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How tragedy opened Senate doors for my mum

Senator Dr Gertrude Inimah Musuruve was diagnosed with cancer in 2013. After the battle with the disease, she was declared cancer-free last year, but had to walk on crutches. Same year, she was nominated to represent people living with disabilities in Senate. Her daughter, Brenda Waithera, takes us through her life, career and politics

Milliam Murigi @millymur1

In three words how can you describe your mother?

Bold, loving and God-fearing

Your mother is a cancer warrior having been diagnosed with pelvis bone cancer in 2013 and been declared cancer-free last year. Tell us more about this journey. After the diagnosis, she needed Sh5 million to take care of her treatment in India. Friends and relatives helped fundraise, but the money was not enough.

So we were forced to sell some family property. She then travelled to India, where she underwent a limb-saving surgery, which was successful and the cancerous tissue removed. The treatment left her walking on crutches. She was in India for six months.

And how was it for the family when she was away for treatment?

At first, we felt lonely. But we could communicate via Skype and keep her abreast of all that was happening, seek her advice, and also encourage her and make her smile. My sisters and I understood her leaving for India was for a good cause and she would soon be back before we knew it. We also had support from family, neighbours, friends who came visiting and checking on us.

Did this process change her value as a mother or even her personality?

No. She is still our mother no matter what. She became more confident, bold and her perspective on people living with disability and those with cancer leaned on how to help them and to get society to accept and appreciate them.

How was it for the family when you learned that your mother couldn’t walk without support?

We had to first accept our mother in her new state, be positive-minded and be readily available to help her with the physiotherapy, pushing her wheelchair and walking with her to the malls when shopping as a form of exercise for her legs.

We even had a schedule as her daughters for doing physiotherapy exercises with her every morning, noon and evening for one year so that she could be mobile again.

Now she is in politics. So, how does she balance her career, family and politics?

She has a great sense of discipline, a coat of many colours, I should say! At home she is a loving and caring mother; she cooks and shares her childhood experiences with us. When at work she also balances her career and politics.

At what point in her life did she develop political ambitions?

As long as I have known her, she has always been interested in helping the community and what better platform to be impactful than political platforms? Since her nomination by ODM she has launched several initiatives to help the community.

For example during her homecoming early this year, she donated mattresses to a women’s-self-help group in Murram village in Lugari constituency for an income-generating project.

Has her life changed after joining politics?

And is she planning to vie for any political position come 2022? She still has the motherly touch she had, though extremely busy serving people in the community and championing the rights of the disabled in the community. About 2022, God’s plans are best at His own time.

What are some of the fond memories you have with her?

We used to go for picnics and swimming. We have also had so many cooking lessons and cake baking sessions, which we still do.

Tell us about your family?

Mum has four daughters. I’m the firstborn in the family and I’m a PhD student at a local university. My other siblings Damaris, Laura and Charlotte are also pursuing their education in local schools and campuses. They love and always view our mother as their mentor.

Your mum is a PhD holder and also a lecturer at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), which shows she treasures education. Tell us about about that?

She has intense passion for education, is strict and precise. She has always encouraged us to take our education seriously and through her passion, we are daring to take after her in the field of academia and even aspire more. She would go out of her way to guide us when it comes to proposal writing, publication editing, among others.

So, what keeps your mum going?

She believes that she can make a difference and that her life has more meaning now more than ever. Since she wasn’t born with a disability, she made a decision to be positive about her situation and use it to inspire and mentor others. She doesn’t have room for self-pity.

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