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25 year old fashion designer, Shiyenze Khasoha was diagnosed with cancer at age 23 just a year after mother and grandfather were also diagnosed with the same disease. She talks to about her battle with the deadly disease and being the breadwinner of her family.

“I am the first born in a family of two, we were raised by a single mother, my sister and I.

My mother was married but after she separated with my father in 2006, we moved to Kangemi and he was totally out of the picture.

Things became a little bit tougher because we lived a pretty good life before.  My mother had skills, she was tailor at the same time she washed clothes for people and she did other manual jobs. Life in the ghetto was good, we never sleep hungry because there is always a service you can provide unless you are really lazy then you will sleep hungry. She did that for a very long time before she got a stable job and when I joined State House Girls she was able to pay my fees.

By the time I started my University at USIU she paid my fee through Sacco, Chamas and bursaries just like a proper African mother she made it happen and I didn’t disappoint her I was a bright student.

2012 while in USIU I wanted to be a model and I did a few gigs but my height was the challenge I was short but even those few gigs I realized some of the designer I was wearing were not getting what I wanted and there were no other option. I started creating pieces for my self and everyone used to ask where I got the pieces. I saw the need and 2015 my fashion house Shiyenze Fashions was born.

Though I studied Bachelor of Science in IBA Finance and Marketing I realised I loved designing. I was to graduate in 2017 but my mother fell sick, she had been diagnosed with brain tumor and it was discovered at a later stage, the tumor was cancerous. There were many signs for the longest time she had headaches and she used to treat it with over the counter medicine.

It was a hard for me, I had to take all the major roles in the house, my sister was in class seven and the year after she was about to do her class eight exams. I paid school fees, rent and other bills.

That was the birth of all my troubles. For the longest time I had irregular periods ever since I started at age 10. I would bleed for over 300 days in a year. I had to take pills to stop them but when they stopped it would be for long like two years before I start my menstruation which I had to take medicine again.  They are very heavy after every 40 minutes I have to change my pad.

I have been battling with my hormonal in balance for several years and I was undergoing the same situation when my mother was diagnosed. So I decided not to deal with my own issues until when my mum got better but she never got better.

January 2018 I decided to go for a check up and the doctor said I had an ovarian cyst which I was being treated. I decided to go for a second test to a different gynecologist he told me to get pregnant immediately. By at that time I never had one so I told the doctor to get me a boyfriend.  I was mad at him why he suggested that idea and did not have a solution of the man. I also did not want to have a kid.

I decided to go to Avenue Hospital I was told it is fibroids, fallopian damage and endometriosis. I did not believe them so I went to St Francis Hospital and they gave me a clear picture of what was happening, I was told I had a big tumor on my left ovary, my fallopian tube was damaged, my uterus was affect and my blood levels were low.

Fashion designer Shinyenze Khasoha 1

But my grandfather got sick so I decided not to start treatment because he and my mum needed hospital money and it was extremely hard. April of 2018 he died of prostrate cancer so after the burial I decided to go to the hospital and get clear information.

But I was broke so I took a loan of Sh500, 000 because I estimated if I need any surgery the money will cater for it. I went to MP Shah Hospital and after they did a test I was told it was ovarian tumor which was cancerous.

I did not believe it because I was only 23 year how could I have cancer? I went for a second test in Nairobi Hospital they also confirmed it but still I did not believe it so I went to Aga Khan Hospital and I was told the same thing.

I checked online I found only old people had ovarian cancer. I was told my tumor had over grown and because of several misdiagnosis over the years that why the tumor became cancerous. They said my cancer was at early stage 2 and I had start treatment immediately.

At first I wanted to die because I imagined who was going to pay the bills for me, the half a million I took from the shylock I have used all of it in tests, I even took an overdraft from the bank. Thinking about my small sister I decided to live because she was in class eight and my mother was also sick and I decided to try it out. Borrowing money from the shylock was the worst mistake I made he was on my case. After I explained to him several times he allowed me to pay it after my treatment and he freeze my bill with no interest.

I began my treatment at MP Shah Hospital in June of 2018 and the whole of last year I was doing chemotherapy. It has been really hard because I am the breadwinner of my family, I couldn’t afford to pay house rent and I defaulted for two months the landlord did not want hear my excuses and he kicked us out and we were homeless, I also had close my business.

We sold our household things just to get some money to pay rent for the new place. My mother requires Sh10,000 a week for treatment, her cancer is on remission. January 2019 I did some tests and I was told the tumors had dried hopefully I was cancer free but I still dealt with my irregular menstruations.

I also applied for jobs but I really faced stigma so I decided to focus on manual job and reopening of my fashion house. When the report analysis came in March I was told my right ovary which was not being treated has a cyst, this time I didn’t have the energy and it has caught me unprepared.

My bill currently is Sh1.6 million and this has to be cleared before I start my new chemo. It has been a hard road and sometimes I ask God why me but I realize life is a gift. I have done a fundraiser with family and friends and I have exhausted my resources.

I decided to tackle this situation a different way. Some people have donated sawing machines and I am making clothes to sale at discounted price to pay my bills. I am working with 1000 models on Shujaa Campaign and they will sale my T-shirts for Sh1000 each.

People can also reach me on my social media Shiyenze Fashions pages or shiyenze.co.ke to purchase my items and donate on my pay bill no 891300, account no Shiyenze.

Leaving in debt is bad and you can easily succumb to depression. My fears are what happens to my family if I don’t get the money. What if what the doctors are thinking is not the right thing?

My hopes for future is good health and to create awareness on reproductive health. I did couple of short cuts I didn’t go to a proper hospital because I feared bills but I met those fears head on. I want ladies to know if you have irregular periods go and get checked, we should not ignore small things.

I used to fear death and get scared of what legacy I will leave to the world but now I don’t. In future I would love to have a family and kids.

I would like to encourage other cancer patients to be strong and thank the caregivers and hope that they have a good support system.

Anytime you hear someone is going through a cancer journey please give them your time, kids cancer also face a lot of stigma others are even abandoned, lets be there for the cancer patients.



I am a journalist, fashion show choreographer, a backstage manager, an actress and the owner of buzzcentral.co.ke. As a journalist, I specifically focus on entertainment and feature writing.