Alma Mater: The College of William and Mary
Employment: Assurance Associate at CliftonLarsonAllen
Washington D.C. Metro Area
"It's the young ones. It's the young ones that stay with you. It's the young ones you never forget," the hospice nurse attending to Husnain Khan told his mother Samina Khan.
With tears in her eyes, she informed her that her 23 year old son, who had been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer the previous year, had but a few days left to live.
During the final week of his Master's program at the College of William & Mary he had to undergo an emergency colostomy due to intestinal obstruction caused by malignant tumors.
The word cancer, when used in the same sentence as the name of a loved one, can be paralyzing. It's a parasitic paralysis, one from which you can never truly recover.
When it falls on someone so young, the tragedy becomes all the more crippling in the trauma it inflicts.
After the initial diagnoses and surgical procedure, he remained committed to his academic goals and participated in finals' week unhindered and resilient.
Despite finding out his cancer had progressed to stage 4 the day before his graduation ceremony, he remained resolute and hopeful.
Despite being told his cancer was inoperable, he remained optimistic about his future.
Despite finding out that his second round of high-grade, targeted and aggressive chemotherapy had failed to alleviate his illness in any way at all, he remained excited about his future prospects at CliftonLarsonAllen in Arlington, VA.
Alas, none of this was ever to be: Husnain Mubasher Khan, who was diagnosed with stage IV cancer at age 22, passed away on October 27th at the age of 23.
In memorializing their loved ones, family and friends often exhibit a tendency to gloss over tidbits of their lives here and there in order to fit a narrative meant to elevate them to a near saintlike status. Husnain was a normal person, with dreams, goals, plans that most people in their early-20s have.
He was finally about to complete his education, the final step in his preparation for the real world, with a real world job offer. He could get a real world car and car insurance now! It took a lot for him to get there (from moving to America in middle school, to the lonely, isolated and painstakingly awkward four years of high school, to all the hard work it took to break free from everything that was holding him back, to earning a Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Accounting from the College of William and Mary and now finally to employment at CLA.
In the last almost two years, he was only able to work for four months.
After all of it. Everything. It was straight from the beginning to the end, with the entire middle torn out. Social engagements became doctor appointments, favorite hot spots now included pharmacies (yeah, I know) and labs.
It would be extremely easy (and often justifiably so) to become bitter. In a perpetual state of varying degrees of pain, becoming resentful towards others is yet again a common, albeit inconvenient, facet of living with cancer and pain management in general.
And yet Husnain did none of those. He did not give in to despair, he did not become resentful and he never turned bitter toward anything or anyone. He dealt with an illness that most people develop after the age of 50 (and even among this group, the occurrence of this cancer type is very uncommon) with more grace and dignity than any person in his situation could have. And that...that right there is what makes my little brother an extraordinarily beautiful human being (objectivity be damned...if it wasn't already). He did it on his terms. He never lost his childlike wonder and awe for the beauty he saw in the world around him. He both cried and smiled through his pain, at once vulnerable yet steadfast, a little gullible, a little naive. A son, a brother, a cousin, a friend.
But above all else he was, is and will always be a beautiful and extraordinary human being, the likes of which are as rare in our world as the cancer that was raging through his body.