Swinging Past Adversity

Not even countless hours of chemotherapy or a tumor in his spine could stop him from doing what he loves most — playing golf.

Senior Rami Abdou was diagnosed with histiocytosis, a disease that involves an abnormal increase in the number of immune cells. He developed a rare form of the disease, which corroded part of his vertebrae and was a mystery to the doctors.

“I can have a horrible day but when I’m out there, it’s just me and the ball and the grass. And that’s it. There’s the hole and there is nothing in between that. It’s just me and the course,” Abdou said.

Abdou had absolutely no idea what was going on when he saw his parents crying in the hallway while he sat on his bed on the day of his diagnosis.

“I think the hardest part for me was just seeing my parents scared. I always want to see them smiling, and that’s very important to me,” Abdou said. “I actually wasn’t scared,” Abdou said. “I was pretty calm, partly because I was on a lot of medication, but my parents were a little more worried.”

It wasn’t until after they left the hospital that Abdou found out about his disease and the doctor’s recommendation to not play golf anymore.

“That was what really hurt me the most when they said that. But I rebelled a little bit. I went out and I hit a few balls,” Abdou said. “So that’s what distracted me and I felt like I was normal.”

Abdou initially played competitive soccer until his dad introduced him to golf. He has been playing since he was 10 years old and further developed his skills through taking lessons with a coach.
“[Playing golf] made me feel like a normal person because I would completely forgot about my condition when I was out there. It was almost like my natural habitat,” Abdou said.

To raise money and awareness for histiocytosis, Abdou hosted a Histiocytosis Association Golf Charity Event on Saturday, Oct. 17 at the Rancho San Joaquin Golf Course in Irvine. Abdou obtained sponsors for the event such as GolfSmith, Roger-Dunn, Southern California Professional Golf Association (SCPGA) and Chipotle.

During the fundraiser, Abdou gave a speech about his journey from the day he got his Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) until now.

“It was really hard for me because I got really emotional and I kept choking up,” Abdou said. “It was just a special moment. It felt good sharing my story with everyone because during my struggles, no one saw the pain that I had beneath my big smile.”

Though Abdou didn’t play at the event, he instead regulated everything, drove around on a golf cart to interact with the 60 players and hit some balls for them if they wanted.

“Honestly, from the beginning I didn’t have any expectations for this event just because it was my first time doing this. And at first I wanted to set a monetary value, like 5,000 dollars and I would be happy,” Abdou said. “But then I came to the conclusion like you know, no matter what it’s for charity. I don’t need to set a monetary value on it. Whatever I get, I get and I’m happy with what I get.”

By Olivia Chiang, Feature editor

Photo by Sajid Iqbal