She fought a good fight

She fought a good fight

MASERU – RARELY has the illness and suffering of one person touched the collective psyche of a whole country.
’Maseabata Khaile, 21, who died two weeks ago after a long battle with oral cancer, did that and much more.
By the time she succumbed to the illness Khaile had become that “brave girl fighting for her life against the odds”.
Hers was a very public battle to be remembered for several reasons.

The first is that her plight shined light on cancer, a disease we rarely talk about but has become a scourge.
As the pictures of her disfigured face were plastered on news pages and radio stations shrilled about her battle, Basotho were reminded that cancer is real.

The second is that Khaile’s suffering pricked our conscience. For once we stopped being aloof at the suffering of those who don’t live next door, in our village and don’t share our blood.  Many coalesced around her to offer support and financial assistance.

The government – notorious for cherry-picking problems whose solutions are mostly likely to add political points – woke from a slumber.
Across the country prayers were made for her. We might not have shared her suffering but we sure were not oblivious to it.
Khaile could have been your child, niece or sister. The third is that it showed the glaring weakness in our health system that is sustained with millions of maloti every year.

Not that ours is a crumbling one. It’s just that it was never designed to deal with complicated diseases like cancer.
Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital cost M1 billion to build and gobbles nearly half that every year to keep its doors open but it could not help Khaile.

The oncology department was deemed too expensive to be included in the original contract with the private operator so Khaile had to seek treatment across the border.  The fourth lesson is that we can and should do better for our poor people especially those terminally ill.
Khaile was laid to rest in Lithabaneng last Saturday. She had been diagnosed with oral cancer in June 2016.
By the time of her death Khaile had lost her speech and sight due to the tumour on her face. She had difficulty breathing as the cancer blocked her nostrils.

Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital transferred her to a hospital in Bloemfontein, South Africa, for chemotherapy but she never improved.
Some organisations and individuals raised funds for her medical costs.
Doctors had told her that if chemotherapy fails radiotherapy would be the last option but warned that the process would destroy both normal and cancerous cells.

The doctors also said it would destroy her eyes and might obliterate her brain cells as well. She chose not to go for radiotherapy.
There was not an air of regret at her funeral. She had fought a good fight, many said. She had finally rested, others said.
The shared feeling, not uncommon at funerals but amplified at Khaile’s burial because of her plight, was that she had suffered long enough.
The mourners sang a Lesotho Evangelical Church (LEC) hymn Lumelang kea tsamaea, with the belief that Khaile supposedly sang it while the pain was doubling up or tripling up.

The hymn was sung by the Qoaling LEC School, where she attended, until she dropped out in Grade D due to the illness.
“Lumelang kea tsamaea, ke ea lefatšeng le leng, ke Jesu ea mpitsang (Agree that I’m going, I’m going to another world, and it’s Jesus calling me),” says the song.
It epitomised the feelings of many who believed that she went to a place of rest in heaven at long last.
Many speakers at her funeral said they would remember Khaile for her strong messages when she taught the Scriptures at the Methodist Church of Lesotho.

Khaile was not an ordained cleric but she grabbed every opportunity to teach in church.
Church member Mahlomola Masaballa stood up with a hymn which he said Khaile liked: Ha le mpotsa tšepo ea ka ke tla re ke Jesu (When you ask me my hope I’ll say its Jesus).
“She always knew and believed that God would assist her throughout the process of healing,” Masaballa said.
“She has now healed.”

Masaballa imagined Khaile appealing and singing that her beloved ones should let her go because she was ready: “God had chosen her among others and therefore she is now bound to perform God’s duties at a better place”.
Another church member said: “Saby was unique. She would sing her lungs out praising the Almighty God.”
“When she preached at church the congregation stood still amazed,” he said.
Minister of Public Works Lehlohonolo Moramotse said Khaile’s illness touched many people’s hearts and the country at large.
Moramotse visited Khaile’s family immediately after her passing to support and console the family. There is hope that Khaile might not have died in vain.

Moramotse said the government now plans to open a cancer centre near Queen ’Mamohato Memorial Hospital.
He said Khaile’s illness also showed the power of the media in getting people and the government to rally behind a cause.
“It is through PC FM that Maseabata Khaile’s sickness was known to the government and countrywide,” he said.
Born in March 1993, Khaile was the first born in the family. Moramotse said the Minister of Social Development ‘Matebatso Doti had assisted the Khaile family with a coffin.

Tokase Mphutlane

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