This time last year, I was a patient at the BLK Hospital in New Delhi. I had just undergone my bone marrow transplant and was taking each moment, and each day as it came.
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I’ve struggled to look back at the photos, videos or posts that emerged during that period of hospitalization. I don’t know why. Maybe I just want to move on and keep on living and enjoying my health, or maybe it’s hard for me to go back to that place where I was a cancer patient. Perhaps, because it was the first time in my life that I was that vulnerable.
I had to let go and trust the medical team at the hospital; trust their methods and, more importantly, trust my body to fight and to heal. I had to surrender my independence and agree to be ‘nursed’ by my family. I had to admit that I was a patient and I was at my weakest ever!
I had gone through nausea, mouth sores, endless diarrhoea, some fever, poor appetite and my hair loss. My body was at its weakest.
Then, my platelets had grafted, and that was a good thing. The transplant had been successful. However, every day was a filled with anxiety as I hoped and prayed for the platelet count to get to normal. I was starting from zero. I kept on urging my body to heal, for I needed a win. I think we all needed that.
My friend, Paul, asked me the other day whether there were any dark moments while in India. I said no. They were more fearful than dark. I was at a point where I had to trust, rest and hope.
Even as I write this, I’m a mixture of emotions although the overriding feeling that I have is gratitude, overwhelming gratitude. I tell folks that India healed me. As I look back at the seven weeks on the sub-continent, I recognize that I had to be taken outside the comfort zone of my home, a medical system that I was familiar with, my culture and Kenya in order to trust, rest and hope.
There are many tough, humbling and memorable moments that will stay with me. I can only say thank you, India, for you opened my eyes to many new things and to parts of me that were latent. In being reflective, I find myself smiling at the kindness I received from various quarters. There was that moment I received a hijra blessing while stuck in the capital’s traffic, making a silent prayer at a Buddhist temple in Manju-ka-Tilla, and seating on the floor on the metro and enjoying the commute alongside other Delhiites. Namaste!
That was a year ago. I’ve thought about India every day this month, and I know May 2015, October 2015 and June 2016 will forever be milestones in my life. That was a year ago. I’m in a good space and taking each moment as it comes and still hugging life.
I’ve just finished another round of maintenance treatment (number ten to be precise) and have a week off before I resume another round. This is my new normal. I still have a year of monthly calcium shots to do and consider my monthly blood tests kawaida. I’m still learning about this disease and accepting the fact that my body is not what it was before May 2015. That is disheartening, but it hasn’t stopped me from moving on. I may not always have a spring in my step, but I’m still walking and appreciating the things that make me me and that I am passionate about.
Two weeks ago, I was at an LGBTI and sex workers’ conference, and I marvelled at the passion and freedom that was being shared by other African activists. I got a little emotional because I was ‘home’ and back in the throes of a movement that is close to my heart. I am moving on. A year ago, I was in a different place fighting a different battle. I’m back, with new eyes and a new appreciation for life. I do feel vulnerable now and then, but more than anything — I’m in a good space.