I first met her few years back when she was new to Canada. At that time she was looking for a place to rent and my job at that time involved helping newcomers to Toronto to find accommodation. I do not remember if she got the place thanks to my help, but what I do remember is that we have been friends ever since. We have so many things in common. The books we read, the movies we watched, the music we listened to, the food we liked (not in terms of quantity lol) even Basketball and Tennis.
Years went by and we kept in touch. She would share with me her life story, sometimes asking for my advice, and I would do the same.
About two and half years ago, she started saying that she was not feeling good. Countless times she went to different doctors but they could not find what was wrong with her. What she knew was that she was in pain. It started with her legs, then it got so bad that she could not move from her house. And then one day, they finally found it. Guess what? She had cancer.... I will never forget the day she told me the news. I was devastated. Surprisingly, she was not. She just said to me: “I am sharing the news with only close friends, but I want to let you know that I will be ok. I know I won't die”. I was shocked by her attitude and I admired her for that.
So, the treatment started. It was nothing she had ever seen or experienced before. It was so painful and they told her the treatment would last at least two years. I went to visit her a couple of times at the hospital. She was hanging in there. She even went home after a few weeks. She thought it was over, but the worst was yet to come. She went back to the hospital and this time, it was really, really hard. She was in a coma for a number of days; she lost all of her faculties that even doctors were fearing the worse.
I left for Africa for four months and I did not hear from her, or from any of her other friends. I was praying that, by the time I returned to Toronto, I would find her doing ok. I also heard from one of her friends that she even lost her memory. She did not remember anything, even the people who came to visit her at the hospital. It was really very sad.
A few weeks after I came back to Toronto, I received a message on Facebook from a name that I did not recognize saying “I thought we were friends. Did you forget about me?” I did not pay much attention to the message. But days later, I came back to the message and I finally realized the message was from my friend. She had changed her name on Facebook. That's why I did not recognize her the first time. Oh my God. I couldn't believe it! She was finally doing fine. She even told me about books that she wanted to read. My friend was back to life.
Two weeks ago, my wife and I went to visit her. We thought it would be for a couple of hours. Guess what! We got home after midnight. She shared with us her story, how she had to fight alone while her close friends abandoned her and how before her sickness she was so mad at God. Things have changed and today she is constantly praying and giving thanks to God for the work he has done in her life. She is not 100% yet. But she is looking forward to the future. She is about to finish her treatment, and she cannot wait to get out there and help those who are going through what she went through.
Her name is Gentille Umutoni Byusa, and she is a true warrior.
With lots of love, this is for you Gentille.
Always a pleasure