When 11-year-old Dariush Namin returned home from school one afternoon last January and told his dad that the back of his leg was sore, his father Francis didn't think much of it. Perhaps it was just a bruise his son had gotten while playing at school.
A few days later when Dariush mentioned his back and wrist hurt as well, so much that he was unable to clutch items, Francis realized something was seriously wrong.
A round of tests at the hospital revealed a diagnosis of Leukemia.
"As a parent you just fall to your knees," said Francis. "It feels like a knife has been stabbed right into your heart."
Following the diagnosis, Dariush, a native of Bethesda, Md., began a three-year treatment plan at Children's National Health System in Washington, D.C.
He's currently in the maintenance phase of his treatment protocol, which takes up two out of the three years, and requires a handful or trips to the hospital each month for chemotherapy and blood work. In addition to that, Dariush takes daily chemotherapy pills.
Throughout his stay in the hospital, it has been common to see Dariush draped in his Capitals gear, whether it be his red Caps beanie or his replica jersey of Nicklas Backstrom, his favorite Capitals player.
In the midst of his treatment, Dariush wished to meet the Capitals through Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic, whose mission is to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Dariush's wish came true on Nov. 1 when he arrived at the Capitals practice facility in a limousine alongside his parents and his fraternal twin brother, Dara.
Not only was Dariush presented with a new Backstrom jersey by Backstrom himself, but also given the news by coach Barry Trotz that he would participate in a ceremonial puck drop with Backstrom during the team's Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night on Nov. 2.
Video: Making Dariush's Wish Come True
After interacting with the team in the locker room pre-practice, Dariush and his brother palled around the practice facility together with fresh signatures on their jerseys from Capitals players. They also took in the team's practice from the bench, fist bumping players including Braden Holtby, Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie in between practice sessions.
Dariush wish continued on Thursday as he watched warmups from the Capitals bench, rode the ice resurfacer during an intermission and visited with Capitals players in the locker room following the game.
Throughout the challenges Dariush has faced in his nearly two-year fight with leukemia his mother says Dariush has maintained a mindset that many might not expect from an 11-year-old.
"He's never once complained," said Nooshin Germifar. "Never once. Never said 'why me, this isn't fair? Why did this have to happen to me?' As adults we say it, but never Dariush."
Germifar recalled how even when Dariush learned his wish would be granted, Dariush thought of the other children suffering from cancer alongside him prior to thinking of himself.
"He said 'Shouldn't this go to someone else who deserves the wish, Mommy, what about these other people?'" recalled Germifar. "I said, 'your doctors think that you deserve this. And you do, you deserve the world, and that's what they keep telling you. That's what they can do to give back to you for how you've suffered, and what you've been through and bring a little joy into your life.'"
With Dariush still a little over a year away from completing his grueling treatment, his parents are sure that his Make-A-Wish day will give him more energy to continue his fight.
"You've got to keep this kid motivated at all times, because the drugs he's on bring him down, so it kills his appetite, and he doesn't have energy," said Francis. "Things like this stay with him and keep him up for months. That's the whole idea - to keep him in a positive mode at all times, because it's good for his body."
As Dariush's first day with the Capitals came to an end, the two brothers wandered the benches of the team's practice rink. Dara glanced over to the opposite bench and noticed a stray stick that had been left behind from practice. Dariush joined his brother as they hustled over to check out the gear.
"Backstrom!" Dara yelled out as he grabbed the stick and saw the Capitals center's name inscribed at the top.
"No way! Cool!" Dariush responded, his eyes wide with excitement.
As the brothers took turns using Backstrom's stick to slap around a role of tape like it was a hockey puck, the smile on Dariush's face said it all: his wish had been fulfilled.
Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic is one of the five beneficiaries of #CapsFightCancer, the team's month-long campaign to fight childhood cancer. Click here for more information on the initiative.
Video: #CapsFightCancer: Game Recap