girl, Imani. Days later, I turned 33. That birthday, holding my daughter in my arms – I couldn’t imagine a better gift. I couldn’t imagine a better blessing.
Flash forward a month and Sarah and I were exhausted, euphoric and deeper in love every day with our little force of nature. There’s a photo from around that time of the three of us in our kitchen, a candid snap of my beautiful wife and me laughing with Imani asleep in her arms. Soon, I would wish I could have stopped time at that exact moment.
Because at 5 weeks old, Imani would be diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. Glioblastoma is a grim diagnosis. But my wife and I are both doctors; we have faith in medicine. Imani underwent surgery at a children’s hospital in our area, but afterward, she rapidly declined. She entered hospice. I prayed. I wept. I purchased my baby’s burial plot.
As a father, seeing your child gravely ill is the worst possible thing imaginable. As a physician, seeing your child gravely ill and not being able to help is a double nightmare. At the point we were warned Imani had less than two weeks left, I was broken inside. Over and over I kept thinking, “I never got a chance to hear her laugh.”
Then something astounding happened. On December 24, I spoke with an oncologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, who said, “I’ve treated this before and some people have even been cured.” Was it foolish to hope, I wondered? But if we believe in medicine, we also believe in miracles.
Sarah and I took our tiny, critically sick baby to Memphis, Tennessee.
At St. Jude, Imani started an experimental chemotherapy. Slowly but surely, she began to thrive and put on weight with the help of a feeding tube. She began to roll over. She began to smile. By March, the tumor had shrunk enough for a long and complicated surgery that removed it.
She is undergoing four more months of chemotherapy now.
My strong, beautiful, resilient and perfect Imani! I believe I was always meant to be your dad. You have shown me unbelievable things, my baby girl. Through you, I have learned that people are still good. I have learned that God provides in the darkest moments. I have learned that no matter what, family and friends are the most important part of life.
You have kept your head up through unimaginable things and, because of that, I’ve tried to keep mine up as much as I can. I can’t wait to bring you home, a place you don’t even remember. I can’t wait for you to see your toys and ride on the little sheep next to your crib and be able to play with your cousins.
My dreams are only about you and for you. I thank God that I can finally feel as though they will be fulfilled. And one day, Imani, when you’re older, I’ll tell you the story of how St. Jude came to the rescue when all hope was lost.
We were at rock bottom. Now, Alhumdulillah, we are on the road to recovery. We have passed milestones we never thought we’d see: Imani’s 6-month “birthday,” her first New Year’s, her first Ramadan.
Oh, and in April? In April, I got to hear my daughter’s laugh.