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Don't Waste

Updated: 3 days ago



Image by Nisisi Factory



I am reposting this article which I originally wrote last year to honour and remember Nimo because after a long and brave fight she bowed.



 

October 20, 2020


She told me this is the first time she is telling her story. It made me feel like I was the first person to arrive at a crime scene. You don’t want to touch or move anything unnecessarily so that anyone else who comes after you, will see what you have seen; feel what you have felt. 

**

Mum’s prayer for dinner that day, was long. I half listened as the whiff of stew filled my senses. ‘Finish already,’ I thought. But she was far from done. I almost fell off my seat when her voice tapered off, "And God we pray for the plans we have for Nimo.” I gawked at her forgetting prayer etiquette. When she said ‘Amen,’ everyone had a puzzled look on their face. But nothing could beat the expression that had drawn itself on dad’s face.


“What do you mean Nimo's plans? Am I missing something?” he asked as he started to pass the soup. I gave my mum the look and she threw it right back. “Go ahead Nimo, tell him.” I looked at my brothers — their chests were still; and then at dad as his eyes settled on me, expectant. I stalled. ‘Where would I begin? The shower? The ultrasound? The biopsy? Or the CT scan? Should I take a bite first then speak or just let my story become the first course?’ Because there is no easy way, no written rule of how to tell your dad that you might have cancer.

So I took in a deep breath and began,

“Dad on 6th of January as I showered, I felt a numbness on my left side. It was a strange feeling that I shooed away until a few days later when I felt ‘something’ on my left breast. Without much thought, I walked into a clinic within spitting distance of my workplace for a quick consultation.” As Murphy would have it, ‘on the day you will need a breast exam, you will meet a young, bashful male medic at the clinic; and he will be the only one on duty.’ The guy could not even look me in the eye as I explained my symptoms to him. He seemed so uncomfortable, he examined me through my clothes. The one time a guy has a free pass to touch some boobs, he chooses to do it through pieces of material! Anyway, he felt something and sent me for an ultrasound — which I did and went back the following week.

If before he seemed shy, now he looked anxious. Again, no eye contact. Just words. He handed over the scans, “I am sending you to a doctor in another hospital who will sort you out.” I knew from his demeanour that whatever it was, was not good. I freaked out and took a few days before going to see the second doctor. When I did, he examined me again and said, “From this ultrasound, and my examination findings, I suspect you could be having breast cancer.” His words backhanded my heart as his mouth kept moving. Bits and pieces of his monologue reached me. I heard things like ‘biopsy, ct scan and surgery.’ In a click, I was on a conveyor belt with no time to stop and think so I just let the process move me. I passed on responsibility from my mind to my feet. Let them decide what to do next; they led me to the scan and later the biopsy. Doc’s last words to me were, “Please do not come alone when you bring the results.”

After the tests, I went to the parking lot of the hospital, sat in my car, stiff as a board and cried. I was only 31. Cancer! Me? How? I called mum and filled her in, “Do you want me to come to you?”

“No mum, I have a date with a friend. We are going for a movie.”

It sounded ridiculous when I said it but I needed to do something normal. Nothing could be done at that moment anyway, except wallow in ‘what ifs’ and ‘why me’s’ so I went for the movie and then headed to my place after that. I locked myself in my apartment for days; and sat potted like a plant. My dad was away for work and we didn’t want to burden him with the news so we waited for him to get back. Too bad my mum didn’t share the script before dinner. I wish she had though, because as soon as the words were out I wanted to snatch them back.

This was the last thing he expected; his expression changing as I spoke. If I were to name the emotions I would say there was shock, pain, sadness and helplessness. I was doing this to him. It had never occurred to me that I would one day, break my father’s heart. The rest had had time to process their emotions offstage. For him, it was like an anvil hit him on the head. A minute ago he was passing soup and now he had forgotten to eat. Speechless. Still. Like a rock. The following day, the rock cracked, he was a soggy mess and he sobbed the way a father would when his only daughter delivers such news.

Mum and Dad accompanied me back to the doctors office where the tests confirmed what we were by now ready to hear. Or so we thought.


"Nimo, you have stage II ductal carcinoma of the breast." His mouth was like a loaded gun, firing words as if he was running out of time. My parents asked the questions. I watched the trio like I would a tennis match — never saying a word. They spoke about me like I was not in the room. Soon the consultation was over but the folks were unsettled so they opted for a second opinion — in India. My mum, made the calls. She knew people who knew people who knew people and in a short while we were on a plane headed far East. The conveyor belt kept moving.

Looking back, the period between the shower and India was only a month. Other than the tears I had shed in the parking lot, I hadn’t had any other emotion. There seemed to be no time to feel. All I knew was that there was this thing in me that I didn’t understand. 

In India, they redid the tests and found I was actually at stage III and not II. Nevertheless they came up with a treatment plan. We would start with chemo to downstage the tumour and then have a lumpectomy done, then radiotherapy. I remember thinking. ‘This is no longer fun and games. This is real. I actually have cancer.’ So I started on chemo. I remember before they gave me the first drug, they asked me to eat and drink lots of water. I took the instructions too far and filled myself up like a barrel and paid for it after the first session. All that food just painted the floor. I vomited so much I could feel the emptiness in my gut. Thank God the rest of the sessions went relatively well. I did two cycles in India then came back to finish the other six in Kenya.

In between chemo, I continued to work. No need making my whole life about this disease. I was intent on shifting my focus to normalcy as much as I could. I told only the people who needed to know and kept myself to myself. My skin became several shades lighter and my hair fell off but I didn’t stop to stare. I just wore a wig and carried on. The conveyor belt kept moving. To kill the fatigue from the chemo, I exercised. Being an outdoor enthusiast, I did all I could to keep that energy up. Walked, jogged,went swimming to stave off the fatigue that stood at the door trying to barge in.

After I completed chemo, I had the surgery, went through radiotherapy and then went into remission. In the same period the best thing happened. A masters program I had applied for, came through. It was in Spain and I couldn’t wait to leave Kenya and its troubles behind. Somewhere at the back of my mind I felt like this opportunity was a new lease of life. A new beginning. While away, I got back to myself. Ate healthy, rode my bike the 3km to school and back everyday. I maintained a stellar level of activity while still attending my appointments both there and at home. Life was great.

At the end of the two years, it was time to come home. By this time I had long gotten off the conveyor belt. I came back with grand ideas and plans of what I wanted to do. My wings had opened up and I started a business.


Until I got a cough.


It wasn’t anything to spend sleepless nights over at first. People cough all the time (except now because you know..Covid). And because I had had a check just three months prior, where everything was normal, I didn’t think too much of it. I took over the counter meds but it persisted and started to keep me awake like a colicky newborn. The doctor reviewed me and sent me for tests. “But we just did these same tests the other day and they were fine,” I said.

“It’s just precaution.”

When I got the results, I looked at them. Having done these tests so many times, I knew what to look for even if I was not a medic. When I did, I imploded. I could clearly see my chest x- ray had things that looked like cotton balls. The report for the scan said there were also masses in my liver. I remember telling dad, “This does not look good.” And I was right. We went for lunch before we got to see the doc. Probably to eat the shock and disappointment as we waited. When we went back to the doc’s office, he took one look at the images and his countenance fell. His voice was almost a whisper, “We were doing so well. I don’t understand what could have happened. Give me some time to consult my peers and get back to you.” There was no reason to exchange any words. So we waited.

He came back with a treatment plan. More chemo. And this was very costly. Our resources were already so depleted. I was angry and could taste the acrid bitterness on my tongue. This didn’t make sense. I had come back home to do great things. I had been ok. Fine, the first time I was diagnosed, I had believed in the whole, ‘there is a purpose for everything’ line. But the relapse!? What was the purpose? Or the lesson? And did it have to be this painful? ‘God why not just write the lesson you want me to learn on tablets like the 10 commandments. Or show me a burning bush. Anything but this!’ Then there was the guilt. Everyone in my family was doing so well. Their businesses were thriving and had just started to break even. Would I now be the one to bankrupt everyone?

Relapse is like having a second child. There is no fuss, no baby showers, no gifts. No one really pays attention. The first time when people find out you have cancer, it’s a thing. People send prayers and inspirational quotes. They visit. When it comes back, it loses it’s novelty. The world goes quiet. Everything about relapse sucks.

I went through 6 more cycles of chemo until the numbers were at a place where I didn’t need to continue. The dull melancholy that had settled like a blanket of dust over my heart, turned into anticipation. I felt strong enough to carry on with my agenda. My will was renewed. With this strength, I moved out of home, grew my business - Nisisi, resumed going to the gym and kept on going to work. Until 6–7 months later when I started coughing again. Gosh this illness was relentless.

This time, not only was I coughing, I was breathless. Going up the two flights of stairs to my apartment felt like I was pushing a boulder up a hill. “You have fluid in your lungs,” Doc told me when I went to see him. He drained it.

It wasn’t until March this year that things got really bad. I was a swamp. Bursting at the seams with fluid. I knew things were thick because I could not even lie flat; sleeping propped up on pillows. I went back to hospital where they drained a whopping three and a half litres of fluid from my lungs. My tumor markers were high. The drugs were not working. My doc changed the meds and the numbers went down but came back up again. Covid scares me. It still does. When people say, “The ones at risk are the guys with co-morbidities,” I think, “Well that’s me.”

Now I am at a point where all I can do is go to work, come home and sleep. I have since moved back home because I became too weak to even cook for myself. There are days my body feels like it is dying — like a piece of heavy machinery and there are days it feels alive. I just take each day as it comes. I am unable to do physically exerting things anymore. I do not carry anything heavy — and by heavy I mean my laptop. I am most sad about the inability to be outdoors like I used to. I am trapped within myself — limited by my own body. I have tried new things like baking. But you can only bake so much. So I am wondering whether to start knitting blankets or crotcheting mats.


Jealous. That is what I feel when I see people doing the things I long to do and can’t. I watch people jogging on the roads and I reminisce.

I have conversations with God about my goals and the things I still want to achieve. I am trying to negotiate for a certain amount of time that I will need to finish these things. I am not afraid of dying; I am afraid of leaving things undone.

There is a certain clarity that comes when you are faced with your mortality. I have no trivialities anymore. I travel light and keep a tight circle. I have to be calm in my existence; avoid catching feelings. I simply have no energy for it. I am a battery that loses charge as the day progresses and when it gets to a certain point, I cannot function. My priorities are clear: Family( and friends who have become family), my health and my work — which gives me something to do and look forward to. 

At my last appointment, Doc told me, “Nimo as long as you keep fighting, I will fight with you.” And I smile. Because thats the thing about cancer. People like to call it a fight, as if the stronger ones win and the weaker ones lose but that’s not what cancer is at all.

I know my illness is advanced and I am on palliative care. Cancer is not one of the players in the game. It is the game and I wake up intending to show up with my jersey on to play as best as I can.


When I wake up in the morning, and I find I have the strength to do something, I do it. For that is all I have. That day.



 

As Narrated to me by Wairimu Maina — an amazing soul



The interview was done on October 20th 2020. Wairimu rested on August 19th 2021.


RIP Nimu. Dearly missed by friends and family.







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Agnes Akinyi
Agnes Akinyi
Oct 07, 2021

May she rest in power. She was a warrior !

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Agnes Akinyi
Agnes Akinyi
Nov 09, 2020

May God satisfy you with a fulfilling life Bobi. Thanks for sharing your story. A true Shujaa !

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My heart feels heavy after reading this,Bobi is very brave.i choose to travel light as she does.sending love,warm hugs,prayers and so much light her way

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Replying to

This is terribly sad. May she rest in peace

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This is beautiful.

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patricia.oketch
patricia.oketch
Oct 20, 2020

Bibi is brave. Praying that she will accomplish whatever it is she wants to do.

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