Marwan Barakji - Rhabdomyosarcoma

Marwan Barakji ( June 17, 1993 - April 26, 2021)

The name Marwan means “solid stone”, “leader” & “strong lion”. Marwan was born calm and curious to overjoyed parents, Sousan Turky and Dr. Nazir Barakji. Brother to Bissan and May. He remained calm and curious with a thirst for knowledge that  even in his dying days remained a priority. Marwan moved a lot in his life and experienced different cultures and people. He studied in the United Arab Emirates, New York and of all places Newfoundland.
  He was always the top student in his classes and excelled in any subject he took on. Marwan was also incredibly kind, empathetic, compassionate, and obsessed with “doing the right thing”. His friends often spoke of his kindness, comedy and generosity. He would regularly tutor voluntarily and take care of seniors who were left without visitors at senior care homes.Marwan taught himself to play piano, and drew in charcoal in his spare time. He loved to code and even created a free website that health professionals could use to search for medically relevant information for use all around the world. He did this around a month before he passed away while he had a 5cm secondary tumor in his brain - unbeknownst to us at the time. He loved to cook and made an especially delicious pasta sauce with a secret ingredient - "honey". Before diagnosis, he had also taken to weight lifting and was in the best shape of his life (on the outside anyway).
  Marwan was following his father’s footsteps to become a doctor of internal medicine and was on the verge of graduation when on March 7th, 2020, tragedy struck. At 26 years old he was diagnosed with stage 4 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. At diagnosis the spread was in his bones and lungs. Marwan knew from the onset of diagnosis what his prognosis meant and fought heroically despite knowing realistically how it would end. He was incredibly brave and had such courage during the lonely hospital stays, the countless neutropenic episodes, the mind warping nausea but through it all he soldiered on as he did in everything else in life. Fighting cancer during COVID was especially difficult. After 17 back to back cycles of chemo and an attempt at CAR T cell therapy in China in the middle of the pandemic, an MRI scan showed the brain tumor in Marwan's brain at which point, the goal was quality of life and a death with dignity. In the days leading up to his death, he'd often give us the thumbs up to assure us he was ready and ok. Marwan passed away peacefully on April 26th.  Above everything else, Marwan loved his family fiercely. We love him and are honored to have shared the years we had together. He is with us always and we continue to honor his memory by living as he lived and loving as he loved. His wish is that cancer therapy, particularly for pediatric cancers evolves to find solutions outside of chemotherapy and radiation. He believed that the way forward was understanding the specific weakness of individual cancer types to defeat it and not just indiscriminately kill cells, while ravaging one's body with the hope you could get every last cancer cell. He would always say "We need to fight smarter, not harder". One day we hope to see this to fruition for all cancer patients, their families and most of all Marwan.  

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