24 October, 2009

Thirty Days

Thirty days in Jordan. Exactly thirty days. Jordan - unlike Morocco, Sudan, Egypt and Syria - not being one of my favorite Arab countries, was one of the last places I thought I would ever visit. Thank God I did visit this amazing Kingdom. Although the circumstances of my visit to the Hashemite Kingdom were most difficult, I left it with very fond memories and the highest admiration for its leadership and people. And so did my wife.

My wife's health condition and us seeking further medical help, lead us to Jordan. All along, my wife, due to the advice she was being given by friends and doctors in Al Mukalla - was insisting that we go to Jordan and not to Egypt or to India as I was planning. As I didn't know much about Jordan or its medical facilities, I was very hesitant; and it was only later, when one of my former students living in Amman, learnt of my wife's condition - that I was convinced to go with her there. Thanks to my former student who not only some how managed to 'psyche' me in to loving Amman and to very much looking forward to being in Jordan, but he also did make our stay there most comfortable, easy and enjoyable.

It took only the first few minutes of landing in Amman, for me and my wife to feel very much at ease and comfortable. After disembarking from the plane at the Queen Alia International Airport, within a few moments we were cleared: Yemenis are given a three month's visitor's visa on arrival. It was not that, that we found most comforting - but it was the ease and the friendliness with which this was done. It is rather sad that Yemen's immediate neighbors, both in the Arabian Peninsular and in Africa do not make it as easy as this for us to enter their countries; in fact, it can be very difficult for us to enter some of our wealthier neighboring Arab countries. We were also made very comfortable by the very cool Mediterranean weather; unlike the humidity and heat that we left back in Al Mukalla.

We had left home already prepared for the worst; my wife's doctor had already told us that she could be having cancer. We were prepared. We already had read as much as we could on the dreaded disease. And the hospital we chose to have further medical tests and exams was the King Hussein Cancer Center in Amman: undoubtedly one of the finest and best equipped hospitals in the Middle East. With a most friendly and very caring of staff. It took several check ups, exams and tests for a proper diagnosis of my wife's condition to be given: she is having a 'low grade' form of MALT lymphoma. Already, now, my wife is having chemotherapy treatment. We are told that it is treatable and curable. Very hopefully, it is. And very hopefully too, God makes it easy for us and especially for my wife.

Life is amazing indeed. And full of surprises. A few weeks ago, little did I know of cancer or chemotherapy or radiation or the word 'remission'. Now: here I am with such a vast knowledge of the disease. A disease, though much feared, I now consider as no different from many other diseases. A disease that I now know has been made most expensive to treat; made most expensive to treat by the very few greedy, unscrupulous pharmaceutical companies who produce and control the drugs for treating it. As cancer drugs are mostly produced in the US and other wealthy countries - the United States Congress and America's FDA and CMS are very much to blame too; they have no control whatsoever on the prices charged for drugs by pharmaceutical companies. Human greed has no limit: how can drugs for such a very difficult and complicated disease be so very expensive? Thankfully for us Yemenis, our government, even with the limited resources it has - has managed in its small Oncology Center in Sana'a, to provide the very expensive cancer drugs, as cheaply as possible.

When alive and healthy, very little do we ponder or think of life; and at how terminal life is and how mortal we are. Very rarely do we think of how unpredictable the next moments are and the future is. Just a simple accident, or a storm or a cyclone or a tsunami or an earthquake; or H1N1 or any of the many other diseases lurking out there - can change one's life completely. And of those dependent on us.

It is also during the most trying and difficult of times that one truly knows who - of relatives and friends - are most caring and who, one can depend on: I have been amazed at how some of my and my wife's relatives have been very caring and concerned since she started being unwell - the support and encouragement I have been given has been incredible; some friends too, have given us immense support. Most humbling of all, are some of the people whom we never knew before but only met in the last few weeks, but who have done all they could to help and support us.

Most unbelievable of all, is that - although I was very reluctant to go to Jordan, I and my wife will never forget the way we felt very completely at home in the Kingdom.  Its people, its weather and its medical facilities were most comforting to and for us. For some reason that I have have not been able to explain, Jordanians have this very great liking, high regards and respect for Yemenis. Whenever a Jordanian would know that we were from Yemen, his or her attitude towards us would completely change. This made us, although there for medical reasons, have a most enjoyable and wonderful time. We now know that, out there - there is a small Kingdom which we can call home, too: the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.