In the last few months, I have really come to understand God’s love through his people. This is just another experience that reminded me of God’s plan for my life. I had always lived with my unhealthy spleen. I visited doctors who said it was due to tropical malaria and that the problem would disappear with time. One night in July, when I was alone in my small room that I rented with my brother, it caught up with me and I did not know what to do. I felt more pain than I had ever felt before. My brother was at school and I did not know who to cry to. I endured the pain for the rest of the night until the following morning when I could no longer stand it. I scanned through my brain, then through the contact names in my phone book for someone to call, and my instinct fell on someone I had not even thought about. I hit the button and Anna’s voice was on the other side.
The Bridge2Rwanda people were already doing so much and giving them more of my personal burdens seemed unacceptable to me. Having no other choice, I told Anna (the Director of the Bridge2Rwanda Scholars Program) about the whole situation, and something I did not expect happened. It was around 6:00 am in the morning, but she left her house and came to pick me so she could take me to the emergency room. She came on the directions of a motorcyclist until she reached my place. At that time, I could not be able to express how I felt inside. At the hospital, she stayed with me for most of the day and we were later joined by Mary Claire, our English teacher. Later that evening I was discharged with an appointment to meet a specialist doctor the following day. The following day, Anna and I met the doctor and he said I needed to undergo a bone marrow check up, a painful test, which would help to find out the root cause of my splenomegaly.
Two weeks later, there we were, in the doctor’s office again. He spilled the news that struck my nerves out of my body. He diagnosed me with a blood disorder called Myeloproliferative Disorder, which is in the same family of disorders as leukemia. He explained a lot about the disorder I had tested positive with, and how some people lived long lives with it, but the only word that stayed at the back of my mind was “cancer.” A flashback of my aunt who died of breast cancer a few years ago hit my memories. It was terrible. I knew I was going to follow the same path. While all this went through my minds, I looked at Anna and thought about everything she was sacrificing to stay by my side. I could not take this for granted, so I acted strong and managed to fake a smile. She turned, looked at me and asked me, “How do you feel about all this, Eric?” So much was happening in my mind at this time that I could not actually figure out how I felt. I was confused and did not know what to say. I wrestled with emotions and finally said in a calm voice that I was okay with whatever happened. On the contrary, I actually felt crashed and defeated. How was I going to achieve all I had ever dreamed of? We left the hospital and Anna helped me find the drugs the doctor had prescribed. I then went straight home not knowing what to do next.
That night I tried to sleep but could not. I was lost deep in thought, and decided to read a book. The first book my hand landed on from the pile I had was, “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” which contains a lot of short personal stories. I opened the page whose headline was, “Did the Earth Move For You?” This was a story about Angela, an eleven-year-old girl who was stricken with a debilitating disease involving her nervous system. She was unable to walk and the doctors did not hold out much hope of her ever recovering from the illness. There, lying in her hospital bed, she vowed to anyone who would listen that she was going to move again someday. She worked hard lying there faithfully visualizing herself moving. One day, as she was straining with all her might to imagine her legs moving again, it seemed as though a miracle happened: The bed moved. It began to move around the room! She screamed out, “Look what I’m doing! Look! I can do it! I moved!” Of course, at this moment everyone else in the hospital was screaming too, and running for cover. Equipment was falling and glass was breaking. You see, it was the San Francisco earthquake. But don’t tell that to Angela. She was convinced that she did it. After a few years later, she was back to school on her own two legs.
This story changed my mood so drastically that I was back at peace with everything around me. I knew that anyone who can shake the earth between San Francisco and Oakland could conquer a disease, can’t they?
All this happened when Richard, our college counselor, was in the USA. He also did everything possible to make sure that I was on the right medication. A few weeks later he came back to Rwanda. When I met him he pulled something from his bag, and said, “I bought this for you when you were not feeling well.” I was so baffled that I couldn’t even say “Thank you.” It was just a t-shirt, but I felt so special. The people I have known for these months have become so close, we are family.
Two months later, when Anna and I went back to the doctor for a checkup, the improvement he found would normally have taken a year. My blood count levels were back to a normal level and my spleen had reduced to half the size it was before. No one was happier for the great news than Anna, who sat in the same chair she was sitting in when I faked a smile a few months earlier. This time I genuinely grinned at her. I was so surprised at knowing that even Dale Dawson, the founder of Bridge2Rwanda, knew about my situation and that he was praying for me. I have come to identify myself as part of the big B2R family, and not just a Scholar. I can never give enough back!