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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

Self-taught fashion designer speaks

26th July 2022
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A job, lucrative or not, is a job after all. Sometimes one has to compromise in order to make a living, few people get a job their dream jobs. But once in a while there is an emergence of people who listen to their inner calling to pursue their passion.

The founder and head designer of Butterfly Couture, Chawa July is one of those few people who left their job to pursue their passion. An inspiring fact about July is that she is a self-taught fashion designer, she used to copy patterns from her old clothes until she learnt how to draw them, and she also searched information from the internet to increase her knowledge and skills.

“It all started as a hobby from my love for beautiful dresses and I started adjusting and making clothes for myself. Gradually people around me started to take interest in my craft and the hobby slowly grew into a profitable business,” July said.

The 41 year fashion designer from Molepolole worked her way up in the Procurement space for over 10 years. She worked at Stanbic Bank, Kromberg & Schubert and Clover Dairy as a Procurement supervisor. Her last job before she entered the fashion industry was a Manager for Contacts & Sourcing at a Facilities Management Company.

She established her fashion house in October 2019 and it has become synonyms with elegant wedding gowns and exquisite evening wear. July said when designing she is inspired by various aspects such as the client’s personality, the mood of the event and the theme. She further mentioned that every opportunity is to show her craft so she always aims to please.

“Every Butterfly Couture piece must represent the elegance and the creativity the brand is about,” she said. Butterfly Couture has adorned beauty queens; Miss Botswana 2021/2022 Ambrociah Samboko at Miss Universe in South Korea and Miss Botswana 2019,Oweditse Fafah Phirinyane during her reign of which is the highlight of her career. They have also marked their presence in a few fashion events locally and in the neighbouring countries.”

They showcased at The Grand Palm Wedding Expo, Masa Fashion Show, Miss Botswana Fashion Show and Sacunda plus Size Fashion Show. The will also be showcasing at Gabs July Fashion Show on the 15th of July alongside the South African designer, popularly known as the King of glamour David Tlale.

July also identified that one of the challenges they face in the couture is that, it’s a seasonal business. “There are times in the year when the business is great and challenging. Winter in particular, is difficult time to stay afloat as there aren’t as many events that people are inspired to dress spectacularly for,” she said. She further said that her aim is to be a prime couturier of choice in Botswana.

“Craft like your life depends on it because every happy client is 10 more referrals” is what she said when asked to serve a word of wisdom to people hoping to make it in the fashion industry.

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WeekendLife

Gospel awards re-organised

26th July 2022
phempherethe

The Botswana Gospel Music Awards (BOGMA) and the Annual Gospel Awards (AGA) are said to be no longer in existence and a joint venture project has been put up that will carry out the awarding of gospel musicians.

The new entity has been established as Gospel Music Awards, which is a project at this moment is nearer to dishing out the first Gospel Awards under the leadership of the dissolved entities (BOGMA and AGA). “The difference is the same, it is just that the two projects were run by different minds which had differing objectives,” said the project coordinator, Letsweletse Moshabi when asked what the difference was between the two previous awards.

He added that at this junction their focus is on the future of the gospel musicians and they would like to direct their energies to the new project and forgo the past projects. “The Music market especially the gospel genre is too small and that basically means the very small market was experiencing the imbalance in the supply and demand forces. At that stage, supply was more than the demand so the reason for the joint forces is to allow the supply and demand forces to readjust and form equilibrium,” added Moshabi.

The mandate and objectives of the project are to recognize and award gospel music talent, to create awareness of the Botswana gospel music industry and to create a platform where fellow musicians may exchange ideas and network amongst themselves and approach international markets in cohesion.

The first of these joint awards will be held on the 27th August 2022 at Molapo Showcase under the theme ‘Cohesiveness to Build’ where about 18 categories will be up for grabs.

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WeekendLife

Makhadzi, Master KG invade Thamaga

18th July 2022
Makhadzi,-Master-KG-invade-Thamaga

The Kumnandi Ekhaya musik festival will be held on the 30th September 2022 at Thamaga village. The event coincides with the release of famous host, Dj Ngwazi’s first album called ‘spring day’ on the 2nd of September 2022.

The Thamaga born and raised Lefika Lushen Kebatlege is a disc jockey and a music producer signed under WanitwaMos Entertainment in South Africa. Famously known as Dj Ngwazi and formally known as DJ superstar, he has really worked hard to become one of the finest export DJs the country has produced. Internationally, he is described as a DJ from South African because of his works with popular music artist Master KG.

Meanwhile, the music festival will feature South African artists, Makhazi, Master KG, Prince Benza and Mthunzi. They will also be joined by some of the big local artists, Franco, Vee Mampeezy, among others.  “The tickets of the concert will be available at Spar stores, webticket and Kings bar. There will be three categories for VIP tickets, the one that goes for P1000, P1500 and P2200,” said the Kumnandi Ekhaya musik fest promoter Sadie Swartz of Saysay Entertainment.

“We have a new system to tackle the cry of promoters about security at the events. We will have a team of 100 security men, 10 horses and 15 dogs. We also agreed with the police to help with traffic control and no tickets will be sold at the gate to avoid circulation of money which can attract thieves,” said Kagiso Gaodumelwe from All Night Security.

“I started deejaying back in the days when I was still schooling at Kagiso Senior School and I never stopped working towards my career since then. I have a career in South Africa, since 2018 when Master KG took me in and his support as a brother has taken me to places,” said DJ Ngwazi describing his career journey.

“Kumnandi Ekhaya is Zulu language which means ‘go monate ko gae’ in Setswana. The name came about as a way of inviting my South African fans and supporters to my home village Thamaga to come experience the joy that comes with celebrating our freedom and independence. I used isiZulu because it’s the dominant language in South Africa,” explained Dj Ngwazi.

“The concert will be held in an open space which was used for agricultural purposes and we would like to call it ‘Ko Legoleng’. With this concert I want to redeem the dignity of our village because we once had the cases of youth who were terrorizing the community, beating up people in the streets and stealing and these was really a concern in our community because they were tarnishing the village name,” said Dj Ngwazi.

The purpose of this concert is to empower the community of Thamaga and local artist, more especially artist from Thamaga village like, Kgabo Sereto traditional group. There will be a litter picking campaign around the village before the launch of the concert .The sponsors which are already on board are Dladleng Entertainment and Kings bar and there are still more sponsors to be revealed.

”As the Kumnandi Ekhaya musik fest management, we are going to buy food combos and take them to Thamaga village Kgotla so they can be donated to the less privileged and orphans. Starting from October we will be donating pads to all Junior Schools in Thamaga,” said Dj Ngwazi. Dj Ngwazi’s motivational words to other artist and everyone else; work hard, be patient and be determined.

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