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How Tlhaselo defeated cancer

For many women, the telling sign for breast cancer would be a lump in the breast, but for Matshidiso Tlhaselo, 43, she knew something was wrong when her infant refused her breast milk 15 years ago. It would be 12 years before she was finally diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, but the mother of two says she always felt something was wrong with her right breast.

She underwent various tests thereafter, she visited Princess Marina Hospital but the tests showed nothing was wrong with her, but she had discharge from the breast. She went on with her life with the condition.

The drastic decision not to breastfeed her second born could be what saved her life. She recalls that when she had her second child in March 2013 she already knew she didn’t want to breastfeed, primarily because of her first child refusing to suckle. She immediately informed her doctors at Bamalete Lutheran Hospital that she didn’t want to breast feed and she was immediately given tablets she was told would stop her breast milk production.

Five months later though, the milk had not stopped and her right breast had developed a lump-its colour had also changed. Initially she thought it was resultant of her milk ducts clogging from her not breastfeeding. But she woke up to severe pain from the same breast one morning and was rushed to BLH where she was admitted and further tests were conducted. The mammogram showed nothing, as did other tests conducted at the time. She was informed of the results but was told more lab tests will be done at Ootse College, where an X-Ray was done and the results still showed nothing. She was prescribed pain killers and was sent back home.

In September of the same year, just towards the Independence holidays, the lump in her breast was growing bigger such her brother in law advised her to go further and seek medical attention at Bokamoso Private Hospital. In her first consultation, the doctor she saw, after inspecting the growth in her breast referred her to a specialist, but she had to wait until after the holidays before she could see him.

Immediately after the holidays, the specialist at Bokamoso ordered for a biopsy to be done. She asked that it be done immediately, during her first visit. The doctor immediately used a syringe to remove tissue sample from the breast. She had to come back after 7 days for the results.

 “I was at work when I received a call from Dr. Alemu’s secretary after those seven days. She told me to hurry to his office. Immediately when I got to his office, I was told that the results showed that the lump was cancerous. My body left me at that moment, it was as if the world turned upside down instantly,” Tlhaselo revealed.

Yet another referral as Dr. Alemu referred her to oncology. Thus her harrowing journey with cancer treatment began. She precisely recalls the date she started chemotherapy, on October 18. She had to do eight circles of chemotherapy, the first four before the lump removal and the last after the surgery.

But for Tlhaselo, her mind was made up-she wanted a total mastectomy. 

“I told the doctors that I had done my research, and honestly I felt that I had gone through so much because of the breast and I wanted it removed. I really did not want to chance the cancer recurring.”

In January of 2015, she underwent the surgery to remove her whole right breast. After recovering from the surgery, she went back for her last four rounds of chemo.

“Chemo was very hard. I was counselled about all the side effects, and I had my fair share of them. I lost my hair and went totally bald. I only started regrowing my hair last year around June or July. My white blood cell would drop-one time I had to be admitted because the doctor told me that it was only by God’s grace that I was able to even reach the hospital alive,” Tlhaselo related to Weeked Life.

She likens her days during chemo to pregnancy, but the symptoms are perhaps tenfold worse, for the most part the nausea and vomiting, the general failure to hold anything down and even loss of appetite for up to four days.

“I can never forget how painful chemo was, particularly because of “red devil”, I never want to think back on it because it seemed the worst of all, and made me feel sicker.”

The red devil is an agent of chemotherapy agent used to treat many kinds of cancer, including breast, lung, ovarian, and bladder cancer.  It's also often called Doxorubicin, which is the generic name. Adriamycin is its brand name.

Adriamycin/Doxorubicin is often used as part of combination chemotherapy regimens, when treating breast cancer it's often part of a three-part regimen known as ACT, which stands for Adriamycin, Cytoxan, Taxol.

Red devil’s profile of side effects include: low white blood cell count, low red blood cell count, low platelets, hair loss and mouth sores.

Recently, Adriamycin has come under fire because studies show it can have a toxic effect on the heart muscle, leading to heart failure.

After she finished her chemotherapy, she had to endure 6 weeks of radiation, undergoing sessions daily.

Now, almost a year later, she uses a bra insert, albeit in smaller size.

“I had to stuff some things in there for a while before someone hinted to me about breast forms that were available at Marina. They are free for most patients but for some who mostly were treated at private institutions get them at a fee.”

The cancer has not returned, and although she doesn’t believe her life has changed in anyway after the cancer was discovered, she is still on tamoxifen and zoladex

Tamoxifen has been used for over 40 years to treat breast cancers that are hormone-receptor positive. Because breast cancers need the hormone oestrogen (and/or progesterone) to grow, Tamoxifen attaches to the hormone receptor in the cancer cell, blocking oestrogen from attaching to the receptor. This slows or stops the growth of the tumour by preventing the cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow.

Zoladex is a luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonist. Zoladex works by stopping the ovaries from making oestrogen.

According to the national cancer registry, breast cancer is the third commonest killer cancer after Kaposi sarcoma and cervical cancer in Botswana.

Meanwhile, the Cancer Association of Botswana will hold the 10th Annual Stilletto walk on 28 October to raise breast cancer awareness as well as to raise funds for the cause.

According to Sharon Munyoro, CAB Director said that preparations are well underway for the next stiletto walk which will take place in Railpark.

She said in an interview on Wednesday that during the event, there will also be breast checks, along with the walk. “Instead of P200 we are doing P100 per person, we are working more with accessibility more than anything this year.”

Last year, CAB launched the “Know Your Breast” campaign in Phikwe. This year it will be commemorated and Munyoro said this year Gaborone will also be brought on board.

In terms of the battle against cancer, Munyoro said that Botswana has come a long way. She said that government efforts are showing, especially with the National Cervical Cancer Strategic Prevention Programme being rolled out countrywide. She however feels that the country should have in place cancer guidelines and policies that could help curb cancer.

The greatest challenge with the fight against breast cancer, she said, was mainly getting men on board, as they mostly believe they don’t have breasts and therefore should not do the breast checks or mammograms as women.

“Men are generally hard to deal with whenever any health topic is brought up, they need to change and be more active to seek health facilities.”

The whole of October is reserved for cancer awareness worldwide.

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WeekendLife

Feminism and Nudity still at odds

19th April 2021
Feminism and Nudity

This past week seemed like a time travel back to the early 1970’s where women were judged and stoned for what they wear, what they should wear, and whose attention their dress code will grab.

Every Tom, Dick and Harry gave their two cents on the matter, unnecessarily so. Its disheartening that in 2021 a woman is dictated to about what she should wear.

The genesis of the whole saga was because of a certified life coach and personal trainer, Agang Atlholang, derided as an example of an anti-feminist.

Atlholang updated a controversial post on her Facebook page where she seemingly attacked and dragged some women for wearing appealing clothes that leave little to the imagination.

The personal coach further went on to highlight that she could be fully clothed and be able to attract and steal some of these women’s lovers. Audacious of her to assume but more disheartening that her wardrobe is subliminally dictated by men.

It should be noted that this wasn’t her first controversial post where she has threatened or promised to take other women’s men, it may not be her last either but this post however did get on a lot of women’s last nerve.

“A woman’s sexuality is so much more than her thighs, (beep) and breasts. It’s your aura, confidence, seduction and the way you carry yourself, watching everything rock and roll in silence. I know who I am, I am a boss lady. I can still get your man without showing skin,” said Atlholang.

It is hard to place the fitness coach, is she pro-feminism or anti-feminism? Because one minute she would say something that makes sense and that almost everyone can relate to and other times she barks threats like a toothless bulldog.

She was not wrong to publicly and indirectly affirm that she doesn’t wear revealing outfits, but for her to be coming at those who do so was entirely out of line. How a woman presents herself to the world has a very little to do with a man’s preference.

Any personal liberation of what one chooses to clothe their own body is clouded by the misogynistic backdrop of the world we live in. In all cases, a woman’s body is assumed to be someone else’s before is it her own.

If she takes off her clothes, it is seen to be a sign of her insecurity and need for validation, rather than feeling comfortable with herself. Once she’s stripped, that’s all she is. This is the insidious pressures of misogyny that we all have a duty to attack and put in the past where it belongs.

WeekendLife reached out to Atlholang but her phone went unanswered. She did not respond to a questionnaire sent to her on Wednesday.
Celebrated feminist Resego Kgosidintsi says there should be no expectations on what a woman does with her body. Some women are thick and curvy, while some are slim and petite, all body types are beautiful.

Kgosidintsi uploaded two pictures on her Facebook page in which she compared herself. In one picture she was only in a bikini on the beach whereas in the other picture she was wearing formal attire. She went on to say;

“I am the woman in both pictures, my worth did not decrease on picture 2 because I revealed almost all of my skin and neither is my worth on a 100 on picture 1 because my skirt is below the knee.

I have about 7 tattoos on my entire body and that still does not make me less of a woman. I drink and smoke cigarettes too and that doesn’t mean the woman in church who doesn’t smoke or drink more woman than me. Can we respect people’s choices, can we respect women.”
Feminist, media personality and socialite, Oratile Kefitlhile shares the same sentiments as Kgosidintsi.

‘‘Feminism is subject, if I feel as a woman that when I’m fully dressed I’m celebrating my femininity, so be it. If another woman feels they are embracing their femininity more with their thighs out, that’s perfectly fine still. Let them be.

We have been preaching this revolution for a very long time of women being allowed to wear what they want, and being allowed to embrace their womanhood in the way that speaks to them, so I feel at this point we should not be having these debates,” Kefitlhile told WeekendLife on Tuesday.

Controversial poet, artist and businesswoman, Berry Heart is of the belief that women are envious towards each other. She argues that celebrating femininity has no boundaries subsequently making no one woman superior.

Quizzed on what makes women fight over small issues such as what they wear, she says “Batswana women are broken so much that we don’t want to see another woman succeeding on anything. We desire to make them dejected.”

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WeekendLife

The art of mastering instrumentals

12th April 2021
Kagiso "Fella" Kenosi

You will know a tree by its fruits, the same way you will know a music producer by their works.

Top music producers in the country have set themselves apart through the quality music they produce and reap the results of international recognition from as far as the United States of America.

These producers are behind every star performer, listening and analyzing each and every note. When artists perform a vocal swell, rising to an octave that sounds like it’s going to shatter voice box, it’s easy to forget that someone was on the other side of the glass asking questions like, “Can you hit that note every night, or will it hurt too badly? Maybe we should lower the octave to save your voice?”

Producers make hundreds of decisions in each song, not to mention the push and pull relationships they have with talented performers.These relationships can make or break careers. Some of your favorite bands and artists wouldn’t be so memorable without a great producer helping to guide their distinct voices.

Kagiso Kenosi, or better known as Fella in the entertainment industry, is only 31-years old but he has already left his imprint in the music industry. The young chap, originally from Palapye, is not in the industry to add numbers, but to do his magic working behind the scenes producing hit song after hit song.

When most producers went to school to produce the hits that we hear today, Fella’s foundation and passion for producing came from being active in church.

“I grew up in a catholic orientated family where music is the essence of our religion. The love for music in its entirety emerged from enjoying singing at church and blossomed over the years as I grew up, being exposed to the internet and software’s such as fruity loops.”

Fella says he then learnt how to make beats and proceeded with vocal processing so besides the love for music, he had an amazing group of people who helped him reach his life dream; being the best in music production. The sky was the limit for Fella.

Unfortunately for so many music producers locally, this kind of hustle is basically about being famous. Some of them bite off more than they can chew just for a quick buck that doesn’t even go a long away for them. At the end of it all, these fly by night prima-donnas end up cutting corners and producing subpar records which eventually leads to a premature death for their careers.

Fella’s advice is that fellow colleagues should be patient and continue learning the craft, even if it means taking online tutorials. “Even though I’m still learning too, for I believe music is a fast infinite universe where no one can never say they know it all, I think believing in what one does, the level of creativity and being able to stand alone can do magic.

We living in an era where people go through a lot, so it is imperative for a music producer to be able to relate to those kind of situations. This takes only the right instrumentals, which will compliment emotions of an artist.”

The most asked question outside the music industry is; who chooses the instruments for a song, is it the artist or the producer? Fella gave his take;

“I make instrumentals and keep them until an artist comes to work on a song. That’s when I advise on whether I think the concept they chose goes hand in hand with the instrumentals. We will then look for a more appropriate song.

In some cases, artists can come and we record vocals without an instrumental and then get to make a beat on top of the recorded vocal which in that case guides me to make a relevant instrumental,” he said in an exclusive interview with WeekendLife on Wednesday.

Digging more into finding the difference between a producer and an engineer, Fella clarified that there is not much difference. There is actually a thin line between the two even though an engineer does more than a producer when dishing out a song.

“We use the word production to credit people who only make beats. Engineers are people who record vocals, clean them, do the mixing and master the song preparing the record for radio. I must say an engineer, does the critical components of a song.”

As young as he is, Fella has been through thick and thin with young artists. It has been a roller-coaster of emotions, because, frankly some of these fledging artists are way too complicated to work with. Fella admits that he too has flaws but c’est la vie, you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs.

“It’s always a blessing and quite exciting because these different people of different energies and mind-sets and creativity will humble you. It’s a chastening experience and also accords me with experience to manoeuvre and adjust to people with different characters.

So truly, it has helped me grow as a person, and a producer.”

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WeekendLife

BOMU spruce up dirty laundry

30th March 2021
BOMU awards

Botswana Musicians Union (BOMU) is known for its bad reputation that has been getting worse over the years. There has been a lot of chinwag, squabbles and the organization literally lost touch. It has gotten so bad that stakeholders pulled out, and members were left with no choice but to face the music alone.

Just when you’d think the waters are calm, the new Executive Committee awarded a fledgling company, Total Music Group, to handle the 2021 music awards. This move was seen as a biased decision that got BOMU members bent out of shape.

However, BOMU Secretary General, Rasina Rasina told Weekendlife that the Executive Committee that it has many irons in the fire. He indeed admitted without reluctance that, BOMU has been clouded by hubbub.

“We pledged when the new administration took over that it would begin with cleaning our own house. We have built structures as we had promised and we are glad that they are fully functional. One of those is the disciplinary committee.”

“BOMU has for a long time appeared to be lacking discipline and proper laid down procedures. This has led to the organization losing out big in its endeavour to serve its members and the entire music fraternity. The National Executive Committee, chapter committees and sub-committees have committed to ensuring that non proper governance and accountability shall take centre stage and this is all that is happening,” Rasina told Weekendlife on Tuesday.

Rebuilding and rebranding a disintegrated intuition such as BOMU is not just a walk in the park, it needs concerted efforts and team work to actually reach that goal. A stitch in time saves nine, but as for BOMU, the entire union failed to address its dares a long time ago, but the union says everything is on track in recuperating public trust and fixing the mess created then.

BOMU Research and Policy Committee is hard finalizing a new code of conduct which will contribute significantly to how members and leadership conduct themselves and relate with each other for the furtherance of BOMU’s mandate, Weekendlife has been reliably informed.

“We are doing everything according to our constitution, logic and reason. We advise our members that they should point out where the constitution has been breached and that they are at liberty to follow due process and report any misconduct to the disciplinary committee,” said Rasina.

This is following the suspension of some executive committee members and BOMU subscribed members for questioning the integrity in awarding the music awards tender. Some members, told Weekendlife that they will seek legal advice on the matter.

“We do have members who have already appeared before the disciplinary committee on various charges and decisions are yet to be taken. We also have members who are yet to appear before the committee for various complaints levelled against them. Current suspensions are related to various complaints and offences.”

With regard to appointing Total Music Group, BOMU National Executive Committee says it used Article 9.3.19 of its constitution. The article says; “The National Executive Committee of BOMU shall have the authority to enter into legally binding contracts on behalf of the Union.’’

Rasina says the leadership needed a company to manage, host and sell the BOMU awards for five years consecutively so as to attain stability and refurbish the brand image of both the music awards and the organization. “Without any money at our disposal, we debated on the best model and agreed that we should engage a company that also has the capacity to mobilize resources. We used our discretion and decided on a direct appointment model which is perfectly legal and constitutional.”

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