I always wear this imaginary hat that I imaginarily take off and bow down to anyone who does an exemplary deed. This very hat is the one I removed recently for one *Jennifer, my neighbor whom I recently met and invited to my house for a spot of tea.
I have this habit of striking conversations with strangers…not just any strangers though. Strangers who look like they have had better days filled with sunshine, those who look like they can do with a little cheering up, a smile, a hug perhaps…that will just make them feel better. So on this particular day, I’m seated in a matatu , next to this girl who seemed really really sad (she could have literally turned blue if that were possible) and I thought she needed some cheering up. Of course she didn’t let out much but she did admit that she had had a long day which has become part of her daily script. After talking for a bit we realized we live in the same building hence the invite to my house for some tea. She looked harmless…just sad!
Anyway… Jen confided that her boyfriend of three years is a cancer patient. Leukemia to be precise and the reason I take my hat off for her is because she has stuck by her boyfriend despite the lows and trips to the hospital. Every once in a while (the once in a while being very frequent of late) she has to rush her boyfriend -who is slowly losing hope-to hospital. Most of his friends disappeared and stopped checking up on him after a while and of late he has been trying to push her away from his life saying that he doesn’t deserve her. That she doesn’t deserve to stick by someone so sick and that she should concentrate on her life. He says it is ok if she disappeared from his life too and that he’ll be fine on his own. He doesn’t want to be a burden on her… and that is the part that is making Jen sad because she really doesn’t mind at all.
Of course Jen is not taking any of that seriously. She knows he is just stressed out and tired of being in pain. She was with him at the hospital that first time the doctor broke the news that he had Leukemia. She was holding his hand and as tears flooded her cheeks, she vowed to be by his side no matter what it took.
Although, she admits that it is a tough situation she is in currently. Constantly overwhelmed by guilt whenever she has to work or do other things like hanging out with friends and remembering her vow to take care of him. She has to take him to hospital and sometimes watch helplessly as he gets admitted for days on end and him insisting that he wants to go home …to die. It’s that kind of talk that depresses her too. Sometimes, she is afraid that the worst might happen, that that could be the last time she sees him alive but she forces herself to shove such thoughts away. Meanwhile, she keeps praying that he will beat the bloody cancer and be the healthy man that he once was just a couple of months ago. She has learnt firsthand never to take health for granted.
She doesn’t mind taking care of him and she doesn’t mind the trips to the hospital (sometimes in the middle of the night) and she holds on to the good memories pre-diagnosis. It’s all for love. She says he is the best boyfriend ever and never had she met someone with such a beautiful soul hence her decision to stick by through sickness and health… On good days, when he is better he treats her like a queen, cooks for her and waits for her to get home from work. Uses the last of his energy to stay up longer on that night so that he can enjoy that good day with her because he never knows what pain the next day may bring. And the most amazing thing she said to me…she would marry him in a heartbeat if he asked her. Now, isn’t that the sweetest thing you ever heard?
I once watched a movie about this woman who suffered from serious short term memory loss. Every day she would have to start over thinking it’s the same day and everyday she would even forget her boyfriend. The boyfriend would try to romance her every day hoping that she would fall for him without getting tired or bored of trying…. But that was just a movie…
Jen’s story is real. Now, would you do what she does on a daily? Stand by your partner as they become frail by the day, lose their hair, have sunken eyes, lose hope and become helpless? And all the while you have to be strong for the both of you…all for nothing in return? Or would you take off faster than lightening never to be seen again? Think about it! It takes the strong at heart to go through something like this.