The pandemic years have not been kind to us. In 2020 we lost my aunt and uncle to COVID, this was our first shock introduction to the disease. This was followed by the death of my young cousin, also to the same disease. At this point I had developed quite a phobia of the disease, that it could kill my cousin, several years younger than me, and supposedly in good health, was a complete shock to me.
The emotional toll was great and it cemented the danger of the pandemic in my head. Unfortunately, many of those around me seemed to completely ignore the risks of the pandemic and refused even the simplest precautions. This was a great source of friction between me and others early in the pandemic.
After the acute phase of the pandemic passed, and we began to get vaccinated — I am fully vaccinated and boosted, the disease began to be less scary to me. Especially after my mom contracted it and survived. I also tested positive twice. It looked as if we could finally move on with our lives with some semblance of normality.
But it was not to be. Out of the blue, we discovered that my wife had a pancreatic tumor. We went to a surgical oncologist, and he decided to go for surgical removal. Given the family history of my wife, her dad had pancreatic cancer and her mom is a cancer survivor, he stressed that it was very important to remove it.
We scheduled an operation and he was supposed to completely remove the tumor, instead he just cut off the top and drained it into the stomach. As I am not a medical doctor, I thought this was ok, until the pathology report came back indicating that the tumor was pre-cancerous — the term locally malignant was also used. At which point I panicked because he had drained the tumor into her stomach, thus possibly spreading the disease.
The doctor first cast doubt on the result of the pathology and had us do another test in another lab. The result was identical. He then asked to do another operation to completely excise the tumor and advised that we may need to use chemotherapy during the operation to mitigate the effect of the fact that he had drained a tumor with pre-cancerous changes into her stomach. He asked for an exorbitant amount of money for the second operation.
This gave us pause. As we were considering our options, my wife vomited blood and lost consciousness. We took her to the ER where they resuscitated her and told us that her situation was extremely dangerous. At the advice of the doctor who did the first operation, we moved her to the hospital he had first operated on her and were about to do the second operation.
At this point, someone pointed out to us that the hospital we were in did not have an ICU or blood bank and it was irresponsible to do such a serious operating there — she was internally bleeding from the enzymes being released into her stomach from the tumor that was connected to it. He strongly advised us to leave. When this was explicitly conveyed to us by the owner of the hospital, we left.
We switched doctors and hospitals and did the second operation. The second doctor did not use chemotherapy during the operating but opted for a peritoneal wash. He removed the tumor, part of the pancreas, part of the stomach that the previous doctor had attached the tumor to and her spleen.
During this period, my wife was in extreme pain. Both during the operation and after it. But we thanked God that she had survived the operation. We were warned that there were long term consequences to what had happened, including increased risk for adhesions, and the possibility of future cancerous growths because the first doctor had released pre-cancerous cells into her body.
We prayed for the best but expected the worst. One of these “worst case scenarios” happened less than a year after the second operation. Complaining of severe stomach pain, my wife was admitted to the hospital again. We went through many diagnostic procedures to see what was wrong as the pain she was in was extremely severe.
We finally settled on adhesions, but there was always the question of why she was in such severe pain. She was screaming all the time and asking for pain killers. We all assumed, myself sadly included, that she had become dependent on morphine from her previous operations and the pain killers she took to get over the pain then.
None of us were right. It turned out that one of the adhesions had turned necrotic. She was in such severe pain because part of her intestines had died. We did not know this before we operated, we were still insisting that she had some sort of pain killer dependence, but when the pain became so unbearable that she was almost continuously screaming, we operated immediately and that was when we found that part of her intestines had died.
We removed it, and corrected the rest of the adhesions. At this point, we were all emotionally exhausted. Not to mention financially so as well. We crossed our fingers and hoped that would be the end of it. That was when my mother tested positive for COVID.
I left my wife and kids to go stay with my mother, and I tested positive shortly after that as well. Thankfully, God was on our side and the disease was very mild for both my mother and myself. However, after this particular bout with COVID I began to experience severe sinusites symptoms.
I kept thinking that it was caused by masking all the time or by my use of alcohol as a disinfectant at work. But I was eventually diagnosed as having fungal sinusites. I panicked for a bit worried that it might be the invasive kind, but most of the doctors I went to do not seem to think that this is the case.
I was put on a course of cortisone and other medications to reduce symptoms enough that an operation would be feasible. I have been taking the medication for about three weeks now, and my operation is scheduled for after Eid. I still worry that it might be the invasive kind, and I have prepared my family for the worst, but I have hope it’s not. Given my symptoms, I am leaning towards a diagnosis of allergic fungal sinusites.
Also, concurrent to all this, one of my twins had her ear grow over her earring, which required a procedure to remove, stuck a foreign object up her nose which required an endoscopic procedure to remove, and, finally, seems to have caught a case of roseola infantum — which we first thought was measles — that she is currently recovering from. Of course, this is in addition to all the usual illnesses that my other kids have had on a regular basis.
I thank God for everything, and I am blessed that He has gotten us through all this intact, but I really feel exhausted. Since we are still in the pandemic phase here in Egypt, I have had limited options for child care. This means that all child care has been shouldered by my wife and me, with large help from both grandmothers of course, but mostly by us. I feel exhausted and burned out. I pray that we will not have any more serious medical issues and that we can finally get back to some semblance of normality.