You can hear Christina’s contagious laugh from across the room and instinctively know that she’s a woman who never lets circumstances rob her of joy. But, her smile is interrupted by a facial tumor that has been slowly growing for over 30 years, with no hope of being removed.
Christina first noticed the tumor, which was then just a small growth on her left cheek, when she was only 23 years old. She was a young bride, raising a family with her whole future ahead of her. The tumor was painful, but surgery to remove it was not an option. She and her husband, Emmanuel, worked as farmers—their maize, yam and beans put food on the table, but didn’t provide enough money to cover hospital expenses. All Christina could do was take medicine to ease the pain, and resign herself to the reality that this would always be a part of her life.
As Christina’s children grew, so did her tumor, eventually stretching from her ear to her jaw. But, her exuberant spirit and love for those around her never faded. When asked about her positivity she simply said, “The spirit of God is touching me, giving me peace.”
When she first heard of Mercy Ships, she couldn’t believe her ears—a ship with surgeons that would remove her tumor for free? Her children barely saw her without it in the last three decades, let alone her grandchildren. She knew she had to take the chance. Leaving her family behind, she traveled to the ship in hopes of receiving surgery on board. Even when her appointments were postponed, Christina waited patiently, peacefully, with a twinkle in her eye. Change was coming. She just had to hold on.
Finally, her surgery date came. After several hours in the operating room, the tumor was gone! “Look at me!” she said after the operation, turning her face so you could see the graceful slope of her neck, now tumor-free. “My family will not believe it.”
Her bubbly laugh and genuine interest in those around her made Christina a favorite to patients and crew alike on the Africa Mercy. And after her surgery, she returned home without the burden she’d carried for 30 years, and with a new hope for the future.
Story by: Rose Talbot
Edited by: Karis Johnson
Photographer: Shawn Thompson