If we all had an opportunity to choose or make decisions on how we wanted our lives to be, then I believe that we would like a good, comfortable, and happy life – smooth sailing. But that is just a wish because He that gives us life and who knew us even before we were formed in our mother’s wombs has given us His Holy Spirit to be our guide and helper in life’s journey, through the good and the not-so-good.
When John met Esther, just like any other couple, they looked forward to living happily. When expecting their first child in mid-2016, Esther had some complications that made her visit the hospital severally for a blood transfusion. Initially, tests did not indicate abnormality either with her or the fetus she carried. Results varied from chronic ulcers to fibroids but the mystery of her fatigue and low blood levels continued. Her health got worse between August and September 2017, about six months after she was put on bed rest. Esther was admitted in the hospital and remained there for the next three months, marking the end of breastfeeding for their baby. During this period extensive tests were done and in April of 2018, about a year after the birth of her child, Esther was diagnosed with colon cancer metastasis to the uterus.
Esther became very sickly and because of this, her loving husband decided to wait until she got stronger to break this devastating news to her. But even when she seemed strong enough, he could not bring himself to tell her what had been discovered. John made arrangements with the doctor to have her started on treatment and planned to reveal what she was ailing from before she went in for her first session.
On the day, John wondered how to break the news to her. He agonized over it as they woke up that morning, as they prepared to leave the house. By the time they got to the matatu stage, he still had not revealed what was going on. They got into the matatu and headed to the hospital and it wasn’t until they arrived, and Esther realized they were going towards the chemotherapy centre, that John found his voice. Esther looked at her husband and asked him, “Do I have cancer?” John’s heart sank. He had known that at some point he would need to tell her about the doctors’ findings. He forced himself to look at her and gently told her what the tests revealed.
That day marked the beginning of a long, emotional journey. Regular hospital visits, unending tests, series of operations became the norm, and the saddest part was that Esther’s life began to change right before John’s eyes. She lost weight and became a shadow of her former self. She had challenges eating and sleeping. Throughout, John had to play the role of dad and mom to their infant son as Esther was unable to do her part. On top of this, he also became her primary caregiver.
With Esther incapacitated, John became the sole bread earner and with household expenses and growing medical bills, hiring a nurse to take care of Esther at home was not an option. Work was hard to come by and with every bit going straight to cover their immediate needs, they had nothing to spare. It got to the point where John’s family asked him to let his wife’s’ family take care of her but he could not bring himself to do this as her family was already struggling to provide for themselves. Thankfully, God used John’s friends to walk with the couple. They took charge of organizing fundraisers, provided transport to and from the hospital, and ensured that John and Esther did not walk this journey alone.
During one of their hospital visits, while Esther was being attended to, John took a stroll to the hospital canteen. On his way, a lady stopped him and introduced herself as a patient who had been receiving treatment at the same clinic as Esther. She went on to tell John that there was a lady that she would like to introduce him to who had been of tremendous help to her and whom they too could benefit from. At that point, John was willing to try anything that would assist his wife in any way so he readily agreed.
John was introduced to Winnie on the same day. Winnie, a breast cancer warrior who is still undergoing treatment was instrumental in helping John and Esther psychologically. She would call to check to check on them and that, John says, helped a great deal as they felt cared for. Winnie later got in touch with Twakutukuza Trust seeking counseling support for Esther and John. At this point, Esther was not responding to treatment and so had been sent back home. She was in a lot of pain and unable to move.
John remembers every moment as if it was yesterday. He recounts how he saw life leave his wife slowly but surely. He did not understand how he had enough strength daily for both of them, and more so, strength to explain to their son what was happening to his mother. The young child was about 2 years old at the time and naturally very inquisitive. He too wanted to help take care of his mummy and would rush to call his father whenever he saw her in distress.
John’s faith grew during this period and he attributes it all to God. In his words “Ni Mungu tu” (only God).
On 26th December 2019, Esther asked to visit her maternal home to see her grandfather who had been ill. She had been taking care of him while she lived with them. It had been a while since John saw his wife looking stronger and even willing to leave the house. He spoke to some friends and managed to get a vehicle that would take them to Esther’s rural home. John remembers the excitement on the faces of those at home when they arrived but at the same time, he could see the worry and concern when they saw Esther.
Esther passed on four days after their arrival. John now takes care of their son and is slowly adjusting to life without his beloved Esther.
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