Cancer-stricken US doctor's family blocked by travel ban

  • Morhaf Al Achkar, 33, emigrated to the United States from Syria in 2006
  • He is a doctor at Indiana University, has trained hundreds of med students
  • Dr Al Achkar was diagnosed with advanced stage lung cancer in November 2015
  • Patients with this cancer typically have life expectancy of 4-10 months
  • President Trump’s ‘travel ban’ blocks Syrians from entering the US for 90 days 
  • It means Dr Al Achkar’s brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews, and stepmother may not be able to make it to the US to be with him

A US doctor diagnosed with Stage IV cancer says he cannot be with his family – since they are Syrian and barred by President Trump‘s travel ban.

Dr Morhaf Al Achkar, 33, emigrated to the United States from Syria in 2006, before becoming an esteemed primary care physician at Indiana University.

In November, he was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer, which typically carries a life expectancy of four to 10 months.

Now he is desperate to see his brother, sister-in-law, and their three children, who are currently based in England. But the ban means they may not make it in time.

Tragic: Dr Morhaf Al Achkar, 33, emigrated to the United States from Syria in 2006, and became a family doctor at Indiana University. He was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer last year

Tragic: Dr Morhaf Al Achkar, 33, emigrated to the United States from Syria in 2006, and became a family doctor at Indiana University. He was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer last year

Speaking out: On Sunday, Dr Al Achkar revealed he has months to live but his brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews, and stepmother may not be able to come to the US to be with him

Speaking out: On Sunday, Dr Al Achkar revealed he has months to live but his brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews, and stepmother may not be able to come to the US to be with him

WHAT IS STAGE IV LUNG CANCER?

Metastatic is a synonym for Stage IV – the final stage of cancer, when it has spread far beyond the original tumor site. 

Stage IV lung cancer not always easy to spot symptoms – even by the time it reaches Stage IV – since they are often similar to other health conditions.

Symptoms include a persistent cough, coughing up blood or bloody phlegm, chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, weakness, and sudden weight loss.

In most cases, it cannot be cured, though patients can try chemotherapy or radiation therapy to extend their life expectancy.  

Taking to Facebook on Sunday, Al Achkar described his agony.

‘My disease is so advanced that no treatment out there will cure me or even make me live longer,’ he wrote.

‘I have metastatic cancer, I may not be here in few months, and my family, because they are Syrians, can’t come to visit me.’

President Trump has issued an executive order banning the US from taking in people with full or dual citizenship from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia for 90 days (three months).

Al Achkar managed to reach the US before Syria became the war zone it is today, followed seven years later by his sister who is a neuroscientist and professor at the University of California and his father who is an economics professor in Maryland.

However, his green card-holding stepmother is stuck in Saudi Arabia, blocked by the ban. His brother, a professor and engineer who made it to England with his family, is also blocked by the ban. 

‘It hurts to not know if I would ever see my family again,’ Al Achkar wrote in the post which swept the internet this weekend. 

Metastatic is a synonym for Stage IV – the final stage of cancer, when it has spread far beyond the original tumor site.

With most cancers – like lung cancer – your prognosis is far better the earlier the cancer is diagnosed.

In terms of lung cancer, it is not always easy to spot symptoms – even by the time it reaches Stage IV – since they are often similar to other health conditions.

Symptoms include a persistent cough, coughing up blood or bloody phlegm, chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, weakness, and sudden weight loss.

Al Achkar managed to reach the US before Syria became the war zone it is today, alongside his sister who is a neuroscientist and professor at the University of California and his father who is an economics professor in Maryland

Al Achkar managed to reach the US before Syria became the war zone it is today, alongside his sister who is a neuroscientist and professor at the University of California and his father who is an economics professor in Maryland

In most cases, it cannot be cured, though patients can try chemotherapy or radiation therapy to extend their life expectancy.  

Al Achkar, like many lung cancer patients, has never smoked or engaged in behavior that is typically pegged as a cause of lung cancer. 

Writing on Facebook, he said his wish as he battles his disease is for the ban to be lifted and compassion for Syrian immigrants.

‘My suffering is not even close to that of the refugees who have faced death and the questions about the meaning of their suffering, and the longing to be just normal. … Yes we can do something for them and yes we should. We can open our country for them,’ he said.  

Health | Mail Online

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