April 25th, 2013
I have always wished I started this childbearing thing earlier. But today, it was a sore regret! Hanging out with Vou and 3 of her 4 daughters made me wish Patrick and I had gotten our act together earlier. We started dating when we were 23, for goodness sake! Why we waited 6 years to get hitched beats me, considering we were already gainfully employed by the time we were 25/26. If we had married then, even if we’d had the same 2-year delay to conceive, at least I would have been 28…and not 32 and expecting our first child!
My point? The fact that Vou and her daughters look like sisters! Even though her youngest daughter, Jummai, who just turned 14, was at school, and so was her youngest child and only son, 11 year old Zakari, Vou was accompanied by 20 year old Sally, 18 year old Asabe, and 17 year old Talatu, when she came to pick me up from the apartment. Considering that, at 42, Vou looks half her age, all 4 of them could easily have passed for sisters.
But I had to find a way to pocket my envy, and try to enjoy the day. In all fairness to Vou and her crew, they really tried to cheer me up. We combed through all the baby stores imaginable, from Mamas & Papas, to Trotters, to the baby sections of Debenhams and John Lewis, and even Primark…we went everywhere. And as she kept on buying and buying, I had to remind her of my luggage limitation. There’s absolutely no way I would have been able to fit all that load, not to mention all my stuff that arrived this morning, into two 23kg suitcases!!!
That was when Vou gave me news that was music to my ears! That she could have them air freighted to me in Nigeria! Meaning, I can actually travel as light as a bird tomorrow! Considering I still have about 3 months before the baby gets here, I was like hell yeah!!!
But I couldn’t lose myself in the excitement of all the shopping, as I couldn’t stop worrying about Ebika, and the biopsy results out later today. When we were done with shopping, the young girls ditched us (maybe I was too boring…lol), and Vou and I decided to stop at an Asian restaurant for lunch.
“You’re worried about your friend, aren’t you?” she remarked, after we’d placed our orders.
I nodded. It was honestly all I could think about.
“You just have to be strong for her…whatever the outcome.” Vou said, matter-of-factly. “Hopefully, the result will come out fine, but even if it doesn’t, as long as she has a strong support system, she’ll be fine!”
“But it’s cancer!” I said, still mortified by the mere mention of the word. “How strong can a support system be to get her through cancer?”
Vou smiled. “I guess Diana hasn’t told you. About 10 years ago, a year after I had Zakari, I felt a lump in my breast. At first I thought nothing of it, as I have always had soft fibrous lumps appear and reappear all over my body, for pretty much all of my life. They show up, and dissolve after a while. But after a few weeks, I got worried, as this particular lump wasn’t as soft as the others, but seemed to harden each time I felt it. So…I went to have it checked out. And it turned out to be cancer.”
I stared at her in shock! She’d had cancer??!
“Luckily, it was caught early, and the lump was removed. But I also had to go through chemotherapy and radiation afterwards, for safe measure,” she laughed. “That was one sure way of ensuring I stopped at 5 kids!”
“And you’ve been cancer-free ever since?!” I asked.
Vou nodded. “I was lucky, I know that. But I thank God for my family. They were the rock that kept me standing. The last thing I wanted to do was to die and leave my kids, just as our mother had done to us. But, with the love and support I got from my husband and siblings, I was able to get myself together, and fight the thing. And I won the battle,” then, with a faraway look in her eyes. “The only casualty was Diana…as she had one of her miscarriages around the time I got my diagnosis. Till today, she swears it had nothing to do with it, but I know that it contributed a lot towards her losing that baby,” she wiped her eyes. “I still feel guilty about it. Every time she had another miscarriage, it would refresh the guilt all over again. And when she came here for her wedding shopping, and I made her walk all over London that fateful day, I blamed myself for her near-miscarriage. I still do. It’s my fault she’s on that hospital bed, instead of being able to enjoy her pregnancy!”
Wow! It was my first time of seeing Vou vulnerable.
“Vou, you know that’s not true! You’re not to blame for any of this!” I said, reaching out to hold her hand. “And look at the bright side of things. She is under her doctor’s watch 24/7! That could be the very blessing she needs to be able to carry this baby to term!”
Vou sniffed and nodded, before laughing nervously. “Look at me! I brought you here to give you pep talk, but you’re the one now cheering me up!”
“We’re family! That’s what we’re supposed to do.” I answered, smiling at her.
She smiled and squeezed my hand, and at that very moment, a bond of sisterhood was formed between us.
After taking me to the flat, to pick up the rest of my items, so she could help arrange for them to be air freighted tomorrow, she’d dropped me off at Ebika’s hospital. As I walked down the corridor, towards Ebika’s room, my heart was beating so hard, I could feel it pulsating in my ears. It was 3.30pm. The results were expected anytime from 5pm.
Ebika’s eyes lit up when she saw me, and she’d been even more pleased about the Waitrose cupcakes I’d brought her. As she ate them happily, in-between giggles and mundane gist, I marveled about how relaxed she could be about everything. Demola, on the other hand, was still wearing the same clothes he’d worn yesterday, and his eyes looked so sunken, I was sure he hadn’t had a wink of sleep since then either.
So, for the next 2 hours, while Demola and I sat in tense silence, Ebika flipped through TV channels, laughing over reruns of Frasier and Golden Girls.
Then at 5.30pm, 30 minutes later than he’d promised, her doctor walked into the room, holding a white envelope. The pin-drop silence in the room made it feel like it was Angel Gabriel who had walked in. The hour was finally here.
“Congratulations! It’s benign!” he said, with a broad smile.
Demola let out a loud sigh of relief, and wrapped Ebika in a tight embrace, while I was just exclaiming “Thank You, Jesus! Thank You, Jesus!”
But it was Ebika’s reaction that moved me the most, as it showed that her cheerfulness and enthusiasm had all been a façade. As Demola held her, she had dissolved into tears, quiet at first, before building up to loud sobs. She held on to him, and she wailed. She had obviously been bottling all that fear inside, but had masqueraded it with laughter and jokes. But now, knowing that the dark cloud was no longer lingering over her head, she was overwhelmed with emotion.
Soon, so was I…and so was Demola. The 3 of us sat in her room, crying. But these were not despondent tears.
They were tears of joy!