Cancer survivor Bayan Azizi refused to lose hope in writing his memoir Me, Myself and My Brain Stem Tumour
He can hardly speak, his voice barely rising above a whisper. Because of a rare medical condition he had during his childhood, Bayan Azizi breathes through a tube in his neck, with little air reaching his vocal cords.
Although his speech is barely audible, the North Vancouver man conveys a message that rings loud and clear. It’s one of hope, a precious item in a world that doesn’t seem to run out of despair.
Azizi was nine years old when doctors found a tumour on his brain stem. Given only three months to live, he defied the odds.
Now 25, Azizi has chronicled his childhood and young-adult experiences of going through three brain surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and rehabilitation in a book that is in itself a testimony to his powerful will.
Because he can type with only one finger, it took him three years to complete Me, Myself and My Brain Stem Tumour: Memoirs of a Pediatric Brain Cancer Survivor.
Published by Everywhere Now Press, the book was launched on April 30 at the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice in Vancouver, where Azizi spent a lot of time during his illness.
Surrounded by family and friends, the wheelchair-using Azizi came across as a confident young man who makes the most out of his abilities. In a speech read for him by his mother, Nika, Azizi noted he had two themes in his book: never give up and don’t limit yourself. “The first one suits me the best and is my absolute favourite. It got me a lot further in life than some might’ve expected.”
Azizi works part-time for a North Vancouver moving and storage company. He also attends Capilano University.
“It would’ve been completely understandable if I had given up on myself, but that would have put me in a position where I would have to limit myself considerably, which was the exact opposite of what I wanted to do with my life,” his mother read.
Beaming with pride as Nika read the speech were Azizi’s father, Hessam, and younger siblings Ashkan and Maya. “I’m very humbled to be his mother,” Nika told the Georgia Straight in an interview at the launch.
“Many of us can only imagine the hardship that Bayan had gone through,” Ashkan said in his speech, his voice starting to crack.
Also present at the book launch was Dr. Juliette Hukin, who looked after Azizi until he turned 21. The neurologist recalled in her remarks to the crowd that her heart sank several times in the course of Azizi’s care, particularly when he could no longer walk and on the day a tube had to be inserted in his neck to allow him to breathe.
“Paradoxically, Bayan also brought me joy and peace over the years with his kindness towards others and his polite and thoughtful and calm nature,” she said.
In an interview, Hukin noted that about 30 childhood brain tumours are diagnosed every year in B.C. Of these new cases, she said, only one percent are of the type that Azizi had on his brain stem, which connects the brain to the spinal cord and controls vital functions such as breathing.
“His tumour is in remission,” Hukin told the Straight.
Dean Lorenzo started working as one of Azizi’s nurses in 2007. A chapter in the book is dedicated to Lorenzo, whom Azizi nicknamed Dean Machine. “He’s going to take things as far as he can and kind of push the boundaries,” Lorenzo told the Straight about the first-time author.
In his book, Azizi relates that as a child he wanted to become a professional hockey player when he grew up: “My first dream in life was to be an NHL player and make millions of dollars a year.”
As kids, Ashkan told the Straight, remembering the days before their life as a family changed forever, he and Bayan played a lot of street hockey. He said his brother’s achievement of having his book published means everything for the family. “It’s been an incredibly long and challenging journey, and Bayan has been incredibly strong the long way through.”
For Azizi, the journey continues: he told the Straight he may try writing fiction next.
May 7, 2015 at 10:33am
Bayan is an inspiration, teaching each of us to make the most of what we are given. Can't wait to read the Memoir.
May 11, 2015 at 7:33pm
As a paraplegic, I think this kind of living is not Justified. People praise him and give compliment and what are the results ?life is not as precious as ordinary people thinks . They say a Bravo to Bayan and then nothing.