I have always admired people who speak coherently and flawlessly…
As part of my exercise regime I would walk round and round Nyayo stadium with a good friend. I always enjoyed listening to her talk; her sentences were complete, commas in place and her expressions were very good. Every other Wednesday she would talk of not exercising because she need to attend the Early Birds Toastmasters Meeting. Interesting that we were night runners since our exercise time was at Nyayo 4.30 latest and here was Early Birds at 6.30. I got interested and tagged along once and the meeting blew my mind. I never missed a meeting since. There have been lots of inspiring stories and I have learned so much from other people’s stories, and time has now presented the opportunity to also share about myself.
I am the first born in a family of four. I was born at the King George Hospital which is today Kenyatta National Hospital exactly half a century ago + 1 year so I have clearly won the Kenyan 50+1 vote and there has been no rigging ☺. I grew up in Eastlands and also in Kawangware until I was 9 years old when we moved to a farm not too far from the CBD. I attended nursery school at Bohra primary school in the City centre where the fire station now stands. I then moved to St. George’s primary school from standard 2 to standard 7. I was admitted to Ngara High School which was a day school, but my parents decided to ship me to a school in Muranga.
Going to this school was a shock for me, I was a city girl born and bred in the city. I found it quite hard to adjust. I felt like my parents had abandoned me. The school had no lights, the kitchen was made out of mud. Breakfast was thin porridge, lunch and dinner was Githeri with weevils! There was no dining room and we stood or sat on the grass as we had lunch. Who does this to their beloved daughter? My grades deteriorated. I was either last or second last…
As is popular with other parents, I have never told my children I was a number one in class ever…
Being last in my class never once got me into trouble especially with my dad. The constant words that I heard from him were “You can make it Catherine, You can make it”. “Read a little harder, you are a bright child”, he encouraged me. When I was second last he told me “You have defeated one person, your grades have improved by 10 marks, next term beat one more person, improve by only 10 marks.” I heard this encouragement from him term in term out. When in form 2 I decided to just put in just a little effort and I beat 9 people. When I got home and showed my dad my report form, a chicken died to celebrate my good performance and improvement good work.
My dad never condemned me. He accepted me just as I was. He believed in me and said so openly. By the end of my form tow year I was among the top 10 in class. This continued throughout my high school years. I passed my fourth form exam with a 2nd division which is currently equivalent to a B+ ya Matiangi. I proceeded for my A’levels and again passed with a B. Those days there were only two universities and so the competition was very stiff. I joined college and did a diploma in administration. As I was finishing I met a very lovely, handsome, and gorgeous young man and we got married 8 months later. We’ve been blessed with 4 children, 2 lovely ladies (I am ready to receive dowry) and 2 handsome gentlemen. The first 3 children came lightning speed so I decided to be a stay home mom to take care of them. I therefore shelved my career. In the meantime I did a myriad of businesses, from selling clothes (both old and new), to selling vegetables, running a salon, procuring mangoes from Msambweni to deliver to Kongowea Market in Mombasa, to making jewellery, plates etc. I was a jack of all trades. I picked up my career much later and I told myself remembering my father’s voice that “No matter what challenges you face Catherine – you can make it”.
My current careers started via a hurtful rejection. HIV was rampant at the time and I went to offer my services at a home that took care of HIV orphans and mothers, and after the interview, I was rejected because I was HIV negative. This was the first time that I had come face to face with stigma and discrimination. I walked away feeling dejected and almost humiliated. This encounter gave me a burning desire to learn human behavior. Whilst studying, I encountered many people with different life issues and most people felt comfortable sharing with me. Many times although I listened and gave wise counsel, I often felt inadequate and so this now made me realize I needed skills to empower me to work with people. I have done counseling psychology from certificate level to masters level and I will be starting my Phd in Clinical Psychology this coming year. Remember I used to come last in class? And remember my father’s voice encouraging me that – “You can make it Catherine, You can make it”
Human beings are social beings by nature and one of our greatest needs is to be listened to and heard. When faced with real life issues, who do you talk to? When going through heart break and wanting to commit suicide, work issues, business gone sour, the loss of a loved one, depression, debt, separation, a life threatening disease, your team Croatia losing the world cup? Who do you talk to, to manage your emotions either disappointment or gratitude? 2 years ago I started a 24 hour counseling call center called NISKIZE meaning listen to me… The need arose after realizing that one can call a cab from wherever you are, dial for pizza, dial for laundry, etc and so the same concept applies – if you need to talk to a professional counselor day or night there is NISKIZE. The service is anonymous and can be accessed at the comfort of your home, work or as you take a stroll during your lunch break. This is the first of its kind in East and Central Africa. This achievement brings to the fore my dad truly telling me – “You can make it Catherine, You can make it”
Is life a straight path? Is your life smooth? Are there mountains? I think we all go through great challenges. On 14th of May as I was waking up I felt a swelling on my body. I wondered what had hit me. I did a self-examination. . Every good girl knows how to do one It was painless. I examined myself with the tips of my fingers, gently. Alas it was a lump! My heart skipped a beat, I lay in bed motionless for many minutes. Then the tears came rolling, then the sobs. I felt like I had been handed a death sentence. I later woke up, composed myself and gave my family breakfast. That is what good moms do. I decided that I needed to go see my GP. He ordered tests whose results were to take 7 days. I went to get the results and the results said that I had invasive ductal carcinoma which in lay-man language is breast cancer…..
I felt like my eyes were dimming, like I had sounds in my ears. I saw darkness at 3pm! This was very confusing and appalling. What happens after such news? Who do you tell? Who do you talk to? What do you tell your children? I thank God for a supportive husband who has stood by my side from day one. My children have been immensely supportive and so have my friends and family.
The last month and a half has been a roller coaster. Doing tests and making major decisions. On June 30th I had surgery. I am recuperating well. The journey of cancer is a long, long journey and I have realized that this journey can only be taken one step at a time, second by second, minute by minute. Cancer is a monster but it can be fought. I am fighting it and I know that I will overcome it. It is said that cancer is a death sentence, but I am saying that I have been handed a life sentence. There is nothing that cannot be fought and overcome. And I remember the words of my father now more than ever – “You can make it Catherine, you can make it”. And so I would like to encourage each and every one of you that no matter what you are going through – You Too Can Make It, You Can Make It!
Author: Catherine Muriithi
Catherine Muriithi is a practicing counseling psychologist, mentor, work place trainer, marital counselor, mental health practitioner and life coach. She is the founder of NISKIZE, a 24-hour counseling and call center that seeks to bring counseling services closer and more accessible to the masses. She may be found on firstname.lastname@example.org