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Saturday, 8 March 2014

AMS Love Stories : Love in the midst of Sickness

I was on the way to the hospital when Henry called to arrange our first date. Sobbing, I pressed "Ignore" and tried to steady my breathing. I wondered if I would live to take him up on his offer for drink — I'd blurted out "I only drink non-alcoholic drink and I am not going to pepper soup restaurant with you," and now, I wished I had said something good, something better. I hoped I would have the chance to apologise.

A few days earlier, a guy in my church had rushed up to me after church service and asked to speak to me alone. Having said maybe three sentences to him in my entire life, I couldn't imagine what he wanted to talk about, but I waited anyway. He offered a soft drink, I countered with water, he smiled sheepishly and said he didn't drink soft drinks either, and I gave him my number. He departed just as fast as he had appeared, leaving me surprised and giddy.

I don't believe in soul mates or love at first sight because I have had my shares of experience in such. To be honest, I'm not a mundane. I just don't believe in soul mates or love at first sight. Romantic comedies, unless the stars were Jude Law, LL cool J and Eddy Murphy, they make me weak in the knees for all the wrong reasons J. Phrases like "we were made for each other" and "it was meant to be" sound an awful lot like streamlining to me, and I don't subscribe to that, either. But I do believe strongly in L- O-V-E.

I'm talking about real love, not the love that's the creation of screenwriters and studio executives. A love that's like spider silk — simple but layered; strong but flexible — and once it's caught you it's almost impossible to break free. To some extent, everyone dreams of finding themselves trapped in this web, I pray that I would live long enough to try. I say Amen to that!

When I was a baby, I was diagnosed with an aggressive sickness usually found in children under five. It was treated with bone marrow transplants, radiation treatments, and a nine-hour surgery that dragged on so long and my family thought, that was it, she’s going to die. My hair fell out in strands, then clumps. The treatment sapped my strength and I used to walk funny when I was a toddler. Thank God I only walked funny for two years.

At eleven years old, I was just becoming aware of my appearance, and I felt decidedly ugly and unwanted because I was too skinny.  When I see other children, I was thinks they are better looking and healthy. Well, I guess society made me to think like that J.

Not surprisingly, I had trouble relating to my classmates when I started secondary school at age 11. Everything that they were interested in, including boys seemed irrelevant and shallow to me. I tried hard to have crushes on guys, but it was mostly to try and fit in.

I would have loved for a guy to like me, but with a quarter of an inch of hair, no boobs to speak of, and the on going side effects of sickness including chronic pain and pale skin — I was blessed to even have friends. Against all the odd, I was still the best in my class in so many subjects that includes Mathematics, Integrated Science, Fine Art, Agricultural Science, CRS….. at least if I am not like them in appearance, I am better than them in mind J.

During my senior secondary school days, I had two short-term relationships. The first lasted two months and the second, five weeks. Both were emotionally manipulative. I desperately wanted them to understand what I had been through; how it had shaped my body and continued to shape my life, but they were unable (or unwilling). One actually liked to touch my hands a lot because I always had cold feet and hands. Sometimes his touch was invasive and unwanted; it reminded me of all the doctors that had touched me without my permission, even though their intentions had been well-meaning.

To be clear, neither of these guys physically abused me nor have any sexual role with me. Discovering and growing into your sexuality is always hard, but my body was — and to an extent still is — a minefield of physical and emotional trigger points, which only made it harder.

When I got to College of further education (Polytechnic), I gave dating a try. I had a few crushes, but I still desperately wanted a relationship. At first, I was honest about this and honest about whom I was. When I felt comfortable, I revealed that I was a ……… survivor. Some accepted this revelation with the proper gravity, but others grew cold towards me, like I was contagious. Some were even nasty. In the end, to protect myself, I just stopped telling people.

During this phase of self-protective silence, I started dating a mechanical engineering undergraduate who was also into occult and a drug dealer on campus, the type you can only find at predominantly upper-middle class Nigeria tertiary institutions: an eccentric guy with a habit and rich parents. I had no idea he uses or sold drugs when I first met him, but even after I found out, I didn't stop seeing him. You know what they say, good girl like bad guy! But not anymore J. Thank God for Jesus in my life!

One night, I was in my hostel, when some girls came to warned me to leave my boyfriend for them. I was torn between laughing and crying. I was in love, but I have to prevent my life first because those girls were into secret cult too.  I don’t want to die, my family must not know I am involve with a cult guy anyway, beside I was brought up in a Christian way. 

All of this flashed through my mind as I lay there on my bed in my hostel.  My boyfriend came to my hostel later on but I was unable to tell him any of it. Eventually, I think I mumbled “Can I have a word with you…………………………………….." I broke it off with him after that. Thank God!

I entered second year semester completely uninterested in dating. I was focused on staying healthy and dealing with my lectures. There comes, Henry, with his Five-foot-eight, lanky frame, shocked-Afro hair, and clear black eyes and his light skin stood out.

He could have been Angel in a former life. To me, he looked more like a model. He wasn't ruggedly handsome; rather, he had a kind of masculine beauty that was striking. But he was shy, and never really exposed. I actually thought he had a girlfriend until that day when he pulled me away from my friends, and we agreed to meet later.

The following week, school went on strike and everybody went on involuntary short break. So I went home, my sister took me to see a doctor, to try and find an answer to a mystery pain that had stalked me for years. The morning afterwards, an unknown number popped up on my cell phone. It was my elder sister doctor.

"I want you to listen to me very carefully. I have some news," he said. My breath caught in my throat.

"Okay," I managed. It seems cliché to say that all sound except for my pumping heart died away, but it's true. Everything around me became dark and the doctor's voice became painfully loud.

"Your blood test reveals that you have abnormal allele of the haemoglobin beta gene (heterozygous) meaning you have Sickle cell trait (or Sicklemia) in your blood”. The Doctor said is nothing to be afraid of but I needed to come and see him as soon as possible. My sister got out of work to accompany me to the hospital that afternoon.

Henry called on the drive in, to arrange our first date but he never knew what was going on in my life as at that time he called. I did a lot of crying because I just don’t want needles and tablet anymore but I have to live. When we got the hospital we waited for sometimes because the doctor was really busy with other patients. 

Around 4 pm we finally enters his office and he explained  that Sickle cell trait is a haemoglobin genotype AS and is generally regarded as a nonthreatening condition but I needs to eat well, come to the hospital for check-up and he prescribed some medications that I had to use daily to improve my anemia condition.

After spending thirty minutes persuaded me that I was not dying, all I cared about was that I was going home, meet with Henry and forget about my health condition. On our way home, I called him and we spent several hours at MR BIGGs (the Nigeria McDonalds). The next week, I went to his younger sister birthday party, he was still so painfully shy that I couldn't tell if I had any feelings for him — the real him — but I wanted to give him a chance. The knowledge that he is AS and I am AS only complicated things. By day, I was nervous and distrusted.

Every night I had terrible dreams. Should I tell Henry? We had only been on two dates. It wasn't fair for me to burden him with this. It could overwhelm him, sending him running like so many others. At the same time, I was a mess, and maybe if he knew why I was so preoccupied, he would understand. I struggled with this decision. In the end, I chose option C: I would tell him I couldn't date him anymore.

The night after finished our two years National Diploma Exam, I went over to him and break the news. I began to explain why I couldn't date him anyone, but image of getting married to him and having a SS babies kept floating to the top of my mind. I broke down into tears.

He wrapped his arms around me and didn't say a word as I told him everything. He said a few words of comfort, but it was his actions that really spoke to me. He wasn't going anywhere. We dated for two year and seven months before I travelled to England and he also won a visa lottery and travelled to America.  

He’s still my best friend and God sent, our love for each other was like spider silk, he's strong but flexible; simple but layered; supportive and beautiful. During our relationship I was caught in Henry’s web of love but fate separated us for the best. Such is life!


Lord God, your Word declares that if we delight ourselves in you—if we enjoy and seek your pleasure above our—you'll give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). I pray for every single man and woman that includes me, reading my story today that we will not miss our own flesh and bone in Jesus name. Amen

Please do not copy or share my story without permission

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