Life is unpredictable enough as it is. Every second of our lives is a risk. We face death from all corners of our lives; be it a collapsing building, a fatal car accident, an environmental disaster, or just a mere cold, among many other eventualities.
Being diagnosed with a terminal illness feels like a death sentence. The disease is a constant reminder of the ‘imminent’ death leaving us anxious and in shock.
So, when my aunt Lydia Muthoni was diagnosed with cancer of the breast back in 2011, life as she knew fell apart. She was devastated by the disease. More so, because she felt her kids still needed her. Her youngest daughter was still in college at the time.
One fine morning, the world fell apart
Like every other morning, Muthoni stood in front of the dressing mirror after a shower.
“… I had been standing in front of the mirror in the past, but hadn’t seen any anomalies,” Muthoni observes.
“I noticed a swelling on my left breast, which had formed a slight depression.”
“I pressed it. It was not painful. But it bothered me,” Muthoni notes.
To ease her worries, she visited a hospital. The doctor recommended fine needle aspiration (FNA) to collect sample tissue for diagnosis and to lay her worries at rest, or so they thought.
The time following the test was filled with trepidation. Days felt like weeks and nights were spent wallowing in despair.
Finally, after one week, the results were out.
A fatty tissue was found in the breast. The doctor suspected it could be malignant. He advised further investigation through biopsy.
Muthoni needed money to undergo the tests.
After weeks of pooling resources from friends and family, the tests were carried out. Two weeks of more worrying and devastation, the results came back. That was in April 2011. Once again, this was the hardest time for Muthoni, and the results did not offer any consolation. The results showed malignant cells. She had second stage breast cancer.
Her world was shattered.
The news stubbed her heart and left her in pain and misery. She was concerned about her daughters. Muthoni worried about life and what it meant at the moment.
The doctor suggested a complete mastectomy.
But first, she needed to speak to a number of people. Luckily, her younger sister stepped in to help. In search of support and to gather more information and experiences, the two embarked on a journey to meet and hear from other patients and survivors. Left with no other option, she scheduled for the surgery. It was the best decision for her. She hoped. Friends, family, and colleagues came in handy to check on her and offer support and hope.
Life on hold
Cancer puts life on hold. Muthoni was hit by this harsh reality after a round of chemotherapy.
“Realizing I had terminal illness was tough especially when I thought of my family,” she said remembering the painful situation.
“It happened one time when I had the third dose of chemo,” she says in a correspondence. “I was so weak that I thought I wouldn’t make it,” she adds noting that she requested her sister to contact the doctor and inquire about her chance to survive. All she needed is enough time to see her daughter graduate from college. “This was the moment I was hit by the realization that cancer had put my life on hold, and as expected, it terrified me.”