As you have probably noticed by now, I usually kick off posts in the JS Kicking Cancer’s Ass series by giving a little backstory into my mum’s battle with cancer before diving into the post. However, I am electing to do things a little different today seeing as I am picking up my mum’s story for the first time since October 28th.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and for that reason I was intentional with only putting up posts from the JS Kicking Cancer’s Ass series that month. The month long break from the series in November, on the other hand, was not intentional. I had intended to put up a post on November 19th to coincide with the day my mum was admitted to hospital for the last time, but that did not happen and I will explain why in next week’s post.
That said, today’s post is a plan B one as my initial idea was to have my brother write one of the themes in the series. Theme 4 of 13, ‘The Firstborn aka The Caregiver’, was from my perspective and theme 9 of 13, ‘The Second Born aka The Nurturer’, was my from sister’s perspective. I had hoped my brother would write ‘The Lastborn aka The Only Boy’ as the final perspective from my mum’s three children, and I reached out to him a couple of weeks ago with my request but, sadly and predictably, he did not respond to my text. My brother and I have barely spoken over the last two years, something I wrote about briefly last year in S Is For Siblings and unfortunately the situation has only gotten worse since then. This year I have only seen him once and that was for my uncle’s funeral in July. To make matters worse we have only spoken one other time in March when he called me, quite briefly I may add, because he got the date wrong for the International Women’s Day event I was hosting with my BFF Adelle Onyango.
But we move regardless so here I am with my plan B post. However just because it is a plan B post does not mean it is less weighty than the other posts I have put up in the series. This post is just as important the others because even though my mum’s battle with cancer was incredibly difficult for us as a family, it was not all gloom and doom. When a loved one is battling a terminal illness, the dark days can get incredibly overwhelming and overshadow the brighter days. But there were lots of happy moments throughout my mum’s battle with cancer and those happy moments are what we held onto and kept us going as a family on our darkest of days.
I have very many happy memories of my mum during her five year battle with stage four breast cancer. From micro moments like talking with her till late at night on the days she was not in pain, to macro moments like her 56th birthday lunch at the Chinese restaurant ‘For You, buying her a laptop on my last Mother’s Day as a daughter, and everything in between.
I have said before that my mum was my favourite chatterbox. Lawd that woman could talk! After we got both day and night nurse aides, the days I would come home and she was not in pain my mum and I would talk for hours. My favourite thing about those conversations would be how I would try to say goodnight because I had work the next day but my mum would “and then” me to death. Lol.
Me: Sawa. Goodnight mum
My mum: And then… *proceeds to give me another story*
Me (after the story is over): Sawa. Goodnight mum
My mum: Heeee! And then I didn’t tell you about… *proceeds to give me another story*
It would go on and on and on like that and after an hour or so I would give up trying to go bed early and would sit with her and listen to all her stories till about midnight.
Fun fact: my boyfriend also “and thens” me to death from time to time when it is time to sleep and the first time I realised what he was doing, it really melted my heart to know that my boyfriend is just like my mum in that sense.
My mum was, and I say this with a lot of love, quite the tech idiot. I mean I get it from her so no shade whatsoever. Lol. That did not stop her from loving technology though. She was on Facebook like all parents are, but she was also on Twitter and Pinterest though she would call the latter Pin-interest. Lol. I will never forget the day one of her favourite characters in The Good Wife was killed off and she told me she was going to tweet the show and ask them to explain why they would choose to do something like that. Lol. She also joined Instagram at some point in 2017 and on Monday October 9, 2017 I woke up to a follow request from my mum. I never accepted it because I did not want her to see my many weed posts, and unfortunately 65 days after sending me that follow request she lost the battle with cancer on December 13th at 1: 10 a.m.
One of my favourite happy memories with my mum was watching Scandal with her. Oh how my mum loooooved Scandal! She was team Olitz through and through! I will never forget the day she said, “I just want them to move to Vermont and make jam.” I was totally taken aback and it was then I realised she was a fan frfr! So when she was home I would pour myself a glass of wine and watch the episode of the week with her. The only problem though were the sex scenes. My mum was a cool mum who knew I was sexually active and had no problem with it, but damn Scandal could have some really intense sex scenes that made for extremely uncomfortable viewing with a parent. In those moments something on my phone would suddenly capture my interest and would conveniently not let go until the scene was over. Lol. Watching Scandal with my mum was one of our favourite things to do together and it pains me that she died not long after the final season started. She only watched two or three episodes of the final season because her cancer came back in October 2017, the same month that Scandal resumed. The show aired its winter finale on November 16th and three days later my mum was admitted in hospital for the final time. When she came back home after spending 22 nights in the hospital, I remember telling her how excited I was to catch up on Scandal with her. Sadly my excitement did not come to fruition as my mum died 31 hours after she got home from the hospital.
I have very many memories of happy moments with my mum so this post could go on forever. Happiness is meant to be shared though, so in that vein I tasked my sister and cousins to share with me some of their happy moments as well and I will conclude with their snippets. It is my wish that anyone reading this who has a loved one(s) battling a terminal illness, it may remind you to focus on the moments of happiness and draw comfort from them when the dark days threaten to overwhelm you.
My sister Aud
My favourite moments with my mum from when she was battling cancer were all the moments we got to treat her and make her feel special and loved because she truly was.
The special moment that I have chosen to write about was Mother’s Day 2017. We are a family who loves birthdays, Christmas, New Years, basically any special day and Mother’s Day was especially important to us because our mother was literally Superwoman and Wonder woman combined. So we always made a point of treating her on that day. Our mum ran her businesses everyday till the day she passed away and would do some work online therefore needed a laptop but always sacrificed to buy me or my siblings one for school work. So that year my sister decided we should surprise her with a laptop for Mother’s day. We also got the usual flowers and a bottle of Amarula. That evening my brother grilled some steaks and we cooked roast potatoes as the first part of her gift. For a Gourmet Chef like my mum who was also a big food critic, we had to get this first part on point. After that we brought her the flowers and a bottle of Amarula. She was in her bed at the time and was really ecstatic about the gifts. Then my sister gave her a laptop bag which she was polite about receiving and even said how she would use it to carry her documents. But when we told her we were not done and brought out the laptop she was in actual disbelief and in her true dramatic nature made some loud gasps and gave us some shocked expressions. I think it took her 5 minutes to realize she now finally had a laptop but I would not trade those 5 minutes of pure unfiltered excitement for any other. It will be a memory I always cherish.
My Cousin Vanessa
The moment I keep going back to is the get-together where we met at home before we went to Artcaffe in Lavington.
I remember we were all in the kitchen and JS was giving steps to her amazing recipe for beef stroganoff (that’s where I learnt the recipe) and after we as gals were sat at the dining table and the aunties in the living room and there was an informal battle of who was the loudest between us and The Geng.
It was a great day up until we got kicked out of Artcaffe.
*** Editor’s note – The Geng ended up winning the battle. Those women
were are (my mum is the only “were” ☹) loud AF!! Also, my mum bought two 1.5l bottles of wine for us – her daughters and nieces – to enjoy during the get together.
My (other) Cousin Vanessa
Some of my favorite memories with JS were when I’d tag along with my mum for the Sunday Sister Sessions. There would be so much laughter, so much shade, so much beautiful energy. I loved going for those meet ups cause my mum who is mostly pretty quiet and composed gets so animated when talking to her sisters. I remember
teaching trying to teach Aunty Jane how to take a screen shot! Heaven help me! Kwanza she had a Nokia phone I wasn’t familiar with. It took us all of two hours, mpaka her chai poad (that’s how determined she was to learn that she let the tea poa!) and by the time we were leaving she’d already forgotten. I remember how jazzed she’d get when she got one right without the volume thingy. I didn’t know how to support her during her ailment and she had such a good support system who were with her for the hard parts but helping out with such random things made me feel a bit useful in the equation.
*** Editor’s note – Sunday Sister Sessions … I am sooo stealing that for future use 😊
My Cousin Barbara
Happy moments with JS: Oh my!! So many to choose from aki. For me, I thoroughly enjoyed how I automatically became her co-host during the get togethers. I’d just automatically find myself in the kitchen with a mwiko chapaing stories with her and we cook the meals together. She was so happy for me when I enrolled for my degree. When I told her how they refused to start classes and I went there in a fit and told them to return the money for fees, she said to me, “Barbara (there’s a way she would say my name that I pray I never forget ❤) if I wasn’t on a wheelchair! Heeee! I would have been there with you bringing the house down warudishe hio pesa” 😂😂 We laughed so hard about that coz it was so true.
Lastly, the last Sunday she was on this earth I went to see her in hosi. She was being discharged on Monday and she’d told my mum she wanted headphones but I forgot to bring them. Coincidentally I was listening to music on the way there and when I entered the room she looked at me, ata hakunisalimia 😂😂 before saying, “Heeee Barbara, ata ni vizuri umejileta, ebu bring those earphones (not the ones I was intending to give her) quickly I was waiting for them…” Yaani ❤❤❤
*** Editor’s note – my mum died 31 hours after she got home from the hospital. Barbara did not have the opportunity to give her the headphones so she gave them to me instead and I still have them to this very day.