When half the city is dank and submerged in dark brown water, with floating polythene bags dredged out from the sewers, it is understandable that it mirrors our mood. From cautionary tweets about which routes not to use, tweets rank with despair about the routes that are unavoidable. The occasional “green tweet” about waste management; someone telling the Governor what to do. That is the menu for online conversation when the hell burst at the seams. Every day except yesterday; the 2nd of June.
A different kind of flood happened today – a flood that streamed from the tributaries of so many hearts, flowing and dragging everything in its way towards a specific well. What started out in a WhatsApp group as an idea became more than a reality in just a couple of hours. The hashtag #EdwardObiero trended, with an outpouring of support from timeline to timeline, call to call, WhatsApp group to WhatsApp group. Everyone shared and tagged, went to their M-Pesa accounts and scooped what they could and shared to the PayBill number 317086. Some opened a new tab on their browsers to the Go Fund Me site and sent what they could.
Such moments remind us of our basic humanity – that you should help a brother in need. That we are all descended from Adam, and are worthy to live out our days until we are old and toothless.
First time I saw him after hearing about his condition was exactly a month ago. As his classmates from high school, we had organized to have a mini fundraiser towards treatment in India. You see, Bush (Alliance High School) Class of 2008 lost a brother in December last year and we had made a declaration not to lose anyone else if we could help it. It is sad, devastating even, when someone is plucked away at his prime; when everything is just starting to make sense, when all the investments into books and networks are on the brink of birthing a career, and when the rest of the world has no idea just what you might bring to the table. Limitless potential, never to be set in motion, to forever be a “what if?” question. It is like a flower plucked out just as it is beginning to bloom.
It was indeed a sad affair, but even sadder, we had seemingly lost touch with each other after school. Little did we know that there was something else looming in the horizon that would test our resolve to keep in touch and help each other out.
In the course of the fundraiser, Seth (Edward’s brother) called and said he would drop by with him. It was only after he came that we really saw the extent to which cancer had done a number on him. To say he was a shell of his former self is an understatement. The very sight of him stifled my voice, a different kind of heart break.
Like the champ he is, he made conversation and tried to smile. All through, you could tell he was struggling to keep up. His breathing was labored with sharp pain, his smile was lodged somewhere between a painful grimace and a gasp, and every blink punctuated with a wince of pain. It was the second time he had cancer, and this time, it wasn’t letting up.
He explained how in 2013, he first learnt that he had Renal Cancer and underwent surgery. He was grateful to have lived to tell the tale; his expense, he lost a kidney in the process. A short while afterwards, the cancer recurred and he had to undergo extensive radiotherapy. A shortage of funds forced him to stop the treatment in March 2014, and started looking for alternatives to get treatment. Meanwhile, the cancer was taking a toll on him to the extent of taking a break from his Electrical Engineering course at Moi University, two years shy of graduation.
I could only imagine how bleak the future would look like from his lenses, a life of apprehension and constant pain, feeling like you can’t help yourself.
Then he said something. Something I could not fathom could come from him at that time. A statement that sounded like a roar of a lion, the kind of roar that Katy Perry sings about from a lion that Bob Marley aspires to be in Zion. “If I survived Cancer in 2014, I can’t give up now”.
This guy is a rare air kind of person, the few people whose will makes more than a way. That statement caused a stir, an itch to do something, to validate his statement, to keep his hope alive. We went back to the drawing board and crafted ways of making sure that we fan his hope, because hope is a rainbow after the storm, and if he can see a rainbow, the storm becomes a distant rumble.
The rumble is slowly tending towards mute and the rainbow will be one with visible colour and in bold. I saw it when I saw people tweeting their support, when I saw the paybill amounts rising with the tenacity of the rain on my window. The outpouring of support from bigwigs, smallwigs, guys yet to hatch or prefer to keep it bald and simple.
One photo that caught my eye (and seems to be a favorite for most), he is in captured along a supermarket aisle, goofing around obviously, and drinking from a huge cup. I do not doubt that it is in his nature, the stereotype of Luhya’s and tea abounds here. Something else strikes you, he is true to his nature but not a small time risk taker. He drinks from a big cup because life is too large to be drunk from a small one. His resilience tells me that he has a patent for that cup, that’s why you can’t get it at Java or Kaldis.
As I walk home after hours spent in the matatu, braving the light drizzle, I am drenched. Drenched in gratitude and soaked in hope. Hope that with our donations, prayers and simply spreading the message we will take him to India for further treatment and that his fighting spirit will go the distance. If I have learnt anything in the last year, is that a kind word and a kind action goes a long way. Touching someone’s life directly, even in a small way can change yours in a larger way than you ever anticipated.
After all, aren’t the floods caused by small rain drops that just won’t stop?
Call to action
Donate #EdwardObiero fight cancer.
MPESA Paybill: 317086
Account: Edward Obiero
P.S. Kenyan creatives stand in solidarity of #EdwardObiero. See their tweets below;