In commemoration of October as the month Breast Cancer awareness globally, Iweka Kingsley writes about a fourteen years old girl diagnosed with breast cancer who shares events of her life through a private diary she keeps.
CHAPTER 2 – ENEMY CALLED IGNORANCE
Tonia and I have been best friends since forever. Growing up in the same neighbourhood and going to the same schools. We played with dolls together, dressed them up in tiny, pink coloured gowns, and braided their hair together. Her braids were always better than mine though, she worked the weaves like she was born to weave hair. Nice looking slim plaits neatly arranged on the Barbie dolls head, I knew immediately that I would never be a surgeon or architect; I had not the patience, especially with affairs requiring my fingers.
We went to the same high school, but while I settled to major in Accounts and Economics, Tonia opted for Arts and Culture. We always found each other at break time and when the driver came to pick me at close of day she always rode home with me. We were inseparable.
After the doctor’s report came through I tactfully avoided Tonia. I shut her out from my newly imposed reality. I didn’t know how she would take it. It was the one secret I didn’t feel afraid to keep from her. Ten days passed and I had not reached out to her in any way to say hello or update her on the matter. I had told her everything up to the visit to the doctor’s office, but it stopped there and she knew no more than that. I imagined that if the news made my mother cry so much, then I wondered how sad it would make Tonia feel. It was bad enough that my mother felt so terrible; I knew I would learn to manage it, but I would surely not be able to handle both Tonia and my mother’s stream of tears for my sake.
The night we received the doctor’s report, we sat in the parlour, I, my father, and my mother. Silence filled the room except for the TV whispering softly. No one spoke at first, just quiet stares and soft sobs from my mother. My father beckoned on me to sit beside him, a certain heightened sense of things kept my eyes dry, but my heart pounded on. My mother had not had the time to explain things to me properly; she had been busy crying her eyes out.
My father held me close to his side and just rocked me gently. He kissed my head and told me everything was going to be fine, that we were going to win this together as a family. He said the words with a certain assurance backed by familiarity. He was at that moment like a war veteran getting ready for a mission, tired but capable of completing the mission successfully. In that moment I was sure of victory but I didn’t know how. I sighed and I almost felt a tear drop from the corner of my eyes. I asked my dad if I could tell Tonia about it and he smiled and said true friends tell each other everything, and that the more soldiers we have on our camp, the greater our chances of winning. I smiled and he pulled me closer.
I remember reading somewhere that, ‘there is no more slavery, only ignorance, a people so unaware of the influences they are subjected to’. I didn’t quite understand what it meant then, but it sounded intelligent and I copied it. When I returned from Tonia’s house I could no longer hold back the tears that hung loosely in the corner of my eyes. They flowed freely down my cheeks. I locked my room door and hid in the bathroom. I did not make any sound; I just let the tears flow freely down my face.
When I got to Tonia’s house she was helping her mum in the kitchen. I was sure I wanted to tell Tonia, but still I was scared. I walked into the kitchen and both mother and daughter were genuinely surprised to see me. Tonia’s mum immediately recognised that all might not be well. She quickly asked if I had travelled, I smiled and replied yes, that I had to go away for a few days. She stared back at me and I knew in her mind she didn’t consider ten days as a few days. I asked that Tonia be excused and she obliged. I didn’t know she followed quietly as we walked to Tonia’s room and she heard everything.
Tonia had been upset with me for going radio silence on her for the last ten days and she just gazed at the floor quietly waiting for the words of apology to hit her ears. It took long enough before I blurted out the words “I have cancer”. Her face widened with an uneven mixture of shock and surprise and her silence contained a million questions. She looked at me and the last days paled all so suddenly, she figured that asking questions was not appropriate for the moment. She kept her gaze at me while I kept my gaze to the floor still. She made to hug me when her mum barged in on us and screamed Tonia’s name. We were startled by that and I already had tears in my eyes. Tonia went to her mum who was standing by the door, holding the knob with a rather stern look on her face. I was confused. She closed the door as soon as Tonia stepped out. I could hear Tonia’s mum whispering, but I could not make out what she was saying. A moment later I heard Tonia scream out, “No mum!” She beckoned on Tonia to keep quiet and then more whispering followed. Tonia screamed out louder, “No mum, she’s my best friend!”
“You will do as I have said!” Tonia’s mum yelled back. There was a brief moment of silence and then I heard Tonia’s room door open slowly. A very angry, unhappy looking Tonia walked in with eyes fixed to the ground as I watched her mum walk pass the room and our eyes met briefly.
Tonia’s mum had heard that I had cancer and didn’t want Tonia around me anymore; for fear that she might get the disease. I ran out of the house fighting back very hot tears burning my eye balls already. How could her mum not know that cancer is not infectious? Ignorance is the real disease!
Iweka Kingsley is the author of DAPPLED THINGS and the Founder of Africa-OnTheRise.com which won the 2016 African Blogger Awards for “Best Blog about Africa” and the “Best Social Issues and Active Citizenship Blog”. He is a creative writer and communications consultant based in Lagos. He also volunteers as a Grant Advisor with the Pollination Project in the United States, an organization dedicated to making daily seed grants of $1,000 to development projects across the world.
You can download and read his latest publication “MEMORABLE” on OkadaBooks here: http://www.okadabooks.com/book/about/memorable/12298