To hope or not to hope? Sorry Shakespeare but that is the question. Because in my experience, hope is as powerful as it is dangerous.
I think what I struggled with most when it came to my mum’s cancer journey battle with cancer was her paralysis. My mum was the quintessential social butterfly and the queen of roundi mwendaa. I remember a random Saturday afternoon (before she was diagnosed with cancer) we were chilling in her room when she said:
“Heh! Si I’m bored. I think I’ll go to Ngara to buy potatoes.”
It appears my company is not more stimulating than potatoes because she really did get into her car and drive off to Ngara to buy potatoes. She left at 2 p.m. and did not return till around 7 p.m. Later on in my mid to late twenties when my mum would ask me why I cannot just chill at home I would reply:
“Haiya! But si I get it from you.”
Lol. But for real my mum was always out and about doing something: from going to the market, to visiting family and friends, to driving eight hours upcountry to visit our shaggz, and everything in between. So when she lost the use of her legs I could not help but feel like she had also lost a part of her essence and I raged and cried at the unfairness of it for a very long time.
In 2015/2016 my mum decided to try … I guess you can call it alternative treatment, to manage her pain. This was in addition to the pain management solutions, physiotherapy and occupational therapy sessions provided under her medical insurance cover. Part of the alternative treatment process involved trying to bring back some feeling into her nerves, something I will cover in detail as I write about JS kicking cancer’s ass. One day during my mum’s at-home physiotherapy session she stood up on her own, something she had been unable to do before. One of my aunties was with her during the session and when she saw her stand up she started shouting for joy. My sister and I immediately rushed over to find out what all the commotion was about. Once told what had happened we joined in the celebration as well as it was a big fucking deal.
Later on when my sister and I were alone she asked me if I really thought mum would walk again. I replied that I was so terrified of jinxing it that I did not even want to think about it. But in my heart I took my mum’s win at physiotherapy as a sign that she would walk again.
I do not think I ever admitted, whether to myself or out loud to others, that my mum’s paralysis was permanent. If I really think about it I suppose I always knew she would never walk again, but I never stopped hoping she would. In a 2016 Mother’s Day blog post I wrote that the only thing I wanted to gift my mum was the use of her legs and that I was desperate enough to make a deal with a Crossroad Demon a la Supernatural if only they were real. Which is why I now believe hope is powerful and dangerous in equal measure. If you are deliberate and intentional with what you want, and you work really hard for it, most times the universe will reward you accordingly. But how badly you want something is also directly proportional to how badly your heart will break if it does not pan out. And nothing breaks like a heart.
The paralysis devastated my mum in a way I will never be able to properly articulate. It made me feel extremely useless seeing her so heartbroken but unable to do anything to ease both her physical and emotional pain. So when I came across this article on a miraculous surgery performed by the “godfather of spinal surgery” Dr. Geoff Askin I reached out to him. If he could reattach a toddler’s head to its neck surely he could do something about my mum’s spinal nerves.
Below is the email I wrote as well as the response I received. I have never shared this email, or the fact that I wrote it, with anyone in my life before today. If it were not for the blog I probably would never have shared it for as long as I live because there are some parts of my mum’s battle with cancer that are just so painful to think about. But here we are so, errr … happy reading?