I was diagnosed last year. It wasn’t caught early enough, and so the doctors couldn’t operate on me. I was taken to theatre though, for staging under anesthesia and for biopsy harvesting. They told me I had stage three cervical cancer. I kept wondering what it all meant, what it meant to have stage three disease, until a young girl, with a smile between easy and plastic, in her twenties( most certainly), explained it to me. Now this girl was so good with words, the way she put everything almost gave me hope that I would live long, long enough to see my babies grow, long enough to retire and earn my pension, long enough to become a grandmother. I do not blame her, how can I abuse her good manners? How can I judge the poor thing yet I don’t know how she deals with women who are younger than me who have been diagnosed with cervical cancer? I appreciate all the hope that she gave me although it was too much I wish she told me the truth. I appreciate the time that she spent with me, she said people are different and disease progresses fast or slow depending on an individual, I agree, problem is, I belong in the category of fast progressors. Do you know what that means? It means that I die soon, maybe today or tomorrow or next week, or probably next year. I do not know when I want to die. I want it soon and later. I want it soon because living is costly. These days I leak shit and urine just trickles down my legs, adult pampers are too expensive, and I hate the smell of my beddings. I am tired of becoming anemic every now and then, I have received too much blood, and I wonder why my bone marrow can’t just make enough blood these days. I have slept in the hospital too many times, and I am just tired, I am tired of white beddings, of rude women dressed in blue and white in the name of nurses, of little boys and girls in white lab coats asking me every day of the number of children I have had, of the number of sexual partners I have had, and all those clinic questions.
Maybe now it has become stage four disease, maybe it is my two feet on the grave now not just one. I am dying. Who will teach Kanana how to become a woman? Who will teach her how to make chapattis? Who will show her how to wear her pad when she gets her first period? Who will even buy her pads? Who will be the woman in my son’s life? If I die now when he is only eight, then from whom will he learn how to treat women? Who will hold my children as I am being lowered into the earth? Who will hold them as they listen to the earth falling on the box wherein I will be contained? Cancer oh stupid cancer, I have only had thirty five years on earth. My twenties went just like that, when thirties came, I settled down with my babies, I was ready to make something out of this life. Then, I set down to work, to be the best wife, the best mothers, did I have many years to carry out my dream? No. you came knocking, just when I was beginning to know the meaning of life, just when I was learning how to be a mother. In just a year I am reduced to bones with a coat of thin flesh hanging here and there. I no longer wear clothes, I hate the frustration of looking for the smallest size and besides, where is the money to buy the clothes? This is not about money though but I must admit that I am poor now, I wonder how my funeral will be like, and huh si cancer has siphoned all the money?
The doctors don’t understand how I, a young beautiful educated woman sat at home with cancer, how I passed through stage one and two without ever going to the hospital. They don’t understand that I am a subject, I am part of the ruled, I have no luxury of walking to the hospital, the money in my pockets is too little. I am society and we in society, we only fight real battles, if there is no pain, then there is no need of going to the hospital. The hospital is for the wounded, for those who are bleeding and for the overly sick. we never worry about weight loss and lack of appetite, these only worry our leaders, but we, the ruled, cannot worry about lack of appetite when we don’t even have enough to eat. We are too emaciated that we never recognize additional weight loss, it is only our fat leaders (no pun) who can recognize as their necks become thinner and as the fats over their tummies melt. We, we only learn this things about screening and vaccines in KNH and Mulago hospitals as we struggle to be booked for radiotherapy. Then we are left imagining how this knowledge would have been good had we gotten it ten years earlier. But we the ruled cannot do much, we live in a country where we are governed. Whether I live through this week or not depends on whether the striking doctors resume work soon enough coz I am pale again. I know I need blood so badly. But the provincial general hospital has no doctors. I know they know that people are dying. But they don’t know that it is me, who is dying, leaving behind two small children and a husband who has married, because being a widower sucks. Whether I live through this strike depends on whether God wills me to. Oh the pains of living. The struggle we go through we, we who have terminal illnesses.