Hers was a beautiful story. A story of resilience, a story of hard work, a story of love and a story of pain. That is the story of Janet Bett-Karonei.
She was laid to rest yesterday in Moiben in Uasin Gishu County after she succumbed to severe Aplastic Anemia in India while undergoing treatment.
Aplastic anaemia according to nhs.uk is a serious condition affecting the blood, where the bone marrow and stem cells do not produce enough blood cells. It is also called bone marrow failure and can happen suddenly (acute) or develop over a period of time (chronic).
She had lived for 31years and wished that her life be celebrated as a life well-lived. "Gather up your tears, keep 'em in your pocket. Save 'em for a time when you're really gonna need 'em," she wrote.
Here is her story in her own words.
Living on little bags of life – My Story
About two months ago. I was diagnosed with severe Aplastic Anemia. A very rare blood disorder where your bone marrow stops producing sufficient blood. This meant I was really weak and tired all the time. It is the little bags of life (blood transfusions) that kept me going. These little bags literally bought me more time. It hasn't always been like this though, so let me take you back right to the beginning.
My name Is Janet Cheng’etich Bett- Karoney and this is my life.
I turned 31 this year. I am the fourth child in our family and a size 3 shoe. My dad felt I was very special and different, while I shared my giggly and humorous side with my mum. We were always laughing and cracking jokes.
I always found the school part of Eulogies boring. I don't want mine to be the same. So allow me to summarize. I did go to school. I did really well (Like I was the top girl in my GCSE class!) and went on to graduate from Strathmore University. Funny story though, apparently. I loved school so much that t was always the first in the car &cried when my siblings would make us late.
My life was not all about academia though... When I joined Strathmore University. I met the love of my life Brian Kipchumba Karoney. You see. Brian's uncle is my dad's friend and had requested Brian to look for me. Destiny right? We built a friendship based on fun, humor, play and intellectual discourse. After 6 years of dating. Brian proposed to me in the most unforgettable way. Just to give you some details, can you imagine he rented out the entire Cinema at Prestige Plaza and created an emotional movie that incorporated my loved ones, asking for my hand in marriage. We tied the knot on the 12th of December, 2017 in a super colourful ceremony by my standards'.
Now let me tell you about my husband. Brian is loving, kind and selfless. Out of this beautiful love came our princess Nemye. Our strong friendship and love reflected in our little family. We were inseparable.
“My husband is truly the perfect husband. He stood with me till the end. I have no doubt whatsoever that Nemye is in great hands and no one will take care of her and protect her more than Brian."
My ‘Kamatis' also welcomed me into their family with so much love and support. I was basically one of them. Mum and Dad supported and accepted me, making sure I was always comfortable.
I was passionate about my career. I started out at Simba Colt as an intern and later got a full time position in the tech team. I later moved to Nexus where I got the opportunity to serve as General Manager. Talk about moving on up. I pivoted into the startup world at Women Work Kenya right after that.
As a typical Kenyan, I had an entrepreneurial spirit. (My siblings at one point nicknamed me "hustler" because I was always full of entrepreneurial ideas.) I started two businesses, namely Jay Bride (This was going to be the next big thing and was a one-stop-shop for brides planning for their big day). I had just recently launched Fat Cheque after working on it for a very long time. A lot of people who know me know I was always on one diet or another, and always met many who were the same. So I figured if it was made into a game/competition it would give extra motivation.
I had a fun and full social life and really enjoyed spending time with my friends. I had a close-knit circle with whom we shared many memories together from my Rusinga high school friends group which was dubbed "Ngware MCs" as a tribute to the neighbouring area to my Braeside friends who we have shared a lot of memories, travel, and life experiences. I was blessed to have made really close friends at work too.
The final chapter:
Like I had mentioned I was diagnosed with a severe illness that changed my life so quickly and resulted in us gathering here today. In the last two months, from my diagnosis, I felt overwhelming love and support both monetary and emotionally and fought hard to the end. Somewhere along the way, my immunity was greatly compromised and I caught an infection. With my low blood count, my body was unable to fight the infection. This was sudden and difficult, but my love resides in all of you.
I felt it is important to let you guys in on this rare condition. I had big plans to raise awareness about Aplastic Anemia after my treatment. Clearly, that's not possible now so I really need your help. Like I had previously mentioned, severe Aplastic Anemia is a blood condition that attacks the bone marrow and greatly reduces one's platelet and blood count This means that my treatment was multifaceted. I had to do several blood transfusions while my family got tested to find a match for a bone marrow transplant. This would give me a 90% chance to live. My siblings unfortunately were not a match (thanks guys!) It was not their fault though. Did you know there is only a 25% chance of matching with a sibling? Also, only 10 percent of the bone marrow registry in the world are black people. You can imagine how slim my chances of finding a match were.
It was also my dream to find a way to enable Bone Marrow Transplants to become available in Kenya, so other families who face this do not have to travel for treatment like I did and can have their families around them to support them.
My prayer & final words:
Lord, make me a rainbow, I'll shine down on my mother
She’ll know I'm safe with you when she stands under my colors
Ain't even gray, but she buries her baby
Well. I've had just enough time
What I never did is done
Gather up your tears, keep 'em in your pocket
Save 'em for a time when you're really gonna need 'em, oh
And I'll be wearing white when I go into His kingdom
So put on your best, and I'll wear my pearls
Send me away with the words of a love song
Until we meet again
Photos: Courtesy of Lemiso Sato