These are the anecdotes I love to share with my children to remind them how lucky they are to be here.
I’m not sure if it is just me, but there is something about
knowing that I am definitely on my last life that triggers the memory of the
number of times, through sheer luck, I have ducked when the grim reaper came to
call. And these are just the times I know about.
The earliest episodes for me are lost in childhood amnesia
but the stories were often told.
When I was a baby, my birth mother was apparently mentally
unstable. I’m not sure what that means. The description given to me was much
harsher. However, in those days stigma of mental illness was even greater than
it is now, and treatment was even poorer. I cannot even imagine the demons that
were fighting in her head. One day, she just packed up and left her husband and
children and disappeared into the silence of a world where you could leave no
digital footprint. Over the years, I have truly valued my mental health and it
remains an open question if I would have survived physically and mentally had
At three years old, I had just been adopted. I was playing
hide-and-seek with my siblings one evening while we were vacationing in a remote
area on the coast. The cottage we stayed at was near a cliff that plunged about
100 feet in a steep drop to the waves crashing on the rocks below. My siblings
went inside and no one noticed I was missing for a few hours. When it came time
for bed and I could not be found, everyone went to search. At about midnight
they eventually abandoned the search. Next morning, I tottered to the cottage
and pointed out the bush I had slept under all night. It was just 50 yards from
the edge of the cliff.
I was five or six when my brother and I woke up early one
morning to play with fireworks. We didn’t want to wake the parents so we walked
a bit away from the house. My brother lit the fireworks and then accidently lit
my clothes. In a few seconds, they were blazing. Fortunately, my nanny was not
far away and saw me. She stripped off the burning clothes before too much
damage was done. I have only a small scar on my side and even that has just
I was born before the measles vaccine. Now, there is a Zulu
saying that you don’t count your children before the measles. I was one of those
children who should not have been counted. As I struggled to breathe from a
secondary pneumonia infection, the priest was called. My parents were not
religious people, but the fear of a child dying without the necessary last rites
scared them. The scars left on my lungs have given many a radiologist pause.
No one knows how I contracted infective hepatitis (Hep A) at
11. There were three of us that did in our town. Two were siblings and I had
nothing in common with them. One of the siblings died. I was at bedrest for six
months. The only long-term effect was that I have never been able to drink more
than the smallest amount of alcohol and of course, I was banned for life from
I used to work as a surgical intensive care nurse. It was
extremely stressful as I dealt with knife and bullet wounds, patients who had
been thrown out of moving cars, and regular open heart surgery cases.
Sometimes, we were called to give evidence in court. I never thought of it as dangerous until I was
stalked by a man accused of murdering one of my patients. He confronted me in a
parking garage and informed me that I was not to testify at all about the
patient unless I told the story he would give me. Or else. The next day, I gave
a deposition and booked a flight to Europe.
I don’t have fond memories of Italy. While in Italy, I was
walking along a quiet road when suddenly a group of young men with knives
surrounded me. Fortunately, I spotted an older man carrying a walking stick and
I ran up to him as though I knew him. The hooligans melted away. He was from
My second son was a few months old and my husband was
driving. I was sitting in the front passenger seat. The little one was strapped
in his car seat at the back but he was restless. We were in the middle of the
city so I got out and went to sit in the back to distract the baby so that my
husband could concentrate on driving. My husband stopped at the red light and
when it turned green, checked that nothing was coming and moved forward.
Suddenly a car driven by a drunk driver came storming through the red light and
hit the front passenger side, crushing it into the driver’s side. We walked
away from the accident unharmed but there was nothing left of the car. The
police offers all agreed that I could not have survived if I had not switched
I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer just over
two-and-a-half years ago. Every morning when I wake up, I punch the air in
victory. I survived one more day. But I also punch in frustration because my death
is just another unnecessary death. So much money collected in the name of
finding a cure has been squandered on broken promises. The war we have now been
conscripted into is not for our own lives. It is too late for that. We are
forced to fight for women who will come after us. We are forced to stand up and
say no to the idiotic pink ribbons and expose the scam that will result in
521,900 lives discarded in the wasteland of greed and apathy every year.