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  • Alec Nshunguyinka


Everyone in my family is passionate about football or what you may call soccer. On match days, I made sure to finish my homework just to watch. My mom and dad are Arsenal fans while my brothers are Chelsea fans. As a game between both teams drew near, the tension between my parents and brothers grew. They would stop talking for that whole weekend. My favorite team is PSG. So I was not for either of the two sides and after the game I would even become a peacemaker and help to reconcile.

Although my love for football is unconditional, where I grew up we did not have enough facilities to play the way we wanted. But that couldn’t stop me from playing and enjoying the sport everyday. I would walk a fair distance, approximately 7 kilometers, every day after classes in boiling African afternoons to reach a football field where I could play with my friends. It was always worth the price. Afterwards, I often had headaches due to dehydration but I would still hustle to reach home before dinner. My parents would question me why I had to do all that and my reply was always: “Love.” My love for football made me do all of that, and at the end of the day I would sleep happily- ready for the same routine the next day.

I have had a lot of ups and downs in the past years, but football was always there for me. It’s been 2 years since we found out that my mum had stage four lymphatic cancer. With all that was happening in 2020, I wouldn’t have thought that it could have been worse. I had already spent months without playing football due to the pandemic, and as if it wasn't enough, I received the terrible news about my mother later on in April. I am grateful that I had my brothers with me in those moments. My dad couldn’t be with us through the first months of chemotherapy due to his job in the United Nations and the Covid ban on flights. His absence made it harder for me to hold my tears as I screamed at the Lord- asking why it was my mum who had to go through this terrible ordeal. But his absence also helped me realize that I had to stay strong for my mum. Slowly, instead of looking for somebody to blame, I started to believe that it was not the end and that a lot of people have been cured and diagnosed cancer free.

The first weeks of chemotherapy made me weak; I hated to see my mum suffering. But seeing her stay strong and do her best to recover motivated me each day. I took her to the hospital every 2 weeks for chemotherapy sessions that felt like an eternity. When we got back home I would make nutella crepes for her; one of the few things she could eat at that time. Seeing her smile would give me hope that everything would return to normal one day.

In October her treatment ended and she went to Kenya with my dad for the final diagnosis. My brothers and I stayed home hoping that all the things our family had gone through would come to an end. After a week of wait and anxiety, they finally came back. And for the first time in months, we were all sitting together watching football as we used to. Nobody was able to ask the question we all wanted to ask. After a long moment of silence and discomfort in the room, my mother handed me a bag. Inside the bag was a football or what you may call a soccer ball. Then she said “I'm cancer free, now you can play.”


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