Subscribe to our Rss Feed Follow me on twitter

Zimbabwean Model Shares Her Intimate Story, “Behind the Shadows Of Cancer” Part Three

Filed under : Africa, Lifestyle

Hello beautiful people!


From our Guest Contributor, Teurai Chanakira: Model, Author / Writer & Founder of the Elizabeth Chanakira Cancer Trust…

Photo: E:thos Photography by Rudo Nyangulu 2011

When I got home, I was shocked because she wasn’t at the airport. She had always come to meet me at the airport. “So she is really sick”, I thought to myself.

Arriving at the house, I ran into the living room to see her and I was shocked to see how thin she had become. She even needed help with walking. Her words were slurred and she had countless other symptoms.

She did her best to sit up to hug me, her mouth had gone to the side, her dhuku kept slipping off to reveal her bald head and as it did, she would slowly lift her hand up to cover her head. I did it for her. I held her, I wanted to cry but I kept strong. “It’s ok Mama, it’s ok”, I said to her.

Even through her pain, Mum always had a weak smile for everyone who came by to visit. She always wanted to make sure that each visitor had had something to eat and drink.  Even as her two sisters and I would wash and dress her, all four of us would often burst into fits of laughter after she had said something funny.

The hardest part for me was watching her slip away one day at a time.

She was in so much pain, some days she would just bawl out. It seemed so unfair, life just kept going on around me; I hardly left the house. I remember going to Model Extravaganza 2010, hosted by Zim Gossip Modelling Agency, as a Judge. However, at the back of my mind, thinking about Mum and what was happening all the time.

I wanted everything to be ok again; I was seeing everything through a hazy mist.

It was also hard not being able to talk to someone about it. I guess culturally, we all try to be strong and are continuously told, “zvisimbise” so I just held all of it inside.

However, the people at the Cancer Centre were excellent. When I went in to give them their donation, we all shed a few tears and I felt I was around people who understood the immense pain I was in.

“Pain understood”: Teurai with former Knowledge Manager of the Harare Cancer Centre, Mrs. Shingairayi Dakwa, on the day she handed them the donation, December 2010

When Mum was in pain, I would hold her hand tightly, but every scream would kill me inside. It was the worst sound I have ever heard. The worst moment of my life. Watching my Mum suffer so much and not being able to do anything. We would keep going to the doctor to beg him to tell us what to do; the drugs were just not working.

We were referred to Island Hospice, Harare. I will never forget the kindness of Dr. Chifamba in carefully explaining everything and being so patient when we asked endless questions.

He prescribed morphine for her. I would give her the medication with a syringe every time she needed it and feed her bits of liquid food with a syringe.  It would take an hour each time for me to give her the medication and food because she couldn’t swallow anymore because her reflexes stopped working.  I would sit there surrounded by her 2 sisters, waiting for her to try and swallow. And I would want to cry and wail, but I couldn’t. I had to be strong for her, for what was happening.

I would watch my Dad. He would pace up and down the room, asking;

“Has she swallowed it yet? What can we do? Betty (Mum’s nickname, from Elizabeth) chimedza mushonga, pain ipere”.

And during the last week that she lay there, unable to talk or move, how my heart and soul cried for the woman who taught me the most important values I know.  She taught me to smile, love everyone, bring people together and help wherever I can.

My dad was becoming visibly stressed by sleeping in the room with her alone as she would wake up crying out in pain. He never said so but my aunts and I decided to start sleeping in the bedroom with her, whilst Dad slept in the next room. We would take turns getting up to give her the morphine, to turn her every 2 hours or see if she needed the bathroom. I would kiss her every time, on her cheek, on her hand and keep telling her I loved her so much.

One day I climbed into bed with her and just held her. I don’t know how I coped – I just did.

Photo: Mia Huddleston 2011

Then one day when Dr. Chifamba visited. He called my Dad, my 2 aunts and I to the living room and that’s when he kindly broke it down to us that Mum was going.

It was the first time that it was ever said out aloud like that and that’s when I really cried.

I excused myself and went to the bedroom where Mum lay. I closed the door, held her hand and told her everything I ever wanted to tell her: all my dreams; I thanked her for everything she had taught me; I told her not to worry about me; that I was going to be ok. And that I was going to help cancer patients in Zimbabwe, because how could we have gone through so much as a family in facing cancer and leave it at that?

I had to produce something positive out of this indescribable pain.  She was unable to talk or move at that stage, but tears rolled gently down her cheeks and I wiped them off amidst the blur of my tears. I told her it was ok if she wanted to go, that I understood.

And then a day later on 23 December 2010, she left us.

I went into her room to check on her and she had passed away. I remember how calm I was: I checked her pulse, put my ear to her mouth, but there was no air.  I told her I loved her so much and gently closed her eyes. That’s when I called everyone else and told them she was gone.

It never really hit me until her body was taken away a few hours later. And right there and then, I was so enraged at this disease, this disease that had taken my mother away.

I still can’t believe I will never hear her voice. I can still feel her love & positive energy surrounding me every day.

I don’t know how other people manage to get through such times, I draw my strength from God…but I am determined to try and effect change for the experiences that other families in Zimbabwe go through when they have a family member with cancer, particularly those who are unaware of the horrifying statistics of cancer in the country; how to reduce the risk of the disease and those who struggle to pay for treatment…

Photo: Larissa Jane Photography 2011


(To be continued…next week)


Please follow me on Twitter at @Teurai1

farai – who has written posts on Farai Today.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!
  • Rue Nyangulu

    You are a strong woman to be less than a year into life without your mum yet so determined and undeterred to look beyond yourself and your pain and see a need. You bring tears to my eyes with your words and I am humbled by you selflessness… rue

  • ec

     Stay strong my sister!! She was a great woman,  we loved her so dearly, very peaceful and soft spoken lady. I was in Zimbabwe March 2010 and I made a trip to visit her,  we had a wonderful time just talking and catching up. She wasn’t well but she made sure we ate even though we came without notice vakatibikira! She was very excited to see us!!!  I  remember when I first came to the States she was in South Carolina for school we could talk on the phone for hrs,  we both were so home sick!!  She was a jewel of the Chanakira family!! Take one day at a time,  now she is with the Lord at a better place with no pain and suffering! ec

  • LadyLion Mambokadzi

    The text in red that you were able to realy talk to her and pour your heart out..what a blessing!!…silent cry

  • LadyLion Mambokadzi

    Thanks for sharing your amazing phenomenal story…..soo happy you were able to be there with her and pour your heart out before she passed….x

  • 3Thirtyseven

    Every communication I have with you, I tell you how incredible I think you are!!.. Your story has touched me. It demonstrates strength and grace. I lost someone very close to Cancer, and I understand the pain. Pain with no action continues to kill!.. So we take a stand and say no more!!.Pam xxx

  • Mike Tashaya

    Powerful write up hama, exciting times ahead for you that your mum will be really proud of…

  • Michael Dexter Chiponda

    ooh sorry about your loss may the lord God Almighty guide your footsteps and be the shining light in your path you are strong girl soldier own with his grace, and may mrs Dakwas soul rest ineternal peace she was such a sincere lady she was one of my great Tutors at parirenyatwa