What She Said

Here I am recovering from cerebral Malaria, about the same age as when my mother was first battling her disease of Ovarian Cancer. I feel guilty for being alive. I know one mosquito bite is not my fault, but one afternoon many years ago she laid on her death bed and she spoke her final words to me – look after yourself. That common expression has taken on a new meaning.  It was a warning. A warning from someone who had suffered and lost.

I was still her child when she spoke those words. Words of a parent saying she could no longer be there for her child. She could no longer fulfill her duty and responsibility as a parent to protect me with unconditional love and affection, or provide me with a home and guidance. She could no longer take care of me.

All those years since her passing, I thought she meant to be a good person. To not lose my way or turn my back on the lessons she had taught me. To accept the good and bad. To give and receive love. Exercise compassion and value kindness. I felt confident that this was enough to carry me through life and face the future. Now, I’m not so sure it’s enough. I suspect she might of meant something completely different.

I think her worst fear, beyond her own suffering and leaving behind her family was for her children to experience a fatal disease as she did. Any parent must have these terrible thoughts. And now that I’ve been in that hospital bed living breath to breath, day to day, living life on life’s terms, I feel I’ve broken the promise to look after myself. Twenty years ago her words were a warning that life would bring me many things that are unforgiving. Avoid them. Be careful, you don’t know what the future holds.

I’m a malaria survivor as she was once a cancer survivor. Maybe I’ll live with a new found strength as well as a fragility that she might have carried in her years of remission. I feel vulnerable. It’s only been a week since I was released from hospital, and people keep asking if I feel better, but its still happening to me. I no longer know what the future holds. Twelve weeks later it will still be raw. I’m weakened, but have my health, yet something has been taken from me.


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