Save women from breast cancer in South Africa

by Hoedspruit Training Trust
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Save women from breast cancer in South Africa
Staff ready to assist at vaccination outreach
Staff ready to assist at vaccination outreach

As COVID-19 changed the world in general, it also changed our focus to what is currently required of all healthcare facilities – to get South Africans vaccinated. We are extremely grateful to the GlobalGiving family and network for helping us to make this possible!

Over the past few months, Hlokomela has been actively involved in hosting and organising vaccination outreaches by the local government hospital.

After returning from a long trip to a government hospital in Limpopo Province transporting the elderly for COVID vaccinations, Christine du Preez (Hlokomela Director) realised we need to secure C19 vaccinations for our beneficiaries in the form of a vaccination site that is accessible to the vulnerable, and highly mobile, population of local and migrant farmworkers who work and live in the Mopani District of Limpopo Province. This key population group does not have the means to travel to far flung vaccination sites, nor can they afford to take time off work as many are employed as seasonal workers and every day’s earnings can mean the difference between having a meal on the table or going hungry.

Fully realising the need for urgency as the third COVID wave picked up speed, we approached the farming group that owns the farm where Hlokomela Blyde Clinic is located, for permission to renovate the old, deserted school building near the clinic as a vaccination site. They were amazing, getting on board immediately and soon the renovations were complete with the help of many farmers in the area. Support from GlobalGiving made it possible to get the vaccination site up to standard, thank you!!

Department of Health (DoH) staff says it takes a great burden off their shoulders by having adequate support and communication through our networks to mobilise as many people as possible for vaccination on outreach days at the Hlokomela vaccination centre.

To date, Hlokomela has facilitated nearly 4000 vaccinations.

We are very fortunate that vaccine hesitancy is not a problem in the Hoedspruit area, judging by the number of people queuing up each week to be vaccinated!

COVID-19 News

Hlokomela recently started using a COVID rapid antigen test which provides reliable results after 15 minutes where a positive result indicates a current infection. We did almost 2000 rapid antigen tests between April and August! We also performed PCR tests. From April to August 85 PCR tests were done on symptomatic patients only, with a positivity rate of 54,1%.

The women’s clinic staff are an intricate part of the testing team and has dedicated most of our time to COVID testing during the 3rd wave.

We have witnessed many sick people come to the clinic and we are grateful that we put solid isolation and rerouting measures in place at the beginning of the pandemic.

Our staff work together very well and patients feel safe and comfortable at the Hlokomela clinics.

Menstrual cup feedback

Hlokomela women’s clinic has been promoting the use of menstrual cups during the past months and we have handed out more than 100 donated menstrual cups. Although the menstrual cup was viewed by many first time users as something foreign, we have gotten some fantastic feedback. Women reported that the financial savings have helped tremendously and that they feel more in control.

We have introduced menstrual cups to sex workers as part of Hlokomela’s Sex Worker Programme and it has been well received here too.

Goodbye for the last time to Mrs D, a breast cancer patient

It is with a sad heart that we report of the death of Mrs D. As previously reported, Mrs D was one of the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic breast cancer patients. Mrs D had fought a good fight. Unfortunately, due to a lack of medical insurance, which most South African women face, she was unable to receive the intensive treatment and procedures she needed.

She was left to the mercy of a government system that failed her. Hlokomela Women’s Clinic as an NGO and the initial point of diagnosis, supported her as far as possible during her journey. May her soul rest in peace and may her story continue to motivate us to always strive to do our best to educate and create awareness about breast cancer in our country. We trust that with continued support from funders and the GlobalGiving family, it will soon be possible to have treatment facilities in our region, which will cut out long and expensive travelling times and delays in receiving treatment.

Mrs S, who we reported about previously, is still fighting her battle against breast cancer courageously. Her cancer has taken a turn for the worst, yet she continues with a positive attitude.

Mrs S is unfortunately also a state patient and because of people like her, suffering under the poor conditions and lack of adequate healthcare, we will continue seeking funding and support to ensure that we are not only there to diagnose and support but also assist with accessibility of treatment and the continuation of proper oncology management for our local people.

Gratitude from our community

The Hlokomela staff have been very fortunate during the past months to have the support of a very caring and appreciative community offering to assist and keep up our spirits. We receive treats like cupcakes, snacks and goody bags from different members and organisations of our community.

We are also happy to report that despite the focus on COVID-19, we still receive donations of clothes, toiletries and bras for our women’s clinic patients. We received 35 litres of ultrasound gel from Moditlo Lodge here in Hoedspruit, some of which we donated to a local government hospital, Tintswalo.

Hundreds eagerly wait to receive COVID vaccine
Hundreds eagerly wait to receive COVID vaccine
Hospital nurse receives donated ultrasound gel
Hospital nurse receives donated ultrasound gel

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Patient receives menstrual cup at clinic
Patient receives menstrual cup at clinic

These past three months have been busy at the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic as we have been involved with sexual reproductive health education, assisting with COVID rapid antigen testing, the sex worker programme and of course supporting our breast cancer patients throughout their treatment journey. Thank you, our GlobalGiving family, for making all of this possible with your loyal support!

Educating young girls about reproductive health

On 8 March 2021 the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic staff presented syllabus applicable sex education and reproductive health to the 17 and 18-year-old female students of a high school in Hoedspruit. This was a wonderful opportunity to give true and factual information to these young women. The reproductive system, menstrual health, development and different contraceptive methods where discussed. The girls had an opportunity to ask questions during which myths were busted and they could ask questions that are often not allowed or frowned upon at school. Through sessions like this we help develop the youth into well-educated and responsible adults who are equipped to make wise choices about their bodies and about sex. The topic of different kinds of sexual relationships, homosexuality and sex work was also discussed.

COVID-19 News

At this time, the second wave of COVID is declining and there is some sense of normality again as we have moved down to Lockdown Level 1. We have witnessed the benefits of wearing masks and regular hand washing. At Hlokomela we remain committed to high standards of hygiene and educating the community. Unfortunately, many farm workers and other members of the community still don’t adhere to the regulations. Thus having our work continue at high levels of intensity, remains extremely important.

Hlokomela Women’s Clinic staff have been actively involved in performing COVID rapid antigen testing for a high end game lodge in the Kruger National Park. Staff returning from leave have to undergo a COVID antigen test. The test results are available within 20 minutes, allowing the employee to return to work with his/her COVID test result.

COVID has resulted in the Women’s Clinic staff engaging in many events and outreaches in the attempt to try and beat this pandemic. However, we remain committed to fighting breast and cervical cancer and we continue to educate and screen our patients for these diseases.

Menstrual cup donations

Hlokomela received a donation of 100 menstrual cups. The Women’s Clinic has been distributing these cups amongst our female patients. This product is environmentally friendly, cost effective and has been well received by our patients. This product is small and easy to travel with. It is made up of silicone and is 100% safe and reusable. One menstrual cup can last up to 10 years if taken care of correctly!

Mrs. O, a young mother of two boys, used to dread having her period as she would be on tenterhooks for a whole week, not wanting to risk going for a jog as she always has a heavy flow. During her last period before starting to use the menstrual cup she had an embarrassing accident at work despite using a tampon and a heavy flow sanitary pad. Although desperate, she was still hesitant about this “gadget” but she decided to give it a go nonetheless. She is over the moon with the results! She now feels free to go jogging at any time and is comfortable going anywhere, doing anything, while having her period.

Breast cancer patients’ journey

During early March, a mass was found in Mrs X’s right breast. Because she has a strong family history of breast cancer, she came in the moment she felt a mass. It was very small but she knew to come and have it checked out. The mass was scanned and found to not have all the typical characteristics of a malignant mass. The mass however made the sonographer uncomfortable and had one or two features that inclined her to advise the patient to have a mammogram and a biopsy done as soon as she could.

The patient immediately took the advice and had a mammogram and biopsy done. The results unfortunately came back as a very aggressive carcinoma. The patient started on chemo therapy during April. The patient communicated with the women’s Clinic, thanking them for assisting her in the process of diagnosis.

Our long standing patient Mrs S, has had quite a journey up until now. She has finally started on chemo therapy and unfortunately had an extremely adverse response and side effects. She is however still keeping positive and trying to fight as best she can. We are very proud of her strength and her determination. Even when she feels sick and warm out, she always has a smile and a grateful heart.

Mrs D, who’s journey we have also shared, is battling with a gaping wound in her left breast caused by breast cancer. She has undergone 2 courses of chemo therapy. Because of logistics and better treatment options, she has relocated to Johannesburg in Gauteng Province where she will start on second line chemo therapy at the Helen Joseph Hospital. We wish her the best.

Outreaches to sex worker hot spots

During February, the Women’s Clinic attended two risk reduction workshops with the Sex Worker Programme. On 11 February 2021 we gave talks on sexual health, STIs, HIV, condom use and breast cancer at the Oaks Village near Hoedspruit. We also shared information on the importance of Pap smears, what cervical cancer is and how to prevent it. We conducted Pap smears on site.

We also went to Mariveni Village where the risk reduction workshop was held at a bar. The group of women and men interacted well with us and enjoyed the health talks, asked many questions and we had to deal with some challenging situations.

There was a 14-year-old girl, who is being raped by the man who provides her family with food. Hlokomela’s social worker intervened and assisted the girl to open a case of rape at the police station and start the process of getting her out of the toxic situation.

On 7 April 2021 the Women’s Clinic staff went to Tzaneen with the Sex Worker Programme Mobile Wellness Clinic. During this outreach we did Pap smears and general women’s health consultations. Education regarding self-breast examination, breast cancer, cervical cancer and sexually transmitted diseases was shared. During this outreach the clinic team fill PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) prescriptions and monitor vital signs of the all the sex workers attending the outreach. The Women’s Clinic also make use of this opportunity to introduce the menstrual cups and hand out sanitary products and bras. 

COVID rapid antigen test done at game lodge
COVID rapid antigen test done at game lodge

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First outreach with the mobile women's clinic.
First outreach with the mobile women's clinic.

Hlokomela received its very first mobile clinic! This clinic is dedicated to serving women with specialised healthcare services in the rural areas of Mopani District in the Limpopo Province, South Africa.  Thanks to donations from the GlobalGiving family, Hlokomela staff are able to undertake regular outreaches to these women, making sure they receive the care they need.

This beautiful clinic is fully equipped with everything needed to do a Pap smear, general consultation and will soon be fitted with a mobile ultrasound unit.                                    

The mobile clinic has been well used on various outreaches in conjunction with Hlokomela’s Sex Work Programme. During the outreaches, clinic staff perform Pap smears and provide STI treatment and contraceptives. We come across women who have been doing sex work for many years and have never done or even heard of Pap smears and breast self-examination. These outreaches continue to be an extremely valuable time to educate and create awareness. During outreach, we identify pregnant sex workers who are abusing alcohol and other substances. This also allows us to intervene and educate regarding the dangers of alcohol use during pregnancy.

Cancer patients escorted to the provincial hospital for treatment

During September we accompanied Mrs J to Polokwane to visit her oncologist. During this trip, we really experienced smooth sailing throughout the entire day. Mrs J needed to have blood tests done as well as x-rays. The nurse at the reception pointed me in the right direction and said I can go to the procedure room and do the bloodwork myself. After this was done, we had the x-rays done we went to the oncology department. After careful consideration and examination of Mrs J, the doctor decided that because her biopsy results suggested that Mrs J’s cancer would not respond to chemo, she was put on a type of chemo tablet called Tamoxifen. Mrs J will be on this treatment until her mass has drastically shrunk, after which a mastectomy will be considered. 

Our second patient, Mrs D, started her first session of chemo on the 10th of September. She has reacted well to the therapy and her side effects have been manageable. She will be continuing for 4 more sessions and then a surgical review will be scheduled.

Patient feedback

On November 12th, Mrs J and I headed off to Polokwane hospital for her monthly oncology visit. Mrs J was scheduled to have a full-body bone scan done. This process starts with an intravenous radiation injection. After this injection, the patient is expected to wait for 3 hours before the scan can commence.

During this time the patient is allowed to eat and sleep if they wish to do so. Josephine’s scan commenced after the 3 hours had elapsed and the scan took about 45 min. She felt very ill after the scan and the radiation made her very tired.

We made our way to the oncologist. Mrs J’s mass has not decreased in size but also did not seem to have grown. Her doctor said that it will take at least 6 months on the Tymoxifin before the mass shrinks.

After blood tests were done and her medication was collected, we could head back to Hoedspruit. We are due to return on the 9th of December for a follow-up appointment as well as to discuss the results of the bone scan and blood tests. Unfortunately, the mammogram unit at the hospital is out of order. This means that we would need to get funding to have a mammogram done in the private sector to confirm the mass size within the next two months. 

Local informal settlement burns to the ground

It is suspected that a gas stove caused the fire on 21 October 2020 at the informal settlement in Hoedspruit. A large number of shacks at “Plastic View” was burnt to the ground.

Many of the Plastic View residents are sex workers and their children who access healthcare services at Hlokomela Women’s Clinic. Many of them lost all their personal belongings and food in the fire.

As soon as we heard of the fire, we jumped into action! Calls were made, the staff came together and called on the community, friends and family to assist. Many community members, churches and non-profit organisations got together and helped.

We were flooded with donations of blankets, clothes, food, baby products and household items. These items were carefully sorted and made up into care packages and distributed to the people of “Plastic View”.

Pap smear outreach

During the month of October, the Women’s Clinic went on 3 outreaches with the sex workers programme. During these visits to Giyani, Tzaneen, and Phalaborwa we consulted with a large number of sex workers who have sexually transmitted diseases, who have never had a Pap smear done and many who do not understand the importance of condom use. These outreaches are perfect opportunities for us to educate and assist these women.

During the Tzaneen outreach, a cervical growth was found in a woman who has never had a Pap smear done before. Her Pap smear results were suggestive of malignancy and she was referred to her local hospital.

We are making a difference!

 

Sorting through the donations for fire victims
Sorting through the donations for fire victims

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Women's health outreach
Women's health outreach

During COVID-19 the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic has been actively involved in working against the adverse effects of this pandemic as part of the Hlokomela team. With the support of the GlobalGiving community, we have been able to provide healthcare services to the women of rural Limpopo throughout the tough South African lockdown.

Production of buffs and masks

Over the past two weeks, the Hlokomela Sewing Project produced 2550 buffs. Total of 21 378 buffs made since March 2020.

Community screening and COVID-19 awareness

The mobile HTS team that goes out to farms in the Hoedspruit area to conduct HIV Testing Services do COVID-19 screening of each and every client as well. Over the past two weeks, the team screened 1109 people.

At Hlokomela’s three clinics, 643 individuals were screened for COVID-19 over the past three weeks. Handwashing demonstrations and health talks are presented to all clients before they enter the clinics.

Total screening until 30 August 2020: 23 290 individuals.

In cases where there is a high suspicion of COVID-19, individuals are tested right here at Hlokomela Clinic.

Distribution of food parcels

From April 2020, 4718 food parcels containing food items such as mealie meal, beans, tinned fish and cooking oil with basic items such as candles and soap were distributed to people in need.

Local farms are donating tonnes of fresh fruit on a weekly basis. To date, Hlokomela has distributed 53 tonnes of grapefruit donated by Bavaria, Blydevallei, and Dinaldedi, 89 tonnes of tangerines and 3 tonnes of oranges donated by Bavaria Fruit Estate, 7 tonnes oranges from Blydevallei and 6 tonnes of tangerines from Blydevallei.

Hlokomela Women’s Clinic

During the past three months, we have started the breast cancer journey with three women. Three very strong and resilient women. Because of awareness and breast self-examination taught by the Women’s Clinic, these ladies knew what to look out for. They were able to identify masses in their breasts and come to the clinic for a breast ultrasound. After a long process of further testing, we finally had a positive diagnosis of all three ladies. One of the women has a private healthcare fund and received chemotherapy very soon after diagnosis. On 10 September one of the state patients will start with chemo and our third patient will start radiation on 21 September.

4,5kg baby!

A peer educator in the Hlokomela Sex Worker Programme was diagnosed with gestational diabetes early in her pregnancy. Through careful monitoring throughout the pregnancy, her pregnancy was free of any complications. After doing a pregnancy ultrasound at 36 weeks’ gestation, it was determined that the baby’s weight was nearing 4,4kg. Her beautiful baby girl was born at 37 weeks via a C-Section and weighed 4,5kg. Her name is Sonja!

Woman suffering from severe menstrual bleeding finds help at Hlokomela

Hlokomela Women’s Clinic recently attended to a client who had been suffering from severe menstrual bleeding for months. She had very large fibroids and an HB of 4. After examining her and performing some tests and ultrasounds, we were able to communicate with a doctor at Tintswalo Hospital about further treatment. Before coming to Hlokomela, she had been sent from pillar to post without receiving help at any other facility. We are happy to report that she was admitted at Tintswalo and received a blood transfusion. She was discharged and came for a repeat Pap smear before further management will commence.

Teenager finds care and support at Hlokomela during pregnancy

*Lillian is 17 years old and came to Hlokomela for the first time when she was 5 months pregnant. She was scared, crying, uninformed and hungry. Lillian’s mother is very ill and her family is very poor. On top of all her challenges, Lillian had a severe urinary tract infection. Lillian had no understanding of birth or the process of birth so we took precious care of her at Hlokomela. She received counselling, health education, treatment and a scan confirming that she was expecting a little girl. We called Lillian’s school principal and got the governing body involved to assist her. Lillian received everything she needed to give her a good start as far as baby accessories are concerned. She also received food and clothes. Lillian stayed in contact throughout her pregnancy and called us 3 days after baby Matilda was born. On 27 August 2020 Lillian visited the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic with Matilda! What a pleasure it was to meet her and to see how well they were both doing!

*Lillian is a pseudonym used to protect the true identity of Hlokomela’s client.

Bravolution

Dr Majoie Hemelaar, a gynaecologist who volunteered at the Women’s Clinic, has continued her dedication and passion for the Bravolution. We received 5 bags of bras from the Netherlands. More than 300 women have benefited from this project over the past 2 years!

Bra donation received to assist poor rural women
Bra donation received to assist poor rural women

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Hlokomela staff ready to screen for COVID19.
Hlokomela staff ready to screen for COVID19.

We gladly share with you, our reader and faithful supporters at GlobalGiving, what we have been up to during the last 3 months in the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic.

At the start of March, when COVID-19 started making its way into South Africa, life as we know it changed completely. In this report you will read a lot about what we have been doing to flatten the curve, educate, train and screen the larger community of Hoedspruit and surrounds in the rural area of Limpopo Province.

Risk reduction training for sex workers

During the last two months, the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic has been actively involved in outreach campaigns in conjunction with the Hlokomela Sex Worker Programme. We have gone out into taverns and villages to conduct Pap smear tests, teach about breast cancer awareness, breast self-examination as well as teaching and education on COVID-19. Special hand wash demonstrations were given to ensure that people understand the correct way of using hand sanitizer and how to wash hands effectively.

Patients on treatment

We currently have one patient on chemo. *Mrs Wilson (50 years old) came into the Women’s Clinic with a previously diagnosed (by her GP) abscess. She did not respond to antibiotic treatment and asked that we do a breast ultrasound on her just to make sure that there was not some underlying problem that may have been missed initially. After the ultrasound was done, a biopsy/fine needle aspiration was indicated and Dr Inez Allin, a volunteer from the Tshemba Foundation, performed the procedure. The cytology results came back as positive for breast cancer. Mrs Wilson has since started chemotherapy and is doing well.

*Mrs Moore, is a 60-year-old patient who was diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago. The mass was detected very early and she was in remission shortly after a round of chemo. Two months ago she felt a lump in her right breast and came to the Hlokomela Women’s Clinic for an ultrasound. Nothing suspicious was found in the right breast, but we did find a highly suspicious mass in the left breast. After a core biopsy, test results came back positive for breast cancer. She has since undergone a double mastectomy and she is recovering well.

*Mrs Nyati is a 50-year-old patient who felt a lump in her left breast while taking a shower one morning. She decided to have it checked and came for an ultrasound. The mass looked suspicious on ultrasound and a biopsy confirmed that it was breast cancer. She underwent two rounds of chemo and is now cancer-free and in remission.

*These are pseudonyms used to protect the true identity of our patients.                  

Production of buffs and masks

To date, the Hlokomela Sewing Project has made over 7000 buffs and masks to protect farmworkers on their daily commute to work. The Sewing Project has also made masks for Hlokomela’s healthcare workers in the Women’s Clinic.

Outreach and awareness

From the beginning of March, we have reached more than 5000 people with demonstrations on the correct handwashing technique, social distancing measures, how to protect oneself from contracting the virus and personal hygiene. The Women’s Clinic staff played a vital role in these outreaches.

Preparing clinic for COVID-19

Our clinics have put in place measures on how to deal with COVID-19 cases who attend our clinics and are ready for receiving these patients and transferring them to the closest hospital for testing and treatment. We have implemented outdoor handwashing stations where all staff, clients and visitors wash hands before entering the clinic. Additional outdoor client waiting areas have also been implemented to adhere to social distancing standards. 

Distribution of food parcels

From 14 to 30 April 2020, Hlokomela distributed 700 food parcels containing food items such as mealie meal, beans, tinned fish and cooking oil with basic items such as candles and soap. These food parcels were distributed to farmworkers along with more than 30 tonnes of citrus fruit donated by local farms.

Hand wash demo by Hlokomela staff.
Hand wash demo by Hlokomela staff.
Teaching cough etiquette in local languages
Teaching cough etiquette in local languages

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Organization Information

Hoedspruit Training Trust

Location: Hoedspruit, Limpopo - South Africa
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Hlokomela
Project Leader:
Christine du Preez
Hoedspruit, Limpopo South Africa
$77,333 raised of $90,000 goal
 
383 donations
$12,667 to go
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