The saying ‘sometimes the biggest smile contains the most pain’ pretty much sums up Dorcas Waithera’s life. Behind her radiant face and infectious smile lies a story of so much pain it is incredible that she even has the strength to radiate warmth and hope to those around her.
Hers is a classic example of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Her woes started when her father died when she was in form three. A cancer survivor herself, Dorcas says that life was normal before her father’s demise.
“I was born and raised in Bahati Estate in Nairobi. My father worked in Kirinyaga Road where he sold car spare parts while my mother worked as a subordinate staff with the defunct Nairobi City Council. Life was okay as they would meet our daily needs without much struggle,” says Dorcas, the first-born in a family of four girls.
The fairly good life they were accustomed to didn’t last long as her father fell ill in 1993 while she was in class eight. Dorcas says her parents didn’t disclose the nature of her father’s illness to the children, but they witnessed him being moved from hospital to hospital in search of a cure.
“We prayed and hoped that he will get better but his condition deteriorated day by day. I remember before he died, he was brought home from Kenyatta National Hospital as doctors had given up on him. He was looking very frail,” says Dorcas.
Her father passed on in 1996 and since no one revealed to them the cause of his death, they assumed he succumbed to tuberculosis. “I was at the time in form three. We buried dad and I went back to school but life was not easy as mum was now feeding us and paying our school fees singlehandedly,” recalls Dorcas.
But hard times don’t last and within no time Dorcas had completed her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) and got herself a job. “I passed KCSE but my mum wasn’t in a position to help me go on with education. I was employed at a grocery shop in town. I gave my mother whatever I earned to assist her make ends meet for the family,” says Dorcas.
It was after completing her secondary school education that her mother revealed to her that her father had died of HIV/AIDS. The pandemic was a new phenomenon at the time and the stigma was real. Also, the management of the disease was not as advanced as it is today. Her father had little chance of survival.
“My mother wanted to go for testing and I offered to accompany her, but she preferred going alone. In retrospect, I think she thought I was too young to bear the news,” she says.
The test came out positive. The results took a toll on her mother and she started ailing soon thereafter. It appeared her mother had suspected all along that she was infected and given up hope because she didn’t fight the disease. “A few months after the diagnosis, it was clear my mother was not going to make it and even though she was living on borrowed time, I still encouraged her to fight the virus. But she would say that it was her time to rest,” recalls Dorcas.
And rest she did. Being the eldest child, Dorcas points this as one of her most trying moment as she was left in charge of her siblings with major responsibilities such as feeding, guiding and protecting them, falling squarely on her. She tried her best to be the bread winner and she is grateful that she was able to meet her siblings’ basic needs.
Dorcas got married in 2002 and two of her sisters followed suit. She moved with her younger sister to her new home. She says her marriage came as a much-needed relief from life’s struggles. Blessings were surely following her as she landed a good job and her husband was also in a stable job. The couple was blessed with two boys.
Then the accident happens…
Dorcas had traveled to Loitoktok with her husband on a work-related duty in 2012 when they were involved in a car accident. While they both survived by the grace of God, it looked like Dorcas came out worse off. She suffered a broken rib while her husband had no major visible injuries apart from a few bruises. Good Samaritans took them to a nearby hospital where they received first aid before being transferred to a hospital in Nairobi. They were both admitted and later discharged.
But two weeks later her husband started complaining of a headache. They went back to hospital and the doctor said it was normal to get headaches after an accident. When they headaches became more severe with each coming day, they sought specialised treatment. The doctor recommended her husband to get a head scan. It revealed haemorrhage from a ruptured vein, which had formed a clot that was exerting pressure on his brain. This required emergency surgery.
Although the doctors did their best, her husband didn’t pull through after the surgery. Dorcas was left a young widow with two young children to look after. “At this point, I was hopeless. I had lost my dad, my mum and now my husband. I felt so discouraged but I had to go on with life for the sake of my children,” she says.
Dorcas believes that everything that happens in life has God’s consent because if it didn’t, He would stop it. “I came to realise that God doesn’t give big battles to young and inexperienced soldiers. He can’t allow temptations beyond me come my way,” she says.
Then a cancer diagnosis…
Dorcas courageously faced life, managing to handle whatever challenge life threw her way, always believing God’s grace was sufficient to see her through. Despite her this strength, she was literally thrown off balance in 2014 after she diagnosed with a cancerous tumour in her ovary.
She then believed the die had been cast and it was her time to join her parents and husband. “I cried my eyes out. My family was in denial and I kept asking God why me. Hadn’t I had my fair share of troubles?” she recalls.
Her friends and family quickly organised a fundraiser to take her to India for treatment. They raised enough money and successful treatment was done in India. She has now been declared cancer-free but is still under medication. Dorcas, a staunch Christian, says her story is a testimony that God fights for his people.
“Some people relate my story with that of Jacob in the Bible but I like to see myself as David. I have fought bears in life and the cancer was Goliath,” she says.
Then a fire consumes everything…
After going through so much in life, Dorcas thought the gods were done with her. But before she could breathe a sigh of relief, her house went up in flames in November 2015 and she lost everything she owned. “It was around 9pm at night when fire broke out in my neighbours’ house. The fire moved fast and we helplessly watched as my house caught fire, too. We didn’t salvage anything,” she says.
Her son was preparing to sit for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and she feared that the turn of events would affect him psychologically but it didn’t as he passed the exams.
Having gone through so much in life and coming out unscathed, Dorcas encouraged her children that God would restore what the enemy had stolen from them. Imagining that her friends must have been exhausted by her incessant woes, Dorcas purposed to get back on her feet singlehandedly. “I chose to wait on God as I felt I had become a burden to the society,” she notes.
Dorcas has written a book – In the Potter’s Hand – that sums up her life’s struggles, to encourage others. Interestingly, many of the bad things that have happened in her life took place in the month of November and she therefore purposefully prays for this particular month.
And just like Dorcas in the Bible, she wants to start a program to help the less privileged in society. “God is taking me to my name. There is a cause he wants me to accomplish before I leave the world,” says Dorcas who has already adopted one child.
She points out that she has come to realize the battles she has fought in life are the devil’s way of distracting her from her purpose. “But the good news is that I know my purpose and I will fight for it. I know I am appointed and anointed not disappointed,” she concludes.