When Edwin Abonyo met the late Bomet Governor Joyce Laboso, it was love at first sight … they got married. But just nine years into their matrimony, she was diagnosed with cancer.
In a touching tribute to his departed wife at the All Saints Cathedral yesterday, Abonyo narrated how the diagnosis devastated them as a young couple in 1991 having just gotten married in 1983.
He described it as catastrophic.
“It was a scare in our lives, we were still very young. We were just beginning to do things, then came the disease. When it happened, I got into my car and drove home. The first person I went to was my mother and said: “Mum, Joyce is dying,” he said during the service which was presided over by Bishop Ernest Ng’eno assisted by Canon Sammy Wainaina.
At this point, the two had been blessed with two children and their hope of having more were dashed. “Naturally, we couldn’t have any more children so we thought we would stop there…,” Abonyo narrated and recalled how against all odds, Laboso conquered the monster.
“She survived the first cancer disease…then she would do chemotherapy and later radiotherapy…but it disabled her in so many ways. Most of you would not know unless you were a friend. She had a lot of problems,” he added.
“Even after Laboso was declared cancer-free, she often fell ill but only very close friends knew the whole truth.”She didn’t like drama, not so many knew about it…she was sick but covered it all. Joyce was committed to her work. She was a busy woman, always on her phone making calls,” he added.
“I want to thank President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto. They are great people; they would call me. They were all concerned about Joyce. They gave me immense support,” he said.
But the disease recurred forcing her to seek treatment in London, United Kingdom in May this year before she was moved to India and then to Nairobi Hospital where she succumbed it is in the same hospital that she had in the 90s defeated the killer disease.
Abonyo, described his wife as the best wife anybody could ever hope to have.“Joyce was a wonderful lady. I tell my friends that it is so difficult to address her in past tense, because, it is not something that I thought I would say with confidence.”
Laboso’s eldest son, Brian Abonyo, read her eulogy, which highlighted her achievements and her great aspiration for the people of Bomet.
Brian said: “Thank you for being exemplary, teaching us virtues of humility and patience. You fought illness bravely, but now you need to rest, you were an angel on this earth. You left a legacy. We thank God for the years we spent with you.” “Watching the condition you were in past months it broke my heart, thank you for the unconditional love that you showed us,” Ted, the other son said.
Deputy President eulogised Laboso as a great woman leader who traversed all shades of our political ─ revealing that he and President Uhuru Kenyatta knew she didn’t have much time on earth.
Combating the scourge
Ruto said he, President Uhuru and Laboso’s families “did what is humanly possible to save her life.” “One or two months ago, doctors in London said it was not going to be possible to rid Laboso of the ovarian cancer. In a bid to seek a second opinion, we flew Joyce to India, hoping she would get treatment to elongate her life. I remember President Uhuru called me at the time to inquire on what decision we had arrived at after the London hospital said there was nothing much they could do to save Laboso’s life.” Ruto said after seeking a second opinion at the hospital in India, they were left with no other option but “to surrender Joyce to God’s will”.
Laboso was, three weeks ago, flown back to Kenya, where she was admitted to the Nairobi Hospital until her demise on Monday, July 29.“Because of the difficulties she was going through, it was only fair that she rests,” said Ruto.
Other leaders paid glowing tributes to Laboso whom, they described as a servant leader even as they called on the government to invest more resources in combating the scourge.
Women MPs, Senators and governors in mourning black and purple scarfs termed Joyce’s death as a great loss to Kenya. Her husband Edwin Abonyo was dressed in a navy blue suit with a purple ribbon.
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko said the government should put up cancer facilities to help, especially people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Others who eulogised Laboso were Speakers of the National Assembly and Senate Justin Muturi and Kenneth Lusaka, Cabinet secretaries, governors and their deputies, Senators and MPs as well as the Attorney General Paul Kihara.
Governors present were Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Mwangi wa Iria (Murang’a), John Nyagarama (Nyamira), Josphat Nanok (Turkana), Stephen Sang (Nandi), Samuel Tunai (Narok), and Godana Dhadho (Tana River).
Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s wife Ida, remembered Laboso as a woman who was passionate about education, the two having met at Kenya High School where the latter was student while she was teacher.