By Evelyn Makena @evemake_g
“My wife is a fantastic woman who stood by me.” These are the words Bob Collymore used to describe his wife Wambui Kamiru in a media interview when he returned to Kenya following his treatment in London last year.
Theirs was a heartwarming love story of a wife who steadfastly stood by her man during his greatest hour of need, and before then when many disapproved of their relationship.
In 2017, Collymore was diagnosed with Myeloid Leukemia, a rare form of blood cancer and went for treatment in the UK.
Before the diagnosis, Collymore narrated of how his wife thought that he was suffering from malaria after observing the symptoms.
“The first symptoms, I saw was when I was in Morroco. I had this kind of “flu thing”. I noticed that a pain in the bone on my shin, which is not something you experience unless you kicked something hard. My wife Wambui said I think you have got malaria because she is really good in self-diagnosis. She called her mom and her mom says yes probably malaria,” he said.
The first time he saw a doctor, he was misdiagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency and given supplements. Wambui had to wade through widespread disapproval of her choice of husband, who was taking a third chance at marriage, the first two unions having ended in divorce.
Collymore, who died at the age of 61, described his first marriage in his 20s as a mistake and regretted how he handled his second marriage.
Collymore and Wambui married in 2016 in a wedding noted for its simplicity, contrary to the expectations that the top CEO would splurge on the ceremony.
With the bride dressed in a simple white dress and groom in white shorts and shirt, the couple formalised their union in a low key, invites-only ceremony in Kitisuru, Nairobi.
Wambui, also divorced, had to endure attacks on social media after the wedding.
Despite their relationship facing public scrutiny, the couple managed to keep their marriage out of the public eye.
During the difficult days when he was undergoing cancer treatment in London, his wife was by his side visiting him in hospital everyday.
In an interview last year, Collymore spoke about his wife’s steadfast support as he underwent treatment for more than nine months.
The two met at a fundraiser for survivors of Loreto Convent Msongari bus crash in July 2011 where Wambui was attending as an alumnus of the school and Collymore was representing the Safaricom Foundation.
Born in Guyana in 1958, Collymore had expressed optimism that he would overcome cancer.
“In my family, my ex-wife had cancer and my sister also had cancer. My ex-wife celebrated her fifth year cancer free (when I was in London) and my sister celebrated her sixth year, so you don’t have to die of cancer,” he said in an interview. (Related stories on page 15).