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.
After its initial outbreak with a cluster of pneumonia cases at a seafood, poultry and live wildlife market in Wuhan City, China, Covid-19 has spread rapidly across the globe. The virus has hammered economies worldwide and brought devastation to many.
On 16 September Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a church with thousands of members in various countries, held a global online prayer service to pray for the victims of the coronavirus and their families, healthcare workers, government officials and for the complete eradication of and cure for Covid-19.
The virtual prayer service was live-streamed to the entire congregation with more than 200,000 members in countries all over the world participating, including the USA, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
In keeping with social distancing, health protocols and protecting its members from possible exposure to the coronavirus, Shincheonji arranged the virtual gathering for members to pray together in safety and set an example for others.
Prayers were mainly for the healing of those infected with the virus, for overworked healthcare workers who are struggling to fight Covid-19, and for people in economic distress in the wake of the pandemic. The overwhelming online participation from its members worldwide showed the desire and urgency to end this virus and for healing and restoration in communities.
The Chairman of Shincheonji Church Mr Manhee Lee suggested this online virtual gathering and said that all believers will continue to pray at the church’s worship services until the complete eradication of the coronavirus.
At least 1,700 of the church’s South Korean-based congregation have donated their blood plasma for research around an effective treatment. Convalescent plasma has also showed promise as therapy for Covid-19 and is believed to have reduced the severity of symptoms in critical patients.
“In order to defeat Covid-19, we need to embrace, love, and unite,” as global citizens, the church said. “We wanted to do all we can as believers by praying for the people working to prevent the spread of the virus and healthcare workers who are working at the frontlines of this battle against Covid-19 and we believe that God will answer our earnest prayers.”
The annual prestigious music awards, African Muzik Magazine Awards and Music Festival (AFRIMMA), has resumed this year. But this time around with a virtual version of it.
The awards that celebrate the originality of African music has unveiled their seventh edition. The awards seek to promote the African talent by bringing together on the same stage African legendary artists to celebrate African culture.
The event was established by the International Committee of AFRIMMA, in collaboration with African Union to reward and celebrate musical works, talents and creativity around the African continent while promoting the African cultural heritage amongst African countries.
However after the Covid-19 global pandemic, the event will not be hosted on a live global stage, but it will be hosted virtually and nominees are expected to deliver their performances virtually. The AFRIMMA Virtual Awards 2020 is set to be the first of its kind in the African music world with performances coming from different artists around the world and audience catching the performances, speeches and award presentations on multiple streaming devices.
Amongst the many who are nominated by the AFRIMMAs is local sensation Vee Mampeezy who has been nominated in the category for Best Male Southern African alongside music giants, Black Coffee- South Africa, Slap Dee – Zambia, Cassper Nyovest- South Africa, Master KG- South Africa, Jah Prayzah – Zimbabwe, Vee Mampeezy – Botswana, Shyn – Madagascar, Tshego- South Africa, Tha Dogg – Namibia and Yanga Chief – South Africa.
Mampeezy has established with WeekendLife that prior to that, he had received an email from AFRIMMA confirming his nomination. They wished for him to perform which he said he will confirm the performance first with his manager, but as for now he is not sure if he will be performing.
“We have accepted the nomination. It is such an honour to be nominated alongside music giants like Black Coffee. I am very excited, others I am not as excited to be nominated alongside them because I have been nominated before with them. I do not mean to say they are not great, they are great in their respective right,” he said.
“We should be excited as a country that Botswana has been nominated as well. Before anything else, the fact that we are there as nominees makes us winners. It is such an honour to be recognised more so that Botswana is a small country with a very small population.”
Famous and most decorated artists the likes of Diamond Platnumz, Mr Flavour, Harmonize, Davido and Jah Prayzah are also amongst the nominees. However, South African based artist affectionately known as Master KG has been nominated six times for Video of the year, Best Male Southern Africa, Artist of the year, Best Collaboration as well as song of the year.
Master KG’s song ‘Jerusalem’ has been making waves internationally, and it was used mostly during the pandemic to shake off the Covid-19 anxiety. The song was nominated after South African Music Awards (SAMA) failed to nominate the young talented artist.
The Queen does this through school tours, tree planting activities, street campaigns, coastal clean ups, speaking engagements, shopping mall tours, media guesting, environmental fairs, storytelling programs to children, eco-fashion shows, and other environmental activities.
Even though this auspicious year has been faulted by the COVID-19 crisis, Miss Earth Botswana 2020 Seneo Perry has seen this as a chance to fix her crown, and get dirty in conserving the environment. This is highly impressive as it expresses how dedicated she is not only in wearing the crown, but putting in some work to create a better greener world.
Perry is a Botswana based environmentalist, equipped with a degree in Entrepreneurial Business Leadership from Sheffield Hallam University (BAC) and a top 5 finalist in Miss Earth Botswana 2019. As an eco-warrior at heart, she has dedicated her time and energy towards educating and empowering the next generation on the importance of preservation and careful management of the environment and natural resources (a clean and safe environment.)
Miss Earth Botswana will be hosting SOS Children for a film documentary dubbed “Into the Okavango” on Saturday 19th September, in Tlokweng. This initiative is influenced by National Vision 2036 Pillar of National Values which is our identity, our unique natural and cultural resources, tolerance of diversity as well as national values constitute a value preposition that makes Botswana a place to live, work and do business.
In an exclusive interview with WeekendLife, Perry’s Manager, Shimah Keakopa, said the purpose of this event is to encourage the children to open up their minds a bit more to think outside the box as they are about to choose their career paths and what more they can offer to their country as upcoming young leaders.
“This event is held under the theme ‘‘Botswana will have healthy ecosystems that support the economy, livelihoods and our cultural heritage as well as enhance resilience to climate change’’. We strive to help young children grow up knowing their purpose in life and what they actually do in achieving their ambitions.”
For her part, the queen said since 2013, conservation topics have always attracted her interests towards achieving a clean and safe environment for the benefit of humanity. She said “Botswana relies heavily on the tourism industry as it contributes 7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Our tourism industry has been characterized as more of a fauna and flora type, which is the great attraction to local and international tourists.”
“Therefore it is imperative that we conserve and continuously engage in environmental issues, to preserve our untouchable pristine wilderness. Furthermore people who live closest to natural resources generally absorb the greatest cost associated with conservation,” she said.
Perry told WeekendLife that a lot still needs to be done to ensure everybody is of one mind in an effort dedicated towards environmental conservation, which not only benefits the flora and fauna but the economy as well through activities such as agriculture and tourism.
“In Botswana, there still not enough policies (some outdated) and public awareness towards environmental conservation, especially the collective effort that should exist between government, private sector and Non- Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
Whereas members of the general public do not have adequate access to the information on the importance of environmental conservation and this results in them being unaware of the best practices and standards in environmental conservation,” she said.
When she is not impressing at beauty pageants, Perry is a Managing Director of “Restoring the Prime Colour of the Earth” a charitable organization established in 2019 with the objective to educate both young and old people the importance of keeping a clean and safe environment and to restore the breath-taking landmarks in Botswana.