Moving on From 2019 - A Tough Year in Review
Brain Tumor, Baby, Public Speaking, Writing, Open Source, and Mountains!
Hello folks, it’s that time of the year (or maybe a little late) where I am supposed to reflect on my past year and make some new year resolution goals. Since I couldn’t write the year in review for the previous year 2019, so this article is going to about that. Next week, I will write the year in review of the year 2020, which has been a lot challenging for everyone around the globe due to Covid-19 pandemic.
I created the outline of this review and planned it about a year ago back in January 2020. But its been in my drafts since then. I tried to write and complete it multiple times throughout the year but I couldn’t. The biggest reason was that it was a year which I never expected and I hope I won’t live that kind of time again in my life ever again. The only reason for this was that my father was diagnosed with rapidly growing brain tumor in that year. Unfortunately he couldn’t survive this and is no longer with us today. He passed away in that unlucky year of 2019.
Every time I wanted to write this year in review, all the horrible memories and things I witnessed came back in my mind. And I just didn’t want to put them in words. But now I want to write 2020 year-in-review, so I think I need to have to write 2019 review before 2020. I will try very hard to be optimistic and see how it goes. You can read my 2018 year in review here.
Happiness Fades as Year Starts
The year started with a big news. My first baby was born on 1st January 2019. What an amazing coincidence. Right? Those days were truly beautiful and amazing. A baby in the house redefines the whole atmosphere. There comes this strange energy in the environment, in people, and in things. Everyone smiles more, laughs more and enjoys more. Everyone starts feeling young or even childish most of the time. And that’s what I wanted to see a lot. Happy faces all around.
I have learned a number of things about human nature and parenting. The babies are truly wonderful creatures. I am still unable to understand how babies actually learn so much things and what are they observing all the time. What is going on in their tiny little minds. Whatever scientific explanation is there, but to me it’s simply fascinating.
I would love to talk about it and my words will never end. So I have dedicated a separate space of my words to him on Medium in form of Developer Dad publication. You can check it on this link.
But with these beautiful memories and days passing by, there was my father losing smile, strength, health, and specifically memory. He was forgetting names of people, things, paths, routines and more. He started seeing things which weren’t actually there. He started talking about past as its present. He started telling things which didn’t make sense. This made us worried. I mean really worried.
At first, we were confused about it. But since my father - or as I called him “Abu” - had a little history of schizophrenia. So we actually miscalculated it as symptoms of that. We never imagined that this would be the tumor eating the brain from inside. With ongoing consultations with our current doctor, memory loss was a side effect of some medication which had been changed in previous weeks. We thought that this is matter of few days until body accept new medication and then it will be fine again. Like a very gentle and humble person as he was before.
It was that night. That very unfortunate night. There was an ongoing Pakistan Super League (PSL) championship’s final cricket at that time in my city. Our home is very close to the cricket stadium. Almost all roads surrounding stadium were closed for security purposes. The city was filled with lights, flags, and there was celebration vibe in the air everywhere.
But here my Abu was vomiting over and over again. We were on the way to hospital through those closed roads. Police understood the situation after seeing my father in the passenger seat in a very bad condition and let us pass through the road barriers. After about 20 minutes ride, we reached hospital emergency at around 11:00 pm in night.
After going through some tests and medical procedure whole night, I got a response from doctor saying “I’m sorry to tell you that your father has rapidly growing brain tumor. Its already spread about 80% of the brain. We have to operate it as soon as possible. Let me know your decision quick so I can make arrangements.”
Wait. Just hold on. Are you really saying that this is tumor? Like the cancer? Couldn’t this be food poisoning as he is vomiting? Or maybe it’s just dizziness. Just tell me something which I can believe. I cannot accept this. Or maybe I do not want to accept this… again.
When I was 17 years old and full of life, my mother passed away suddenly. That was the first time I actually saw someone without life. That was first time I actually saw a grave. That was first time I actually saw how a funeral is done. And after that, there was this whole strange vacuum in my heart which couldn’t filled with anything.
Life without mother becomes a lot harder than it actually is.
And now, here I am in a situation where I have to accept something which I have never imagined or expected. And I don’t know even anything about it.
What’s that supposed to mean? What it’s supposed to do? Eat brain? What will happen once this reaches from 80% to 100%? What happens to body if there’s no brain? What about the feelings my Abu had? What about the conversations we used to have? What about his smile? Or his big soft hand which we siblings used to put on our head when we felt sad, or we were stuck in some problem, or we just wanted to feel an ounce of peace from the noise of this world.
A lot of questions were coming in my mind. But there were no answers. Instead more questions - especially from doctors. “Should we go ahead with surgery and remove tumor?”. Our answer was “We don’t know”. How are we actually supposed to know? Do a Master’s degree on Neurology? Or watch some YouTube videos about it? Or read some random articles on medical websites or Wikipedia?
Days were passing by. Abu’s health was becoming worse. And we all were stuck on one thing:
Surgery or No Surgery.
Pressure from doctors and hospital is increasing. Questions are increasing. Confusions are increasing. Stress is increasing. But Abu’s health state is decreasing. He doesn’t recognize us anymore. The grill around bed feels like a trap cage to him. He is wondering where he is. Why he is there? He even doesn’t know what ICU or a hospital is.
And it seemed like a lifetime to answer one question. That answer was.
A big NO.
NO. We don’t want to do the surgery.
Here. We said it. Was it that hard? I don’t know. I only know that it took me about 2 years to put these words from mind to a screen. How do I feel about it? I dare you don’t take that path. Pretty please!!!!
We didn’t go for surgery. Probably, it was too late to do surgery at that time. Even after surgery there weren’t great chances for recovery. And Abu didn’t have the stamina to fight and do Chemotherapy.
I am no expert in medical or tumor etc. But believe me when I say this.
Chemotherapy is the most brutal and horrible kind of treatment there is. I salute and admire all the people’s courage who have gone through Chemotherapy. And I have great respect for the survivors. Those are real-life heroes.
My father wasn’t that kind of hero though. But he was still our hero. Going through different options, we decided to keep him at home. And take care of him ourselves.
Day by day.
Night by night.
Medicine by medicine.
Tear by tear.
Word by word.
Those 6 months of 2019 were THE most challenging and depressing months of my life. I was supposed to enjoy the new baby and his silly moves. But rather I was crying silently sitting beside my father losing battle to tumor. A stupid brain tumor. How dare it, huh. Every week Abu was losing something. One day we realize he can’t stand up anymore. Next, we realize he can’t even sit now.
Over the weeks, his condition was becoming worse and worse. His legs stopped responding. He lost hearing completely. Pin drop silence. He lost his sight. What a sad day it was. There was a very tensed silence in house all day. It was like no one wanted to believe it. Whatever condition his health was in - at least he was able to see his children. It didn’t matter if he recognized us or not. But it was more than hope for us that he can see us. And he feels that we are there for him and support him.
But now he can’t.
He was in semi-coma about 6 months. Everything was a big challenge we were unprepared for. We never imagined this kind of stuff. The coma was very painful for Abu and probably more painful for us. We couldn’t see him in that pain. And we probably can never understand what Abu was going through.
My mother died suddenly out of nowhere one day. It was shocking. So with that context, there was this one strange thing. No one mentioned it anytime but there was this feeling that one day Abu won’t wake up. We sort of knew and were kinda waiting for that day. We wanted Abu’s pain to end and go away. Probably this was only way. And we assumed that we are ready.
So let me ask you a question. “Can anyone be ever ready for this? Are 6 months enough to be ready? Enough to say good-bye to father and won’t see him ever again?”
I don’t know the answer. No one knows. I only know that I assumed it would be easier to face Abu’s demise. But one and half years later, I still haven’t been able to accept his death and wish that he was alive.
Yes, he was in Coma. He was in great pain. He didn’t recognize us. He had no memory. He couldn’t stand. Sit. Talk. Hear. Smile. Laugh. Cry. Scream.
He was alive.
That one word. Alive. It mattered a lot. It gave us a hope. It gave me courage that whenever I feel sad, I just have to put his big soft hand on my face. And everything will be fine. All the problems will go away. There will only be peace and happiness. That tiny moment, which felt more than years. That moment gave me power to fight anything in this world. Even this stupid brain tumor.
But now I don’t have that hand.
Don’t have that hope.
Don’t have that power.
Don’t have our beloved Abu anymore.
July 2019. My father passes away. I won’t forget the last days I spent with him. I would like to extend huge gratitude to people who helped us in this tough time including my sisters, my Aunty who is like my mother, my wife, my uncles and many more people. Thank you everyone for helping us through our most painful and sad time of life.
There goes half of 2019 year. I am without my super hopeful big soft hand with another bigger vacuum inside my heart. Now, I am trying to pick up the pieces I left before to resume my life.
Becoming GDE? - No, Not Now.
Originally, I had planned to apply for becoming a Google Developers Expert (GDE) in March 2019. Google approached me multiple times throughout my tough time as my nomination for becoming a GDE was about to get processed. But I wasn’t in the shape to do interviews etc. Google folks understood my situation and allowed me to take time. So I couldn’t become GDE in 2019. That happened in Feb 2020. You can read more about it here.
Coding + Community = Happiness
It was a tough year. The few months I had from the whole year, I was getting back to my usual life. My job which was going good and Contour Software / Trapeze Group supported me a lot throughout this whole medical episode. I am very grateful for them. Besides job, I managed to do some community work as well. This included my talks, open source contributions and some articles I wrote.
On the naming day of my first and only baby, I was invited by Android Pakistan Community to give a motivational and short talk. I talked about overall programming experience, and shared how my open source contributions led me to become a better programmer and what role Kotlin language has played in my career. It was well received one. I was very happy that day as when I returned home after talk, we named our baby along with all the close family members.
And then I got caught up with my medical situation at home. I got back on speaking in October. Then it was a series of talks - one after one - at IO Extended Hyderabad, IO Extended Karachi, DSC SZABIST Hyderabad Launch, Pakistan’s 1st DSC Summit, GDG DevFest Karachi, DSC PAF KEIT, DSC SMIU, and finally ending the year with last talk again organized by the Android Pakistan Community.
Some of these talks are recorded and available at my YouTube channel.
You can see my all talks - previous and upcoming - at my Speaking page on my website.
I must admit that after my baby, my writing has reduced a lot. I still try to find some time to write regularly and hope that this year I will do it more. I wrote 19 articles in 2019 which included Year in review 2018, an experience about JTech 2019 event I attended as judge, a tip about speeding up Android Studio which surprisingly became a very popular article, some articles about my talks like this and this, and a series of articles about CometChat SDK to create chat apps in Kotlin.
I couldn’t do much open source contributions in the year 2019. But I managed to get time to do Hacktoberfest 2019. It was a really great experience as my article became the go-to guide for participating in Hacktoberfest and ranked on Google below the official Hacktoberfest website.
You can read that article on this link here:
I also published another open source Android library called as Room Explorer which allows developers to view their Room databases inside their Android apps with a single line of code. You can read about that in this article.
Moving to Mountains
In all of the stress, chaos, and hustling throughout the year, what I needed was an ounce of peace. I wanted to sleep on the green field surrounded by mountains and rivers. And it became real. Google was conducting Pakistan’s 1st DSC Summit and that was in the capital city, Islamabad. I was invited as a speaker. I brought along my family to enjoy an amazing vacation surrounded by mountains, rivers, and snow.
I had a fantastic time at DSC Summit, met some awesome people, and had a good experience doing panel discussion about Pakistan’s state in IT Industry. Thank you Saad Hamid, Google, and other folks who organized such a great event.
After DSC Summit, we traveled in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Murree, and Ayubia to enjoy a ton of places. And I must say that a trip with a baby is whole another experience which I never had before. This trip proved to be so refreshing and rebooted all our energy. This was much needed relaxation which I was seeking for. In all this, I am hugely grateful for Mubashir Hassan for his lovely hospitality and wonderful dinner at Savor Foods.
As a developer, who doesn’t like the free swag. In 2019 year, I did collected some awesome swags from different events, conferences, and also a special Kotlin Everywhere t-shirt from a dear friend Vikash Prithwani and Jetbrains stickers from Saad Pasta. Here are few pictures:
Finally, to wrap up the year, we had a blast first birthday of our son before the official 1st January date on 28th December. It went super amazing. Everyone in the family enjoyed it a lot. Interestingly, I had a talk on the very same day in morning. This was again organized by the Android Pakistan Community like the previous one at start of year when we were naming our baby.
This year, I haven’t added any books/movies in this review as I didn’t get much time to do that. I will publish the 2020’s year in review soon. Thank you for reading this and don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter where I tend to share interesting things about parenting, remote job, programming and more.