November rains fall light but ceaselessly sometimes till late at night. Accompanying nights are gloomy and sad; owls and bats come out of their holes and dance about in frenzy. Children wet themselves in their beds and the adults are too scared to jabber and roam about. Cows moan silently in the cold, crickets go slow on their song and fowls shake and fall from their perch each time thunder roars. At such moments the devil is not far away, he lurks somewhere in the dark awaiting a good soul to offer companion. This particular night he had played his cards right and a good soul walked by. The good soul was that of Cucu, my grandmother.

Earlier, that is three months she had walked to a health Centre complaining of pain in her abdomen. Pain relievers, milk of magnesia and a dozen dietary recommendations followed. A couple of weeks later, the pain shot up to unbearable level and the first trip to hospital began; the first of many. We gathered round the bed she lay and talked in low tones. My grandmother had just been brought from the theatre; she had needles stuck to veins in both hands, drip water, and was pushed worried looking nurses. Who used to be a stout woman with a truck load of gaiety and charisma was reduced to a self-condemning, small framed and delicate woman. She struggled to stay awake and it was during a bout of life when she spoke in Kikuyu.

“Murigitani auga ndwarite kuu?” She asked. What did the doctor diagnose me with?

Her children looked down at imaginary answers but none seemed to add up. One by one, they left her bedside down-casted and guilty for not being honest and truthful to their mother.” He said it was colon cancer.” Who says such words to a mother anyway? Even those with hearts made of stone never loose compassion for someone so dear as a mother.

“Nindamenya ndwarite kuu. Ndwarite ta Ithabethi. Riria nyonire ritho …” I have just known what I have is similar to what Elizabeth had when I saw the eye…

Cucu continued but the words just passed. She knew it was cancer even before we let it out. We cried together, prayed and hoped for a positive. It was an advanced colon cancer that had eaten up most of her large intestines. It was too late and she was too old to take a chemo. The year was 2006, awareness was minimal hence were ideas. Willing souls offered to take her hostage until the Good God came for her. Everyday became a nightmare and every night we held our souls, praying that it may be painless and fast. We had surrendered, and allowed death to win in the most painful of defeats. She was mostly in her bed, sleeping and complaining when awake. She wanted to go home and tend her household like in days of old but her body was fragile. Days came when she shone, appeared to heal and even demanded to go back home.  We felt relieved and geared up for the traditional Christmas at her home. She inspected the planting of seeds following the short rains and made a promise to pull out the weeds herself. Grandmother failed us on that one. Three weeks later, the seedlings were up, spreading their first leaves of life for the sun rays but their owner folded her arms for the Lord to take her. The rain fell that afternoon, the sun set but the moon never raised, stars stayed hidden under the clouds, cows moaned calmly as owls and bats flapped their wings. Cucu was no more. Her bright smile that illuminated our hearts stopped and darkness set in. We drowned in tears as her soul soared  to places high above where good people go.

Positively, granny was around long enough for us to see her and teach us well. Her absence is fondly felt. She was bitter when angered by vices but sweet when pampered with love and values. The communities around have lost such good people long before they have expressed their ideas. Mothers have left small babies in need of round the clock attention and our streets, juvenile prisons and children homes have seen overwhelming populations. It’s a monster that we have to live with but how long before we tame it? How much longer will a simple form of cancer such as breast cancer continue causing worries to our sisters and mothers? How much longer do we have to wait to have free and available cancer screening facilities in our hospitals? How long before I accept to get that cancer screening and adhere to the results? It is time we stood out strongly in the fight against cancer. Let us push for facilities, let us use our talents and positions of influence to enlighten the common citizen about cancer, pre-disposing factors, and genetic screening advantages and hope after one is diagnosed with cancer. Let us walk the talk and make every month October.