Kevin Mwachiro was preparing for a marathon, in the best of shape for a man in his forties when his lower back started acting up. It would be the beginning of an agonising and life awakening journey of survival against multiple myeloma; a blood cancer that occurs in the plasma cells of the bone marrow. He found himself in a fight for life that he did not even know he had been training for.
Words: Kevin Mwachiro
When I got diagnosed with cancer, many people told me once I got through with this journey I would be different. Back in November last year(2015), I didn’t know what to expect and was dismissive of such statements. I just wanted to get on with it. My biggest fear then was chemotherapy and how I was going to pay for my treatment.
Ati, different?? There was no time to think of different.
However, this journey does leave you different, and when you do come through, you look at life with a new perspective. Don’t be rushing to me to ask what the meaning of life is, nor will I be heading to the hills to set up a commune. But, there is something profound in this journey.
However, I’m here. Like I said once before, hugging life, and I’ve been reflecting, and I will admit in the privacy of my home dancing by myself a lot more. Well, because I can, and I miss being on the dance floor. I’ve also been thinking about this blog and wondering what direction it should take. Is this now my only story? I’m pondering too about my dreams and passions and wanting to make my heart happier. I want it to dance too.
I’m here. Every morning I look into the mirror and stare at my moon head and wonder whether my hair will grow back or whether I should keep this look. Before my hair fell off, I’d contemplated wearing a turban to cover my head, but that all changed when I realized that there’d be no point in hiding my head.
I needed to be healthy so that cancer doesn’t win so that I don’t end up being another ‘woiye’ or pity cancer story…
This journey has been very public, and I felt that I’d be hiding the most obvious sign of my cancer, my kipara, my baldness. Here’s my war wound, and I find a sense of pride in it. I’m a cancer fighter and proof that life can and will throw a few spanners in your direction. Though I must admit, hair loss in most cases is easier to deal with amongst us guys.
In the last nine months, there have been markers in the course of the treatment that I zeroed in on. I’d focused on the chemo and not letting it get the better off me and then I focused on the transplant and getting through that. I wanted to be strong and fight strong for myself, family, friends, and supporters. I needed to be healthy so that cancer doesn’t win so that I don’t end up being another ‘woiye’ or pity cancer story, which seem to do the rounds readily. I didn’t want that to be my story. I want mine to be different.
In trying to get through these markers, I learnt that I had to engage cancer on my terms. It may sound arrogant, but it’s how I got through. Comparing my treatment phases to a road race and mentally mapping the course like you do in a marathon helped greatly. Facing the fear of cancer, and learning from people who had faced a similar fear made me overcome the loneliness of this battle. I was urged to be real to the feelings that come with this illness.
I sat at the feet of women who had gone through either cancer or similar procedures. Thank you, Po, Wambui x2, and Lorna. There was hard truth, compassion, and empathy that didn’t leave me feeling hopeless. It was fuel for the journey. I listened to this rawness and implanted it within me. Often asking myself, whether I’d have the same strength. That fuel saw me through the days when I run into lows. I was allowed to be down, and there was no shame in being down. This was part of the journey.
I’m here. Appreciating what my body has gone through. It has fought for me. I’ve come a long way from the early days when I was disappointed with it. I was angry that my body went out there and got cancer. NKT! We were meant to be running marathons, and not battling myeloma. ‘O body where art thou?’
I moved from fighting fit to fighting fear. This is the longest period in many years that I have not been running or exercising regularly and for someone who is passionate about fitness, this is a knock that goes to the heart. However, I am more than convinced that being in good health has had a factor in seeing me through this process with minimal bumps.
I’m here. Knowing full well that this process has changed me. Indeed, it has left me different. This new normal has come with a new set of eyes. There are so many lessons that I’ve learnt and still learning. Furthermore, I’m still aware that life will continue to throw both surprises and spanners in my direction, but that is part of the bigger journey that we are all involved in.
This process has left me feeling invincible, but in the same vein also vulnerable. Nonetheless, I’m standing tall for I have been in a race that I didn’t know I was training for.