Dr. Nyongesa turns 50: celebrates with family, friends and star artistes


Women will answer most questions but feign amnesia when asked about their age. Not Dr. Catherine Nyongesa Watta. Age for her is not about the number: it is about one’s experiences. It’s also the measure of grace God extends to us mortals.

Age, she says, is not to be kept secret; it’s to be celebrated. On Saturday, May 4, 2019 she celebrated her 50th birthday in broad daylight. It all went down at Radisson Blu’s East wing. More than 100 guests milled under a white tent as early as noon; waiting for birthday girl to arrive.

There were round tables covered with ivory white fabric and gold sashes placed diametrically. The tables complemented English-style chairs wrapped in white fabric that featured golden flower patterns.

The DJ belted out a cocktail of hip-hop/RnB hits that even the least conscious of us would agree captured the mood .

Guests wore jeans made of denim and white tops. A good number had yielded to the dress code. If the idea was to create couture harmony the plan worked.

The roof of the tent was lined with lights that augmented well with chandelier-like light stands.

Guests streamed in to an air of suspense. Mostly because the birthday girl was yet to make her entry.

‘Is she here already?’ some guests whispered calmly. The clock had struck 3pm yet there was little to no sign that she would be arriving any time soon. To calm nerves perhaps (and reduce speculation) MCs Peace and Jah-Jah Lawrence entertained guests with jokes.

Closer to the dais the cake table attracted glimpses. Decked with scarlet rose petals, and set apart from the rest, the table commanded sacrilegious respect. After all it carried precious cargo.

Once every few minutes a guest would march up and snap away pictures. ‘Grand!’ one person described the cake. It looked spectacular. Three storeys high (each tier smaller in diameter than the one below) and cylindrical in shape, there was a lot to pick from the cake.

Its base had the decorations of chocolate pebbles. Black flower patterns resembling those on seat covers and tablecloths were conspicuous against the white icing.

The base of the middle section was decorated with a gold strip all round. The words ’50 Fabulous’, emblazoned in black and gold, clearly stood out.

The top section, save for another gold strip, mostly featured the icing. A pair of black stilettos with golden undersides at least hinted at the type of person the birthday girl was: a fierce free-spirited modern woman out to concur the world.

To cap it all off were two gold leaf flower models – one on top and the other on the side.

Around 4pm the time that all had been waiting for came. You could tell from a sudden rise in murmurs with eyes shifting focus towards the entrance.

Dr. Nyongesa had emerged from a corridor connecting to the reception lobby: gracefully placing one foot ahead of the other as she walked in.

‘Why is she on phone?’ someone sitting next to this writer asked. ‘Hopefully there is no medical emergency.’ With doctors you can never be sure why they are on phone.

Paparazzi clicked away. The DJ kept the music up. And friends went in for hugs and handshakes.

A few yards behind the sitting area chefs (and other hotel staff) were setting up a feast: a smorgasbord of desserts, appetizers and foods wafting sweet aromas.

Nearly all guests had arrived and taken their spaces. Food was served. People ate – a five-course meal at a five star hotel. Dr. Nyongesa then received gifts of all shapes and sizes.

This was followed by tributes. First up were Dr. Nyongesa’s colleagues: the healthcare fraternity.

There were representatives from Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), Mater Hospital, Nairobi Hospital, Nairobi West Hospital, Aga Khan Hospital and of course Texas Cancer Center (TCC) – her brainchild.

Speaker after speaker praised Dr. Nyongesa’s genuine desire to make a difference in her patients’ lives. Dr. Nyongesa, they said, is selfless in her interactions.

“She is generous, sweet and a generally nice person to work with,” said the representative from KNH.

The best tributes came from her family. Her younger brother, Dan, celebrated his sister saying, “She has been like a mother to us her siblings. She paid school fees for me.”

Lorna, the last born in a family of ten (Dr. Nyongesa is the firstborn), cordially thanked her sister for being there for them.

Dr. Nyongesa’s son, Nelson, beyond loving up on his mother, sounded pretty convincing with his baritone voice.

“My mother is the embodiment of everything possible. She came from a poor background and worked up to where she is,” Nelson said, attracting applause.

His younger brother Ceejay was the comical one; drawing laughter after a short calculated speech. “Mom, you are the best mom,” he said. “You are the best mom I have ever had.”

And when he was out of ideas the young lad said: “I don’t know what [else] to say. Can he (the MC) take the mic back?”

Dr. Nyongesa’s husband, Samson Watta, burly in stature, spoke ad lib. He said: “My wife ages like fine wine. She gets better with age.”

Dr. Nyongesa, with her husband and sons around her, cut the cake. Different renditions of the good old ‘Happy birthday to you’ song were sung.

As the sun set, allowing darkness to roll above the skies, star artistes Willy Paul (Kenyan) and Rayvanny (Tanzanian) arrived to crown the day by entertaining guests further with their music.

Dr. Nyongesa was born in Ebosiso village, Siboti ward, in Bungoma County. If her father is right the exact date is April 29, 1969. If her mother is right… a day earlier.

She proved to be a bright student and earned a government scholarship to study medicine at University of Nairobi.

She has a Masters degree in Radiation Oncology from University of Witwatersrand in South Africa and is the brains behind Texas Cancer Center.

She has touched thousands of lives and continues providing care to many more patients of cancer.

Some patients like Pauline Mugambi, who have successfully beat cancer while being treated by Dr. Nyongesa, could not hide their joy at the birthday celebrations.

“I am a cancer victor. I give God credit first. Then Dr. Nyongesa second,” Pauline said.

If the party revealed anything about Dr. Nyongesa it’s the fact that she has touched many lives – as a sister, a mother, a wife, a friend, and as a medical doctor.

Happy birthday Dr. Nyongesa!


Q1. How often do you celebrate birthdays?Rarely.
Q2. The last birthday (before this one) you remember celebrating? When I turned 40 years.
Q3. How did you celebrate? Just had a cake with my family.
Q4. How does it feel turning 50? Feels good. I am reflecting on what has gone on in my life. I feel it is a turning point.
Q5What are you most grateful for as you turn 50? Good health, the fact that I have a chance to utilize the talent God gave me, and my children.
Q6. You look 30 and not 50. What’s the secret? I pray to God always to give me the strength to take good care of myself. I rarely eat junk food. And I exercise whenever I have free time.