A glimpse of life from a wife, a student and a survivor.
Many have asked for a story that I’m to tell after all that I’ve gone through but here I am struggling to put it all into words.
I am unsure if it is the complexities of my life experiences that are just too much to put into words or the complexities of emotions behind it all that I still struggle to deal with but embrace through laughter and humor.
However, I do want to firstly acknowledge the AUTHOR OF MY LIFES STORY. THE FINISHER AND PERFECTER OF MY FAITH. MY GOD WHO HAS ALWAYS CARRIED ME THROUGH. None of this would have been possible without the divine orchestration, and works of HIS HANDS. Hands that have provided, protected, guided and healed, me and you too. I owe my life and my entire existence to our HEAVENLY FATHER, to whom I will forever be indebted to.
Psalm 56:3 ~ “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.”
My name is MERELESITA (we’ll leave it at that lol) also known to many as BUNA, MEME, and some may know me also as @ms_vakarau from Instagram or others as Pita’s wife. I am an iTaukei woman like many who are frequent readers of this space, with links to Oneata in Lau, Gau in Lomaiviti and now eternally linked to Vutia, Rewa.
However, as I relate to most of you as being an British army wife, an element unique to me is that my country of residence is the US and I travel between countries yearly. Long distance isn’t ideal, no matter your location, it is bittersweet. Yet with trust and a whole lot of faith it can be a beautiful experience, as they say “distance makes the heart grow fonder”.
As I dive into a glimpse of my story, I ask that you get comfortable, maybe grab something to drink or eat and unpack with me some things that even now make it hard for me to breathe normally when sharing. Thank you for hearing me out.
Being a wife, I’ve had my fair share of trials within my marriage that in instances of frustration has left me questioning my sanity and my choice to marry as young as I did. The long distance, the tours, the multiple stressors, the arguments and everything in between both of beauty and pain, is a lot to handle, but we handle it anyways. Many of you understand how it feels yet for the sake of love, the security of the family you’re co-creating, and the need to break generational curses, we do whatever needs to be done to keep things together for ourselves, our marriages and our family because that’s what we are as women, as wives, we’re the backbone of the family unit while also being his RIB. Unbeknownst to me that despite all our new marital plans of settling down in one country and celebrating our one year anniversary in 2021, I’d be diagnosed with CLASSIC HODGEKINS LYMPHOMA CANCER three days later.
I phoned my husband, who was out on exercise and relayed the news to a grief stricken man. One who’s vulnerability was so unfamiliar to me until that day. Silence along with tears of confusion and denial were shared between us over the phone that day. A day later, after my biopsy surgery my husband came to pick me up from the hospital to go home, while awaiting the results that confirmed that the large mass in my mediastinum was indeed cancerous. I was devastated. We were devastated. We were both afraid. Yet choosing the only option there was - to be strong for ourselves and each other. In all uncertainty that’s all we can do. Life changed in the blink of an eye. Everything I had planned, all that I thought I had under control was out of my control and I struggled with accepting that. I was not only shocked at the devastating news but even more mind blown at the man beside me who willingly dropped everything (everything being his twelve year career for his wife of one year) to be by my side for the entirety of not my cancer journey but OUR cancer journey as he would describe it.
My husbands selflessness and love for me is what reassures me that I made the right decision marrying him as young as I was, God foresaw all things and brought us together knowing that HE will be the only one to take care of me willingly and wholeheartedly in this season. What a God. He really does have a sense of humor, I prayed for a strong foundation for my marriage and this was the answer a year later. However, He does have our best interests and the best plans for us promised in Jeremiah 29:11. On a lighter note, one day I do hope to repay my husband, for all he has done for me thus far, not that I wish him sick or anything but you know what I mean, right ? You know, through sickness and in health, but I want to be on the side of health next time. But for now let’s hope my love and my life is enough and it’s more good health from now on for the both of us. I’d like to express my gratitude to the Her Majesty’s Army, and all those who had been involved with and still are involved in the decisions pertaining to my husbands compassionate leave of absence. Thank you for your understanding, compassion, kindness and your high value of family coming first. For eleven months, I was blessed to have my husband by my side and I thank God for touching hearts, and opening doors. God of possibilities indeed.
Something I learnt about myself is that I am not as strong as I portrayed myself to be. I was always on the go, embracing my identity of being a strong, educated and independent woman. Taking care of everything on my own and helping everyone else but struggling to allow others to take care of me, it was a control thing I guess. I liked to feel like I had everything under control or in order. Cancer humbled me and brought me to my knees, real quick with that one, thanks God. It took me four months to be able to fully embrace, talk about my illness, accept Gods will and my new life’s season. I then finally realized that there is nothing in my control, there is so much strength in vulnerability, asking for or accepting help and sharing experiences, I was finally realizing it, how exhausting to be living like that. So please, let’s all remind ourselves that it’s okay to be vulnerable and to ask for help. It’s okay to cry, to talk about it, to experience it and learn from it, whatever IT may be for you. That’s lesson one. The entirety of my illness I was still in school, trying to complete the degree that I abandoned in 2020 when the world decided to come to a stand still along with my will to learn. I found myself juggling trying not to die literally from cancer and figuratively, from my classes. However, lesson number two is this, the people you have around you will determine your success in life. I have this wonderful memory of Pita and I, some two days after chemotherapy. I was barely able to function, yet together we completed my weeks modules and assignments with him reading, typing and compiling for me as I dictated the contents. All in between were my many complaints to him and his words of encouragement to me. We did that till school ended with every class and everything was completed. It is one of my most precious memories, and greatest accomplishments. As humbly as possible, I am proud to say that six months after beating cancer I successfully graduated with not one but two degrees. Lesson number three, keep going even when you don’t feel like it. Be grateful for the people in your life who want you to do and be better, FIND THEM, CHERISH THEM & LOVE THEM.
It is so important to have people who will fight with you and fight for you to see you do better and achieve greater! My support system, my husband and our family, pushed me, picked me up and carried me through both with my education and my battle with cancer. I am forever grateful for them. Despite the heavy rain, there was and is still sunshine!
My illness was discovered at STAGE TWO & quickly progressed to stage THREE in the first four months after being diagnosed, I was stalling my treatment because of my fear of chemotherapy. What an idiot, I know, but I am sure I am not the only one who acts out of character because of fear. I had a massive tumor in my chest, as the doctors put it “was the size of a watermelon”. I will forever dislike watermelons because of that comparison and because of it’s ‘undecided’ taste. That’s just a fun fact about me or maybe I just haven’t tasted the perfect watermelon? I don’t think so, but I know you may think I’m wrong and that’s okay this isn’t about watermelons, or is it? I’m joking. When I finally was mentally strong enough to be treated, I went through six intensive cycles (12 treatments) of chemotherapy every other week, multiple injections right after, and then later a month of daily radiation treatments. How it feels like to go through all that you may wonder? I answer with the fact that I would never wish it upon my worst enemy, or anyone for that matter.
I don’t wish anyone to ever experience the pain, the torment, the mental and emotional suffering I went through. The getting pumped with literal cell poison all day to cure the major illness at hand while making yourself vulnerable to the many minor illnesses because of a compromised immune system. I don’t wish anyone to ever experience trying to remain strong for your loved ones when you literally had no strength or white blood cells to carry on. It was such a trying time, spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally. No one deserves all that in their lives. I don’t wish anyone to ever experience wanting to question God but knowing better not to and just trusting that if He brought you to it He will get you through it even though death looms over you daily. That messes with your mind. All you can do is hope for the light at the end of the tunnel to be worth it all, and that’s if you even make it to that end. All the throwing up, the no appetite, the passing out, the horrible pain and exhaustion that kept me in a state like those from the show ‘Walking Dead’ , the confusion, the fear and the uncertainty - I wish that on nobody, EVER. Despite it all, God brought me through it. The light at the end of the tunnel that I so longed for as I endured all the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual trauma, was HIM all along. It took me having cancer to realize just how much I needed him and how lost I was. To literally be tried and tested in the fire, has made me the woman I am today. A totally different woman, seeing life from a new lens, one that I am still learning about and growing into daily. One that knows that control is out of her hands and is ultimately in HIS. I had to learn that the really hard, literal near death experience way - as if four car crashes wasn’t enough, but that’s another days story. Sometimes crucibles that you think are meant to break you, actually equip you into a stronger person who is ready for what’s yet to come, a greater calling. Try to trust the process and the God behind it. I know it is easier said than done, but it can be done. When you release all your human efforts of trying to control things in your life are in vain and allow God to take the reins, you will realize that all I said above can be done, with faith as little as a mustard seed. The fourth lesson. As I mentioned, not only was this my journey but it was also my family’s journey too. Cancer doesn’t have a face until it happens to someone you love. Everybody I loved experienced it to some extent, especially my husband, for whom I am grateful for, being my rock, my caregiver, my driver, my cook, my masseuse, my student aid, etc all in one. Thank you my love. My parents and all my family around the world, who covered me in prayers and made sure I need not worry about a thing other than staying alive, thank you. Also to everyone that thought, prayed, reached out and or visited me, I would not be here if it wasn’t for all your prayers, kind words of encouragement, blessings, and physical presence. When you or someone is in their death-bed ( *knocks on wood* ) nothing else matters, the things of this world mean nothing. The only thing that mattered to me then and now, is spending as much quality time with the people I love. It’s my love language, another fun fact. A reminder for us all to be more intentional in spending quality time with those who matter. PRESENCE & QUALITY TIME MATTERS. Quality over quantity. ALWAYS, in all things, and that’s lesson five. To the men, who may stumble upon this piece, something I do not wish upon any man is to experience the same uncertainty, the same fear, the same rollercoaster of emotions that I saw my husband experience, while he tirelessly cared for me as I was sick. It changed him in a way that saddened me, taking away from him the joy of life. As much as it was a test to our marriage and our love, I hope that it won’t take something as such to happen to you for you to realize your love and deep appreciation for each other. I hope that it doesn’t take the fear of losing your significant other for you to realize the need to change, to do better, to live and love better. I guess that goes for us all really, not just men. Life is short and everyday isn’t promised, you don’t need to get cancer to realize that. We’re all survivors in our own unique way. I survived cancer and you survived your own version of it literally or figuratively. We did that. Kudos to us! But I’d also like to remember my dear aunt, MEREISI VOLITILEVUKA, who was a beacon of light and pillar of strength to me during my journey, the only one who knew what I was going through while going through it herself and yet never failing to lift me up when she needed uplifting herself. A strong woman who didn’t get to ring the bell with me in the end, and along with all the strong people who succumbed to this nightmare of an illness. May we never forget them and the memories of their beautiful lives. On a more nonchalant note, all this to say, duck cancer & that’s exactly what I would say in person. How I truly feel about the experience of my journey with it? Think POTUS 45. Yes, the way I feel about cancer is similar to my feelings of Donald Trump, I mean you get the gist. Anyways! Here is to us, as we continue to be vulnerable, living a life of gratitude, being kind, giving grace, loving deeply and wholeheartedly while living everyday like it’s our last. (*knocks on wood*)
Thank you Marama Alliance UK for this opportunity to share a glimpse of my story & thank you to all the strong women reading this, may we never give up when it gets tough. May we continue to uplift each other, hear each other and see each other in a society and world that struggles to. I end with my favorite Bible verse that continues to see me through, from the book of ROMANS 12:12 - “BE JOYFUL IN HOPE, PATIENT IN AFFLICTION AND FAITHFUL IN PRAYER.” With all my love, Merelesita V Robanakadavu