The following day, I saw a doctor and was scheduled for surgery the day after. I am a born-again Christian and I asked a few friends to join me in prayers. I was not afraid. Prayer warriors were praying with me and for me. The words of Isaiah 43: 1-2 gave me peace – “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

On 25 May 2014 as I was being wheeled to the theatre at 6pm, I kept meditating on these verses. I wasn’t worried. I knew I would make it. I am a typical woman and I love Mexican soaps and after a hard day’s work, they always help me unwind. I remember telling my niece on my way to the theatre: “See you at 8 pm as we watch our favorite Mexican soap”. I had no doubt in my mind whatsoever that I would come out of theatre alive.

I underwent a mastectomy, which was then followed six weeks of healing. Meanwhile, I had decided that I wouldn’t let my status define me. I knew I had cancer, period. I was not going to think about the stage of cancer I was in, but I was just going to concentrate on my treatment and getting well. I went through 8 chemotherapy sessions, 30 radiation, and 16 session of Herceptin. I was also put on tamoxifen to take for five years. But I was determined to soldier on.

Wanjiru Githuka at a forum raising awareness on cancer.
Wanjiru Githuka at a forum raising awareness on cancer.

No Arguing with the Doctors

Generally, I’m a poor feeder but when I was on treatment, I purposed to eat so as to be strong, so that the chemo drugs would not put me down. I followed my doctor’s instructions to the letter. I don’t like meat but she told me, “You have to eat meat, at least three to four pieces daily. Take a glass of milk every day and eat a balanced diet.” I did that, no questions asked.

I went through chemotherapy with no major setbacks. However, I know that the thought of chemotherapy scares many. I remember people would come visit and tell me they weren’t expecting to find me ‘that way’. Even at my weakest, I was strong and jovial. Even with my bald head I felt fashionable. Because of the sun, I’d wear wigs; a friend of mine bought me four good ones. My friends and family supported me throughout. Some would take me to hospital and sit with me during chemo. Even though I slept during the sessions, I would wake up and find them there, sitting patiently as I slept.

I Should have told my Son

Friends would call me whenever they saw cancer features on TV. I remember seeing survivors sharing their experiences and getting very encouraged. My mantra was: “If they made it, I will too. If they survived all those years, then why not me? I told myself that one day I would also share my story and be a source of encouragement to others.

When my son finally got to learn what I was going through, he was really mad at me and the rest of the family. “Anything could have happened”, he said. “I had a right to know!”

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