By Kizito Angella
“What is happening here?” Confused, scared or terrified and worried. A little bit of every emotion was making for the front row at this moment in Moses’s life. It was just like every other normal day; so hot, the sun authoritatively visible in the sky, clouds so clear and light, friends around playing and sharing sunny moments of cheer, laughter, jokes and teasing. Everything was as it should. What could possibly go wrong for seven year old Moses?
Moses was just from playing football with his friends and on his way back home, his left leg could not reach the ground. I can guarantee you that these types of things don’t normally just make sense to seven year old boys. Except, Moses was a strong boy; he did not break in to tears or get a panic attack, this was the first of many other days Moses had to limp back home to his grandmother. On seeing him and weighing all possible facts. With the knowledge available that could best explain the situation; his grandmother came to the conclusion that this was probably malaria or fever.
After two weeks of treatment with no sign of improvement or rather, things were getting worse. His mother was contacted. She was the one who made the call to take Moses to Nsambya hospital where they discovered that Moses had rotting vertebrae. With the power invested in the doctor, he delivered the one option that could save Moses’s life; an operation.
“I remember it like it was a few hours ago, I cried for almost two weeks because the pain was unimaginable, I had a tube inserted inside my body purposely to draw out the pus from my vertebrae…could I handle it? I don’t think I could tell at the time, I just wanted the pain to stop,” Moses narrated his post operation experience. This was as real as it could get for young Moses.
The first wave and moment of truth started to kick in when Burkit Lymphoma started to show its true form. A few days after the operation, Moses developed a big swelling on his jaw. His body became paralysed from the waist downwards. How do you explain such a drastic change to an eight year old boy? What is he supposed to do now especially when his friends are playing football and they are one player short? The doctors have recommended that he should wear a cosset to straighten his back and now he cannot fight the glaring reality that he is different and life is now going to be different for him. While in the cancer ward, Moses had to start experiencing death at a whole new level. He had to stop viewing death as a foreign concept that happened to others, slowly, he internalised everything and he began to make sense of what was happening with every other child that never made it back to their empty bed. He could wake up to the sight of wailing children in so much pain, day by day it became so hard for Moses to ignore the fact that he could be the next. Death became real, it had a face and he had seen it! He waited. Moses was terrified! He had to live with these constant reminders of fear and yet until this moment, Moses was not yet afraid.
In spite of all this death, Moses’s support system did not fail him, his doctors and nurses were very supportive and kept on telling him that the medicine was actually working and he was improving. Moses did not give up on himself too; his greatest desire was to be a world-class footballer.
“After some time, the paralysis was already healing because I was getting both Chemotherapy and physiotherapy at the Cancer Institute. However, after healing the paralysis, I still couldn’t walk.”
At the age of 8, Moses was starting life afresh, he was crawling, then after crawling he started walking with crutches and before he knew it, he had started limping. For Moses, every time this experience plays back in his mind that should have been the worst thing that could have happened to him; to be an adult and yet start life afresh like a baby. Moses had dreams and aspirations. “My greatest desire was to be a footballer and I feel like I was cheated, life robbed me of that. However, my biggest appreciation was the fact that I actually survived, I will never take that for granted,” Moses narrates
Soon enough, in spite of limping, he started to play football again with his friends. Moses’ friends could care less about his limping; all they wanted to know was if he was available to play. With the help of his friends, Moses’s life began to make sense again. He was playing football, running around the neighbourhood, climbing trees and engaging in many goofy and mischievous games like every other child he knew. He was beginning to be whole again.
In 2002, he was declared cancer free.
One of his psychological transformations was the fact that he learned to change the person he wanted to be to the person he had to be. No physical limitation was too big for him, nothing could deny Moses the destination he so richly envisioned. He started to think about things that he could do because of his mental capacity instead of relying on his physical capacity.
In the second wave of his life, he began to take an interest in Baale Francis as a news anchor, this soon became his life’s purpose and he began to pursue the dream of journalism. In school he pioneered and began a club called News link which was well received encouraging vigorous participation from the students and great recommendations from the school administration. His friends supported and encouraged him to pursue this passion even further, however life happened and he ended up pursuing a bachelor’s of Information Technology at university level. Do not be deceived by this because as mosses assured me, his passion for news and writing is still roaring and raging in the deep pits of his colourful and most cheerful heart.
He now believes that without a proper mental standing, support, love and the will, there is not much doctors can do for a patient if the patient has already given up on themselves. He believes healing starts with in and later begins to reflect on the outside. His vibrancy and philosophy on life explain how he is able to speak so passionately about cancer awareness. He feels that people suffer because they are not aware he believes that more than anything people need to start getting early screening. He casually compares this situation with HIV AIDS to stress his point even further; educating people will empower them to take control and drive how their cancer story will end up. Moses further emphasises the need to end cancer stigma in the world we live in today as this does no help those affected by cancer. Currently, he is the project manager at Uganda Child Cancer Foundation where they take cancer awareness to the children and their care takers. This is how serious he takes his beliefs.
In his leisure time, Moses sports, this can either be football or basketball. He watches formula 1 and rugby, reads novels and loves to watch movies and series. One could describe his social life as budding considering he is extremely out going and loves to have a good time. His favourite serie is the News room and Vikings from which he acquired a nemesis from the character Ragnar Lothbrok thanks to his friends. As the interview begins to get more fun related, he makes it a point to share the fact that he does not just watch movies like most people do, Moses takes the characters seriously. He believes movies and series have life lessons that both women and men should embrace. He casually says women should refer to the character of Lagertha in Vikings for her legendary strong spirit that many women today should learn from. People could learn to be more open minded like his nemesis Ragnar and adopt his fearless attempt in the pursuit of the unknown for which he believes in. The world would be a better place if people picked such amazing and positive attributes from movies.
Today, in spite of volunteering with Uganda Cancer Foundation, he also has a budding website where he has a chance to exercise his journalism passion. 19 years down the road, Moses is the manifestation of cheer and a chatty character blended with a warm regard for life. If Moses didn’t tell you his story, you would never have guessed.
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