Yasser and I
Updated: May 26, 2021
Yasser Hamdani, a lawyer and author, found out he had an oligidendriogioma, a brain tumour, in 2017 while training in the gym. His wife Aisha Sarwari was training with him when he had a generalized seizure in her arms. While the ambulance was called, she felt his heartbeat give, and him slip away. After he was resuscitated and rushed to the hospital emergency, a CT scan revealed a huge tumour.
Since then a lot of his previous behavioural and physiological changes made sense - the tremors, the challenges with social integration, special interests and obsessions, and closer to the diagnosis he was sleeping everywhere - in the courts, during loud concerts and even mornings where there were important meetings.
This diagnosis kicked off a series of unfortunate events: a six hour awake craniotony in October 2017; a recurrence of the tumour in 2018; another eight hour awake craniotomy in 2020 during the middle of the Covid19 pandemic; and a very-long drawn recovery during chemotherapy and radiotherapy. During the three year period his symptoms got worse, including intrusive thoughts and focal seizures that would leave him in a state of emotional imbalance impacting work and relationships. Despite this tumultuous time Yasser wrote and published a book on Jinnah, Pakistans founding father with PanMcMillan. He also sat for his Bar Standards Board exam and qualified to become a barrister, a dream that he pursued for his admiration of Jinnah.
How Yasser and I are coping now:
Social isolation during COVID makes everything very challenging. These health events require a community of support. We are coping well now that some of the anxiety is behind us. Yasser is out of his deep depression and getting back on his feet almost at his fighting best. It is very brave and miraculous and only came about after several interventions and of course prayers.
Finally, I'd like to say that a brain tumour patient requires specialised care that has so far been unavailable here in Pakistan to support such a difficult period.
We needed a holistic care package that includes coping skills and support for the primary caregiver as well as the patient because the load of managing day-to-day is next to impossible.
It was almost as if we went down a mental health spiral both the patient and the primary care giver. This required specialised mental health counsellors dedicated to the mental trauma that arises from such a life threatening surgery. Most mental health care in Pakistan is generalised.
Also there is very little organised help among families who have experienced brain tumours to connect with each other and create support groups. We all need coping skills and understanding of mental health challenges that often come with a debilitating disease of this nature.
There is hardly any literature on preparing for the sporadic nature of the disease and very little preparation on the practicalities that accompany something this monstrous. This is a massive problem.
- Aisha Sarwari, Caregiver and wife of Yasser Latif Hamdani
Aisha is an accomplished career-woman in her own right and her husband Yasser has authored two books:
"Jinnah: Myth & Reality" & "Jinnah: A Life"