To celebrate our 6th anniversary, BellaNaija embarked on a mission! Our mission was to share OUR Stories and OUR Miracles - BN at 6, Our Stories, Our Miracles. Each and every African at home and in Diaspora has a unique story. Many have been through experiences which can only be described as miracles. Tragedy and strife converted to triumph through faith and perseverance.
The response we received has been overwhelmingly positive and BN Our Stories, Our Miracles is now an ongoing feature on BellaNaija. Solape Peters, whose apparently picture perfect life cracked when she lost her mom, shares her story with us. We hope that you’re encouraged by her story. If you have a story you’d like to tell or share with the BN readers, please send an email to features(at)bellanaija(dot)com. You just might touch many lives.
I had a very happy childhood. I grew up in Lagos with my younger siblings. My older siblings were at school abroad so our long summer vacations were usually spent with them in England. A typical weekend started on Friday after school, with swimming, followed by a movie, Saturdays were for piano and recorder lessons and Sundays after church were for family lunches with all of us sat around the table and sometimes we would go to the beach and I remember my dad would sometimes play beach golf. It was hysterical watching him ‘torment’ my older brother with the many rules of golfing! My parents met, got married and lived in England for many years so my mother was a typical “English Rose” and our upbringing reflected their experiences living abroad.
When everything changed
My mother’s illness changed our happy little world. I didn’t realize she was ill for the longest time, I don’t think any of my siblings did either. My earliest memory of her illness was when she slipped into a diabetic coma in the early 90s. Suddenly our world revolved around caring for her as her condition slowly and painfully deteriorated. I remember her many surgeries, skin graft operations; because she was adamant about the fact that she didn’t want to have any of her toes or limbs amputated, her eye operations to save her sight and the many injections she had to endure. Watching someone you love suffer the way she did was really quite difficult for all of us and perhaps that brought us even closer together. We all took turns in looking after her, giving her daily injections, sitting to talk with her, giving her foot massages, doing her make-up.
When she died on the 7th of November 1997, we were all so distraught. She really was the centre of all our lives and she kept everything and everyone grounded, even towards the end when she was very ill, mummy was in charge! I can safely say that her death changed us all.
How it changed me
I was 22 when she passed away. I was an adult, but in many ways, still just a child. Our focus for the longest time was caring for her and there were so many things I didn’t know, that only a mother could teach a young woman. Her death was truly devastating. We all had to quickly grow up. Earlier on after she passed, I was desperate to have a mother-like figure who would love and look out for me the way my mother did. I would sometimes feel so resentful towards my friends who still had their mothers and that feeling made me feel so guilty. However today, I know that I was quite the pampered princess growing up! Life is really about how you adapt to change, how quickly you recover from its many knocks and what keeps you grounded.
I was diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure in 2010 and have been on the medication pretty much since then. I had been very ill with various infections before then and just didn’t know what was wrong with me. Eventually after a foot infection which left my foot swollen and oozing and another wrist infection, the diagnosis was made. I initially considered it a relief to finally have a name to call the illness and then I felt it was a death sentence. I wept for what seemed like weeks! My sisters held me together during that period. The slightest thing upset me and for a while, I resisted starting the medication. It took a conference call, with my sister-in-law and my younger sister (who are both doctors) talking to me and all of us in tears when they counseled me to start the medication and make changes to my lifestyle. I immediately made some drastic changes to my diet and started exercising. So far, I have lost 30 pounds through a complete change of lifestyle and habits. I go to the gym at least three times a week and I have recently started taking Zumba® classes.
What I’d say to someone who has these challenges
My advice to anyone facing any illness is to first of all get as much literature about their condition as possible and read up. Don’t let the pity party last for too long! Secondly, to have a solid support system in place. My family is my rock and I am quite blessed to have them and I also have the most amazing friends. They all help to keep me in check. Not everyone is that lucky so I recognize this, but support is a necessity. Thirdly, if there is available medication or treatment, to start using it as soon as possible. Things won’t change simply because you choose to bury your head in the sand! You are responsible for yourself. Play your part and God will do the rest. Lastly, try and be consistent with your medication and do what your doctor says. You cannot decide to behave for the first six months and lose the plot for the next six months! There will always be days when you pig out, but quickly get back on the straight and narrow. I am convinced that everything happens for a reason and God will never give you more than you can bear. Trusting HIM must be unconditional.