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My battle with an ovarian condition



At 18 years, Wendy Kimani would frequently experience irregular menstrual flow, often accompanied by series of depression and anxiety, which most of the time would make her emotional.

At first, she ignored the red flags of irregular periods, which she thought was normal. In many occasions, she considered it a relief because she would not experience cramping, and all those symptoms menstruation had to offer.

“I remember one time I stayed for over six months without my periods. I asked my sister about it and she insisted I visit a gynecologist. I was then diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome,” she recalls.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or PCOS is the most common hormonal disorder among women in reproductive age that affects ovulation, hormonal levels and menstruation.

Shortly after the diagnosis, Wendy was forced to change her lifestyle, so that she could manage her condition. With little knowledge about the condition, she opted to devour books to have a glimpse at what to expect in future. The first words that captured her attention while doing her mini-research was infertility and this really worried her.

Additionally, that she hadn’t come across anyone with PCOS within her circle troubled her more. However, with the help of ‘doctor Google’ she was able to come up with an easier way of managing the condition.

“Diet change was the hardest thing for me. The fact that I was at an age of eating anything and enjoying my meals actually made it worse. It was hard coming to terms with letting go of dairy and gluten,” she explains.

However, she slowly managed to surpass her cravings and live a healthy life. But at 22, she started noticing hair on her chin. It was always embarrassing especially since she did know how to get rid of them. She would spend her first few days trying to tweeze them, especially on date nights with her husband.

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When time for her next appointment came, Wendy was told her sugar levels had been going up, something that was bad for her health. She also found out she had pre-diabetes symptoms. She had no choice, but

to change her lifestyle once again. This time only two factors-diet and exercise-came to play. She learnt about diet, supplements, lifestyle balance and emotional wellbeing.

Create awareness

“I decided to put down simple carbs, introduce a small amount of complex carbs, and create a PCOS-friendly diet, which helped in managing my weight. I also incorporated PCOS-friendly workouts [slow workouts) and soon enough I was able to experience my flow as normal,” she explains.

The lifestyle change played a major role in her conceiving, despite it being a bigger worry to her and her family.

“When I got married, I decided to take a year focusing on my new lifestyle to prepare my body for having a baby,” she says. With the help of laser technology, she was able to deal with hirsutism [excessive hair growth).

“One thing that I have learnt throughout my time is that insulin resistance PCOS must be managed, failure to which you will be looking at possibilities of getting diabetes,” says Wendy.

She adds that the reality that many women are shy to talk about PCOs because of fertility related issues, is the main reason why awareness about the condition is necessary, so that women to feel that they are not alone.

Dr Wanjiru Ndegwa, a fertility specialist at Footsteps to Fertility Centre, says PCOS is a syndrome characterised by failure of a woman to ovulate. This leads to some clinical displays such as polycystic ovaries [ovaries with many cysts), no menses or very light flow.

She adds that one to make a diagnosis of PCOS one should be experiencing irregular menses that through an ultra sound displays polycystic ovaries.

READ ALSO:   My journey with Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – shares Wendy Kimani

In many cases, women with PCOS have abnormalities in metabolism of androgens and oestrogen hormones and in the control of androgen production. PCOS can result from abnormal function of the hypothalamicpituitary-ovarian [HPO) axis, a tightly regulated system controlling female reproduction.

In addition, they also experience excessive hair growth, mostly exhibited the chin, chest, back, and belly. Also they will have acne problems, and weight gain, which at times can be difficult to loose, but easy to gain.

Dr Wanjiru says there are specific tests that can point to the diagnosis of PCOS, including hormone tests and pelvic scan. The doctor will first rely on symptoms, conduct a blood test, and physical exams.

“After a close examination, we rule out any issues that might have similar symptoms such as thyroid problems, which many at times affect menstruation. We also do an insulin level check to determine if there could be any pre-diabetes, or insulin resistance PCOS,” she says.

Although it is said to be conKnected to infertility, Dr Wanjiru f says PCOS can be managed by some lifestyle changes and E one is able to conceive if they r undergo a healthy treat- K- ment plan.

“pCoS patients IK shouldn’t be overly worried about infertility because . they have a good chance of conceiving once they start Hk ovulating regularly. Women X with PCOS should consider Jj, J-a.’- treatments options with exercise and diet and life/Tjw style change. These are the I

two most important things that assist them experience regular flows,” she explains.

In cases where one experiences i K irregular flows pharmaceutical j treatment options may come in handy in helping manage the irregularities.

“Women with PCOS shouldn’t have any pressure when it comes to solving problems such as excessive hair growth because they can always be corrected by use of laser,” she says.

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Diet and PCOS

Henry Nge’the, chairman of Nutrition Association of Kenya, says nutrition plays an important role in disease management and as a preventive strategy to specific diseases.

With PCOS, the major nutrition goal is to reduce insulin resistance and manage weight, which affects more than half of the women with PCOS “Consumption of whole grains, legumes, leafy green vegetables and fruits with various colours help reduce inflammation and oxidative

stress. A plant-based diet low in fat is highly recommended as it helps in weight reduction,” he says.

He adds that these diets contain high fibre content, which helps in regulation of insulin, provides necessary antioxidant effects and helps in regulation of good bacteria.

“Animal products and processed foods should be reduced as they contain low density lipoproteins such as cholesterol, which increases inflammation, oxidative stress and destroys the gut microbiota,” says Nge’the.

Nutritionists believe some supplements that can assist in PCOS include fish oils, as they decrease inflammation, and Vitamin D, which helps in improving women fertility. Other micronutrients can be prescribed by nutritionists depending on the presentation of the disease.


I have learnt throughout my time that insulin resistant PCOS must be managed, failure to which you will be looking at possibilities of getting diabetes


PCOS is common among women in their reproductive ages. The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but it often runs in families.


• Excess Insulin- high blood sugar levels result to more insulin production. Therefore, excess insulin might cause difficulty in ovulation, which leads to irregular periods.

• Excess androgen- when the ovaries produce high level of hormones responsible for male characteristics

• Polycystic ovaries- enlarged ovaries that contain many fluidfilled sacs


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Fear after Mombasa school principal dies from Covid-19



The principal of Tononoka Secondary School in Mombasa where 11 teachers tested positive for Covid-19 has died, county education officials have said.

County Education Chief Officer John Musuve said Mohamed Khamis (pictured) died at the Mombasa Hospital where he was receiving treatment in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Multiple sources revealed that Khamis was one of the 11 teachers who were infected with the virus at the school. We could not, however, independently verify whether he succumbed to Covid-19.

“Yes, I can confirm that Khamis has died. I cannot tell you whether he was one of the teachers infected with the virus,” said Musuve.

Reports from the hospital indicate that Khamis was admitted at the ICU after he developed breathing complications immediately after he was rushed to the hospital on October 15.

Last week, Mombasa County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo said 11 teachers from Tononoka Secondary School and four at Star of the Sea Girls High School had tested positive for Covid-19.

The two schools, located within the Mombasa Central Business District, remained closed.

Unconfirmed reports said that a teacher at the third school in Mombasa has been taken ill with Covid-19-related symptoms and is currently in the ICU at the Coast Provincial General Hospital.

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Standard Digital has established that some students in the two schools have also contracted the virus.

“I can confirm that at Star of the Sea Girls High School, four teachers turned positive. More samples from staff members had been taken and results are yet to come out,” Kitiyo said last week.

He added: “At Tononoka Secondary School, the number was a bit high, with 11 cases confirmed,” he said, adding that the two institutions had been closed for two weeks.

Parents expressed anger over the turn of events and asked the government to carry out mandatory testing for all the students and teachers before they re-open the schools.

Khamis was scheduled to be buried at Kikowani cemetery this evening.

During the Mashujaa Day celebrations, Governor Hassan Ali Joho lamented over rising infections in Mombasa amid fear that the county was experiencing a second wave of the virus.

“We are seeing a spiral effect in new infections, resulting in all emergency beds being taken up by people who have turned positive,” Kitiyo said.


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Cancer reminded me why I wanted to live



In 1999 a young, tall, beautiful girl made news when she became M-Net’s Face of Africa, winning the Kenyan tittle. This win was only the beginning of her modeling career. Bidanya Barassa who was the second Kenyan to win this title made a career out of something she did not intend to be.

“My mum convinced me to go to a place called Kelu Modeling School that she had heard of, and since it was after high school, she convinced me to do it because I didn’t like computer classes.

“I was admitted to the school because I was about 5’10’’ tall. They said I could be a runway model and advised that I wear high heels (three inches) because of my height, and that is how it started,” she says.

She started immediately and within a week, she was already getting modeling contracts. But despite her success in the modeling space, Bidanya never thought modeling was a career or something she could do. At least not until she got onto the runway, started traveling around the world and started making money from it.

“I always saw people on TV modeling and I wondered what they were doing. I always thought it was not a career. I started enjoying it later on. Getting (into) M-Net face of Africa was a breakthrough for me as I traveled to the Caribbean and many exotic places.

“What I loved most about it was I didn’t have to go to my mum for money because I could now buy my own stuff and books as I loved reading,” she says.

Bidanya describes herself as passionate, lover of life, family-oriented, confident, pusher, leader and “multipotentialite”.

Battle with cancer

All was going well, then in 2010 she was diagnosed with Stage Two colon cancer. What started as a stomach ache with traces of blood in her stool, ended up as cancer which she battled for about a year.

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“I was diagnosed in 2010. I was having stomach aches and there was blood in my stool, so I went to hospital for tests. We did a blood test, an X-ray and an ultra sound but they didn’t see much.

“The doctor said we needed to do more tests. We did an endoscopy and a colonoscopy and that’s when they found a growth on the left of my colon,” she says.

Bidanya remembers waking up from her colonoscopy wondering what the problem was. At the doctor’s office, she was told she did not have stomach cancer but had Stage Two colon cancer. She was not surprised as she had called her mum earlier before the doctor’s visit and told her that she was certain she had colon cancer.

“Before the final diagnosis, I was driving to my office and I remember thinking everything in my life was going very well. My career was doing fine, my boyfriend was perfect at that time and I thought maybe God was leading me down this path for a reason.

“I was shocked when the doctor confirmed my fears but I was not too surprised. I didn’t go through the denial stages, probably because I had already prepared myself mentally for the news by telling myself that I had cancer.

“I booked an appointment with a surgeon on January 3, 2010 and asked what I need to do. I was booked for the surgery and I started my treatment,” remembers Bidanya.

After her surgery on January 5, 2010, she believed she was done with her treatment but was advised to start chemotherapy after recovering from the surgery.

“I started chemotherapy after two weeks. This is when I got scared and it hit me that I had cancer. I had read that at Stage Two one doesn’t need chemotherapy but the doctor advised that I do it so that we can kill the cancer cells and not have it reoccur after three years or so.

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“When I talked to my mum about it, she only had one question: Do I want to die? This had me thinking about all the things I wanted to do and all the plans I had and decided to have the chemotherapy,” she says.

After eight weeks in recovery, Bidanya started her chemotherapy, which lasted eight months. She says she prayed to God and told Him about her plans, and told Him that she did not want to lose her life.

“I was afraid that I would lose my hair due to chemotherapy. My biggest fear at that time was dying. I did not want to lose my life.

“After every three weeks, I would go for the chemo treatment and I would be in bed for about five days, get back to work then go back for my treatment in another three weeks.

“It was long and hard. I was nauseated, weak, food tasted like metal and I always had to force myself to eat so that I could recover faster. It was a long journey as chemotherapy is not easy,” she says.

After her chemotherapy, Bidanya went for another colonoscopy a year later and found no sign of cancer. Two years after her diagnosis, she went to India to do a pet scan, after which she was declared cancer-free.

“I already knew deep in my heart that I was healed. There is this verse in the Bible that says we are healed by Jesus’ stripes and I believed I was healed. The first thing I did after I was healed was pray and just thank God for the gift of life. It had been a long journey,” she says.

No more modeling

As the managing director of Top Image Africa, Bidanya has no plans of getting back on the runway.

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“People always ask me this but I only did this part-time. I think it has served its purpose. Modeling is tough because you are relying on someone for your looks. It’s hard. It’s basically you going for auditions and if they like your face, height, hands and smile, you’re hired for the job.

“At that time, I was in campus and my goal was to do my undergraduate and masters degrees. I remember once when I was in South Africa, I was asked what would happen to my education if I was selected to go to New York.

“I told them I would transfer my credits and continue with my studies in New York, and they thought I was crazy. My goal has always been to be in the corporate world and run a successful business, so modeling played a purpose because it gave me my confidence.

“My height was an issue for me because I’m 5’10 but now I love my height and I wear heels that are four inches. I can’t wear flat shoes anymore unless I am going to the mall or travelling,” she says.

When it comes to love, Bidanya blushes and giggles when giving hints that she is in a relationship.

“I’m dating someone, even though I won’t give you a lot of information. He is an amazing man and we met in Ivory Coast when I was there for business. That’s all I can say,” she says laughing.

The former model is currently creating awareness about cancer, giving back to society and managing a modeling company.

She has an awareness programme on living healthy and eating healthy, and encouraging women to get screened for cancer. She runs it every Wednesday on her Instagram account.


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The after-effects of COVID-19 pandemic to cancer patients Rosa Agutu



Corletta Mwende discovered she had a lump in her left breast in November 2019, and in January doctors confirmed it was Stage Two cancer. However, her plans to go to India for treatment were halted after all international flights were suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Since I was unable to go to India, my doctor gave me some medicine to manage the pain. However, after three months the lump had increased in size from 1.8cm to 2.7cm and also moved to my right breast,” says Mwende.

In August, Mwende’s doctor advised her to do a positron emission tomography (PET) scan that confirmed the disease had spread to her bones.

She adds, “I am now on chemotherapy. My doctor told me that I will go through treatment for two years. It was hard during the inter-county lockdown, and the report that cancer patients were vulnerable also demoralised most patients to visit health facilities. So getting treatment was quite a challenge.”

Catherine Wanjiru, a Stage Four colon cancer survivor, talks about the challenges she underwent to get permits to travel during the inter-county lockdown to assist patients who underwent colorectal cancer surgery and needed assistance on how to use colostomy bags.

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A colostomy bag is used if your bowel needs to heal or part of your colon needs to be taken out following a severe disease.

During the surgery, the end of your stomach is brought through an opening in your abdomen to form a stoma, a hole where your stool will come out instead of the normal outlet. Your stoma does not have muscles to control when your stool can come out so a bag is used to collect your stool.

Colostomy bags

“After my surgery, I used the colostomy bag for two years. Then I went back to India to get training so that I could assist and sensitise colon cancer patients after realising that there was a lot of stigma around usage of the bag. I get calls from hospitals and I train nurses on what to do,” says Wanjiru.

However, Wanjiru says during the inter-county lockdown some patients were unable to get the bags and that some even died.

“Two patients died during the lockdown because they could not access the bag. I had to do something, so I went to the chief and the DO to get the permit; it was a whole process and a file full of papers. But finally, I was able to travel and assisted some of the patients,” says Wanjiru.

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Wanjiru says people often feel uncomfortable when she talks about assisting patients on how to use and clean the colostomy bags.

“I always tell people poop is processed food, so there is nothing to be uncomfortable about. I always clean and show patients how to use the bags until they are confident enough to do it themselves,” says the cancer survivor.

Prisca Githuka, a breast cancer survivor and chairperson of The Cancer Survivors Association of Kenya, while addressing cancer patients and survivors at St Paul’s University Chapel yesterday during their first meeting since the first Covid-19 case was reported in the country, encouraged them to reach out for help.

“We have a WhatsApp platform and we made sure all members are active. Times are tough but we helped where we could, but sadly lost some patients during the lockdown,” says Githuka.

She adds, “The association is a psycho-social group, we call our members and sometimes have virtual meetings to encourage them as they go through their treatment.”

During the annual global week for action on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), the Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance of Kenya talked about the wave of later-stage diagnoses and dire complications following disruptions in routine people living with NCDs underwent.

The biggest was difficulty in accessing medication and treatment and postponement of appointments. For example in Mwende’s case, her earlier diagnosis indicated that she had Stage Two cancer, and a few months later the disease had progressed to Stage Four and spread to other parts of her body.

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October 2020