Journey through the shadows: Effects of chemo, pain and death after two-year cancer battle

Aisha's resilience during her battle with leukemia had instilled a sense of hope, albeit fragile, within me.

In Summary

• By December 29, 2022, Aisha was back to Kenyatta National Hospital Ward 1E.

• This time, the doctors declared her acute myeloid leukemia as aggressive, necessitating intensive chemotherapy.

Aisha Boru and her dad Boru Dera
Aisha Boru and her dad Boru Dera

Barely four months after Aisha Boru was discharged from hospital, our fears of a relapse began to materialise.

Aisha started showing signs such as petechiae and blood in urine, indicating low platelets. By December 29, 2022, Aisha was back to Kenyatta National Hospital Ward 1E.

This time, the doctors declared her acute myeloid leukemia as aggressive, necessitating intensive chemotherapy. The dawn of 2023 was yet another New Year our daughter had to witness within the confines of the hospital.

The mere mention of the word "chemo" pierced Aisha's heart. The pain and memories of past treatments haunted her. She cried and pleaded with me not to take her to KNH.

As her father, I reassured her, echoing the words of Dr Wadu, that all would be fine, and God would guide her through this challenge. Eventually, she agreed, demonstrating the strength that defined her character. As a daddy and mummy's girl, she promised not to let us down.

Aisha bravely confronted the severe and harsh chemotherapy, fighting valiantly.

By April 2023, she was discharged again, having entered remission for the second time.

However, this time, the doctors were cautious, foreseeing the possibility of a relapse. They recommended a bone marrow transplant as the potential lifeline for Aisha to survive her aggressive AML condition.

The two-week reprieve Aisha was granted was a precious window to refresh her mind and reconnect with her siblings.

Her smile during this break revealed the sheer joy that being with her family brought her and it became evident that nothing else could make her happier.

To navigate the challenge of transportation costs between Nairobi and Archers Post, Samburu county, I made the decision to stay in Ruaka, Kiambu county, at the welcoming home of another family friend.

This friend, sharing our roots from Archers Post, accommodated us throughout Aisha's two-year journey, spanning from November 2021 to her final moments in November 2023.

Aisha's resilience in the face of her leukemia battle was awe-inspiring, evident in her constant efforts to reassure me.

Even though the toll of chemotherapy was taking a visible toll on her, she bore it with forced smiles just to bring comfort to those around her.

In late April 2023, she went back for another round of chemotherapy, lasting until early June.

Despite attaining remission, her physical condition deteriorated significantly. I could read her pain in her face, hidden behind her determined smile.

Aisha's strength manifested in her constant reassurance to me, "Baba, mie niko sawa" (Dad, I am okay), always adding, "Baba, usikue na stress" (Dad, don't stress).

Witnessing her courage in battling leukemia compelled me to conceal my tears and instead offer words of encouragement, assuring her that everything would be fine, and that mum and dad would always love her.

In early June, Aisha experienced her third remission and was discharged once again.

However, the scheduled return for further treatment in August was never fulfilled.

Aisha's plea and heartbreaking cry against the impending chemotherapy haunted us and she fully recovered physically during this period, albeit with lingering uncertainties.

In late August 2023, we, her parents, decided to take Aisha back to our rural home in Sololo, Marsabit county, to reunite her with her grandparents, who eagerly awaited her arrival.

Physically strong and well at that time, Aisha's presence in the rural setting opened the door to various suggestions.

Some relatives recommended traditional herbalists and despite initial reservations, we saw it as a trial worth exploring, considering the potential benefits and fewer side effects compared to chemotherapy.

Aisha's resilience during her battle with leukemia had instilled a sense of hope, albeit fragile, within me.

Witnessing her struggle to maintain her resilient spirit, play with other kids and insist on contributing to household chores despite the pain she endured, was both heartbreaking and inspiring.

Surprisingly, the herbal treatment showed promise when Aisha regained control of her urinary functions.

This unexpected improvement fuelled renewed hope for the possibility of recovery.

However, what we didn't know was that despite the restored hope and joy in our family, friends and relatives, Aisha had just a month left on earth, leading us into September 2023.

Late in September, Aisha exhibited symptoms signalling a recurrence of low platelets.

Opting for a blood transfusion at Sololo Mission Hospital, we hoped for improvement.

Unfortunately, our calculations may have been off and we had to take Aisha back to KNH.

On October 9, Aisha, supported by NHIF, was rushed to KNH Ward 1E in an E-Plus ambulance, placed on oxygen support and vital monitoring.

By October 28, Aisha had improved, albeit frail and weak.

On October 30, I left Aisha to start a new job in Isiolo, sharing the news with her.

Despite her happiness for me, this departure marked the first time in two years that she spent a week without her father by her side.

Upon my return on November 9, I found Aisha in a weakened state.

Despite her happiness, a chilling dream she shared hinted at the gravity of her situation.

On November 12, she seemed remarkably happy and I left her side at 6pm, unaware it was a goodbye.

At around 2am on November 13, 2023, Aisha took her last breath.  At 6am, I received a call from KNH that shattered my world.

The realisation of her departure was a moment of profound confusion and grief and it took me a few minutes to accept the inevitable.

The journey, marked by courage, hope and despair, came to an end, leaving an indelible void in our hearts.

In that moment of profound sorrow, Hussein Qalicha, emerged as a beacon of support.

He was not just a childhood friend but a presence that intertwined mysteriously with my life. Qalicha, a former schoolmate, stood by us throughout the two-year battle, offering unwavering support.

Alongside my lovely cousin Jillo Hussein and my step-brother Denis Dida, they took charge of the clearance process, a task that, in that devastating moment, could have been overwhelming for me.

The rest of my sisters remained with me, providing the emotional support and comforting shoulders that I desperately needed in the premises of KNH mosque.

The mosque's Imam, Abu Najma, a dear friend to Aisha played a pivotal role.

He became a father figure to all the children in and out of the hospital. In this time of grief, he generously offered a place of rest for my numerous guests and relatives who came to condole with us.

This gesture, facilitated by Qalicha and my elder sister Jillo, became a sanctuary where emotions could be processed amid the ongoing clearance with the hospital.

In the depths of despair, the bond of friendship, family and faith wove a tapestry of support around me, offering solace in the face of an unimaginable loss.

Once the clearance process was complete, we headed to KNH mortuary.

There, we viewed and took custody of Aisha's body, preparing for the customary Islamic rituals that awaited her at a mosque outside KNH.

In a hearse, we departed KNH and travelled to a mosque in Nairobi's South B for the sacred body cleaning rituals.

This marked the poignant end of our two-year daunting and devastating journey within the walls of KNH.

Surrendering all affairs unto Allah, we found solace in our shared faith.

Accompanied by a few relatives, we embarked on the journey back to Archers Post.

It was there, amid the familiar landscapes and under the open sky, that we laid Aisha Boru Dera to rest. In the peace of eternity, she found her final resting place.

The echoes of our collective grief mingled with the solemn prayers closed not only the story of Aisha, but also a significant and profound part of our lives.

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