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My Story

Pain, panic, and pressures tend to distort life, inflate it, and compress it again. I never realized this until losing the ones I love and almost lost myself once. It all came as terrible blows, one after the other, each revealing that life was short. Yet in each, I found a distant hope and an unshakable passion that grew from a seed to a nonprofit organization.


And this is my story. A few years ago, I fell critically ill. Most days, I could not eat, move, or even rest. I remember nights filled with tears, sweat, and sorrow. As the night turned into day, my weeping shifted from raw to restless. Sometimes I could worriedly fuss myself to sleep, but other times not. At this time, I also lost my job. With a family, needs, and now losing my job and health, I thought all could not get worse. It did. It worsened when I fell into a deep depression. Regret, worry, and stress over not providing for my family knocked at the corners of my mind. Disappointment and fear weighed down my heart. Sadness filled every single bone. All of it played everyday like a song on repeat.


Thoughts of ending it all crossed my mind more than once. It was like a lingering fellow flipping a coin of time, awaiting me to choose tail (aka the end, figuratively). My wife found me and saw me. She saw the confusion, the hurt, the anger, and everything. All the layers I thought I could mask lay perfectly open, giving her a grand view of my vulnerability. I was a shrunk, broken man before her. My wife instinctively wrapped me, saying no words at first, and neither did I. Then she asked me, "what do you want to do?"  In my swollen state, I was not sure. She offered therapy, and I took it. She did not leave me but continued to be the spine of our family. She is the building block of all my successes. My light (her) was at the end of the tunnel, no matter which tunnel I entered or found myself spiraling too deep in. As she supported our family, my therapist (and other health professionals) also aided. They provided me with compassionate care, and a turning point was my therapist asked me the same question my wife did. "What do you want to do?"  I wanted to change the world. I wanted to support my family. I wanted to be something.


I had not a dime to my name, but I wanted to help others. I talked with my wife, who, as always, supported me. We formed our nonprofit organization, Light of Africa Inc., with the help of others. My parents, at the time, helped as much as they could (in Africa). Our focus at the time was helping to empower women and children. We helped at least 11 women by giving resources and opportunities and empowering them to dream and fulfill their dreams. All while doing this, trouble clouds were forming. My family and I were still struggling. Sometimes it felt like nothing was changing for us -- all the pressures of life remained. We never went hungry, but the state we were in (and still are in) was no way to live. To make matters worse, trouble with my mother began. My mother, another strong woman in my life, fell ill.


She was in and out of the hospital. My brother would always call, saying she needed bags of blood. The costs increased with each visit and each phone call. There was nothing like witnessing my mother in deadly agony. My muscles swelled with the blood needed for flight or fight, and my heart thumped through my skin. My mother was crucified with pain, collapsing here and there, and her whole face twisted with evident pain. Yet every time, it was the same reply, "It is nothing, don't worry." No one could tell me what was happening to her. Not a single test done appeared to reveal anything. Test after test, physician after physician, no one could help my mother.


We felt it was cancer, but no one at the time wanted to check for it. I repeatedly begged but only received a "you do not know better than us." Symptoms grew worse and worse before a test revealed that my mother had cancer in her breasts. By then, it was so bad that there was hardly anything the doctors could do. The hospitals did not have the proper equipment to diagnose or treat her. A physician insisted we do a mastectomy (meaning the removing all or part of a breast), but none of us knew what that was. We received information in mismatched bits and pieces, and fear of the unknown took over us. I could imagine the pain my mother was going through. I could see her fear, which foamed up and spilled from her eyes. Her worry came and went in quick huffs, matching her unsteady breaths. I could imagine the nights she spent crying and praying restlessly or the times she would force being okay and let a smile mask everything. Nothing changed, and on Nov. 12th 2020, my mother passed away from breast cancer. Something we could have treated if the doctors had listened to her during each hospital trip. I became angry, confused, and fell yet again into depression.


The cycle repeated -- regret and stress over what-ifs knocked at the corners of my mind. I grew attached to my chair, not moving, not eating, and not progressing again. Nights felt and stretched long. Days felt like a dark, heavy blanket on my life. Everything that once felt bearable and on track appeared to crumble. I promised her not to give up before she died and to continue helping others. At that moment, though, I could barely help myself.  I tried in my weakness to fulfill my promise to her. I began trying to help other women again. I tried to get up, but many blows of tragedies kept hitting me. My grandmother passed away on Dec 1st of 2020. Many say she died of a broken heart, missing and longing for her daughter too much. Just like that, a chain or domino effect happened. My Godmother, around March, died from uterus cancer (undetected and not treated like my mother). My cousin, only child of my godmother passed away in April. I learned, too, that she had diabetes.  


Each kept passing reminded me of the inadequate medical system in Togo. I kept thinking about them being alive today if we had the medical equipment, treatments, knowledge about their issues, and the compassion to do something when they complain of pain. Through the pain and the support of my wife and family, I kept trying to do better. I became aggressive in my plans and actions, trying at all costs to make a difference in someone else's life. The focus shifted from just helping women and children to a medical with an emphasis on women and children. I wanted to help provide medical supplies, medicine, medical knowledge, and other treatment resources to improve women's and children's health. I spent my time conversing with my wife about my plans. I talked with other people and my dad, too. I remember, around April, being on the phone call with my father and pouring out everything I wanted to do to improve the medical system in Togo. I could hear the excitement in my father's voice and his words as he offered to help me write proposals. Our phone call lasted a long time, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary as we talked. An hour after talking with my father, as I tended to my children's needs and other tasks, I received a call from my brother.


My father was unconscious, and they were driving to the hospital. Shock took over my body, confusion washed over everything in my mind, and not a single breath entered my body then. "What do you mean!?" I managed to say next. I prayed it was a prank he was playing with me, giving a dry laugh, and said, "you are lying," when he explained. In heavy denial, I called his girlfriend, and between sobs and screams, she confirmed him. Just like that, I lost my father in that year (2022). He passed away from a heart attack after high pressure. They explained he was too excited, felt weak, and jogged to the hospital to get it checked. When they reached the hospital, the doctors could not do anything to treat him. They had no supplies, no beds, and no ability.


I lost it. I was angry with the medical system of Togo. Angry with not having the accessibility to proper treatment and care. All I could think is if the medical system was better, my dad would still be here. If the hospital had supplies, my mother, Godmother, and cousin would still be here. If my mother were still alive, my grandmother would not follow her so soon. I kept thinking of what-ifs and all the alternative possibilities. No matter how hard I thought of a different outcome, it did not bring my father back. It will not make other people's lost relatives come back, too. I shutdown again. Another depression robbed me of all joy and energy throughout 2021 and part of 2022.


After being swollen with emotions for months, as I was dozing off while watching a movie with my children, I heard a voice say, "get up." It was subtle and calm but held much authority. So, I did. As weak as I was, I obeyed.  I made the official transition to a medical focus for Light of Africa Inc.. I sent medical supplies to Togo with my small team and supportive wife. Little by little, we strive to make a difference in other people's lives. We may not have it all ourselves, but if we have bread to eat, we can still share it with someone else. You can also be part of this. I never thought I could share this with you, but I am Fabrice Somborn, and this is my story.


I'm always looking for new and exciting opportunities. Let's connect.

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