Two Plus Two Equals Four!!!

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Biggest Baby Expenses and How to Save on Them

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I am Selfish

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I'm Home at the Candy Shop

Essentials greets you as you enter. Though on the first floor, it is the first thing that draws your eyes as you walk in. There’s something about kids' stuff that just whispers to you; especially when you are a parent. Without the pressure of shopping and a baby tagging at my skirt telling me that she wants this or that, I felt like I was in a candy store. And I sort of was.

Dealing with Unwarranted Parenting Advice

Being different is ok. We are all special in one way or another. This memo, however, did not get to the perfection bullies. When your child is a little different, they’ll make it their business to tell you what you probably did wrong to end up where you are, and come up with so many solutions to your problem your head will spin.

Melina's Messy Updo

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Of Housegirls and Parenting

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Goodbye Ceskycess. Hello, Modern Mom.

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"Merck more than a Mother" launches in Nigeria

Merck Launches “Merck More Than a Mother” Championed by H.E. First Lady of Nigeria in partnership with Senate Committee of Health, Nigeria Ministry of Health,  Africa Fertility Society  and Future Assured foundation.


Dr. Rasha Kelej with Nigerian Senator Lanre Tejuoso- Merck more than a Mother ambassador Nigeria


  • “Merck More than a Mother” aims to empower infertile women by improving access to information, education, healthcare and change of culture and mind set to de-stigmatize infertility in Nigeria.
  • Merck has launched its „More than a Mother“ campiagn during two big events in Lagos and Abuja.

Lagos, Nigeria October 11, 2016 – Merck, a leading science and technology company, announced the launch of "Merck More than a Mother" campaign in Nigeria to empower infertile women by improving access to information, education, healthcare and change of culture and mind set to de-stigmatize infertility.

The initiative will also empower infertile women in Nigeria who can no longer be treated socially and economically to lead independent and happier lives through “Empowering Berna” project which is part the campaign.

Presiding over the launch of the campaign in Lagos Nigeria, Senator Dr. Lanre Tejuoso, the Chair of the Senate Committee of Health and who is also an ambassador of the campaign in Nigeria expressed the Senate’s appreciation of the partnership with Merck that will bring about an attitude change towards infertile women.

Senator Lanre

Merck more than a Mother launch in Lagos was in partnership with Senate Committee of Health, Africa Fertility Society, Association for Fertility and Reproductive Health in Nigeria and the Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria.

“This campaign will bring attention to the challenge of infertility that not much effort has been put to recognise. We have not seen a campaign that addresses this very sensitive issue before,” Tejuoso said. “As an ambassador for this campaign in Nigeria and the only male ambassador together with our partners I will make a difference especially in reaching out to men who have been shy to come out to talk about infertility considering that over 50% of infertility cases are due to male factors,” Senator Lanre added.

“Above all, I am personally working on the ART bill to sponsor it in the parliament to regulate ART and fertility care in the country,” he emphasized.

“Merck More than a Mother” campaign is a great initiative to empower an unprivileged category of women in Africa, women who suffer infertility. They have been neglected, mistreated and discriminated because they cannot bear a child. The campaign will empower infertile women in Africa through improving access to information, awareness, health and change of mind-set,” said Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, Merck Chief Social Officer

During the launch, a panel of fertility experts, policy makers, and academia discussed the need for creating awareness about infertility prevention, management and male infertility; building advocacy for the development of artificial reproductive therapy (ART) laws; improving access to fertility care by integrating fertility care into public reproductive health services and building the capacity to provide quality and safe fertility care through the training of African embryologists. The launch also advocated for developing and enforcing policies to protect women from being disinherited as a result of childlessness.

The panel included Senator Dr. Lanre Tejuoso, the Chairman Senate Committee of Health of Nigeria; Hon. Joyce Lay, Member of Parliament, Kenya; Dr. Joe Leigh Simpson, former President of International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS), Dr. Richard H. Reindollar , Chief Executive Officer of ASRM, Dr. Faye Iketubosin, President Nigeria Reproductive and Fertility Society; Yiannis Vlontos, Head of Intercontinental Region, Merck; Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, President of Africa Fertility Society; Dr. James Olobo-Lalobo, Vice-President of Africa Fertility Society, Uganda; Prof. Brian Adinma, President, SOGON; Dr. Chris Agboghoroma, Secretary General, SOGON; Dr. Ibrahim Wada, Chairman of Garki General Hospital and Vice Chair of Nisa Fertility Hospital, Nigeria , and Dr. Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

Group Photo

“No woman deserves to go through violence for being unable to bear a child. People need to come out and speak about infertility and create awareness that a woman is more than a mother,” said Hon Joyce Lay, Member of Parliament and “Merck More than a Mother” ambassador for Kenya.

“We need a multi-sectoral approach to address infertility. Policy makers need to support budget allocation for establishing fertility clinics, and for research and training of specialists,” said Prof Ashiru, President of Africa Fertility Society.

“Infertility has now been recognised by the World Health Organisation as a human rights issue. Every man and woman has a right to available interventions to have a child,” said Prof. Joe Leigh Simpson former President of International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS).

“In order to build capacity to provide quality and safe fertility care Merck has joined hands with Indonesian fertility experts to provide advanced embryology training starting with Kenya and Uganda. The next countries will be Nigeria and Ivory Coast and will expand to the rest of Africa” Rasha Kelej, Chief Officer of Merck healthcare emphasized.

ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine) will join hands with Merck more than a Mother to provide combined theoretical and practical training course for Africa embryologists” said Dr. Richard H. Reindollar , Chief Executive Officer of ASRM.

Speaking at the launch Yiannis Vlontzos, Head of Intercontinental Region, and Merck emphasised Merck’s support of the “Merck More than a Mother” campaign. “This campaign is adding value by engaging with patients, families and communities. We are working for their well-being and that is what Merck is here for,” he said.

Merck more than a Mother (Nigeria) stories:

Helen Phillip- Merck more than Mother  woman in Nigeria

Nkemdili Okeke (not real name) is a secondary school certificate holder who got married in 2011 at the age of 25, to a wealthy businessman in the South-East Nigeria.

Five years into their marriage, she did not conceive and was subjected to dehumanising treatments by her husband’s family. Nkemdili’s mother-in-law would abuse her constantly - calling her all sorts of names, and even accusing her of being a witch that eats up the babies in her womb.

At other times, Nkemdili’s mother-in-law accused her of ruining her womb, saying she had been into prostitution and had destroyed her womb through incessant abortions. This went on and on for years, to the point where Nkemdili’s husband became pressurised by the mother to get a second wife for himself. The claims were that Nkemdili was to be blamed for her inability to conceive. However, on the advice of a neighbour, Nkemdili and her husband, sought medical attention, and lo and behold, it was discovered that it had not all been Nkemdili’s fault but her husband’s, as he was diagnosed to have a watery and low sperm count, thus suffering from infertility.

Nkemdili’s is not the only one out there. Below are videos of Merck more than a Mother (Nigeria):

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About Merck

Merck is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Around 40,000 employees work to further develop technologies that improve and enhance life – from biopharmaceutical therapies to treat cancer or multiple sclerosis, cutting-edge systems for scientific research and production, to liquid crystals for smartphones and LCD televisions. In 2014, Merck generated sales of € 11.3 billion in 66 countries.

Merck more than a mother women

Founded in 1668, Merck is the world's oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed corporate group. Merck, Darmstadt, Germany holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the company operates as EMD Serono, EMD Millipore and EMD Performance Materials.

Until we see each other again, 

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He's a Good Girl!

She’s detail oriented, describes people by what they're wearing or their hairstyles; especially their hairstyles. One day someone pulled her by her hair in the school bus. She was crying when she alighted. I’d never seen her cry that hard. She kept demonstrating how the person did it. And it looked really bad! The way she did it, I was surprised she still had her scalp intact. At the time, I did not know that she was exaggerating. I know better now. She does that often. It adds drama. And everyone likes a little drama.

Source: Pixabay
I was hysterical! I wanted to know the person who’d done it. Was it a teacher? No. Was it another kid? No. And it was neither the driver nor his conductor. I called the driver. I wanted the bus stopped.  I would storm in there and she'd point to the person. The driver did not pick up. I then called the school and went a little crazy on the lady on the other side of the line. She apologized not really knowing what she was apologizing for. I requested her to get back to me as soon as they found the perpetrator before calling her dad. The whole time she was beside me wailing uncontrollably.

When she composed herself enough to speak, she tried explaining who it was but I had a hard time understanding whether it was a fellow pupil or an adult, a female or a male. The person’s head was shaved. This she really emphasized. And the person was seated next to Farajoy (Fara Joy? I don’t know). She talks about this Farajoy a lot. They do a lot together; eat her snacks, sit next to each other in the bus, and I’m even informed when Farajoy misses school. From what she tells me, Farajoy is not in her class and she’s a little older. ‘So she’s your friend?’ I ask. ‘No, she’s my sister.’

I do not try to argue with that. I know the girl must be special for my child to know her by name. Other than her classmates and her teacher (whom she called teacher cucu for the first week), the only other person she knows by name is this sister of hers. Our conversations in the evening are normally bizarre. ‘Did you eat all the grapes by yourself?’ I’ll ask. ‘No, I ate with my friends in the bus,’ she’ll say. ‘And what are the names of your friends?’ ‘I don’t know them,’ she’ll reply. 'Them’ referring to the friends, and  not the names.

Back to the person with the shaved head, I asked her, ‘Was this person wearing any uniform?’ She said, no. The person was in a red top. ‘Was it a boy or a girl? She said it was a boy. This information was not helpful for two reasons. First it was Friday and therefore a games day. A red top could have been a games T-shirt for all I knew and secondly, the fact that she said it was a boy meant nothing at all. A boy to her is any male from an infant to a 90 year old man.

But I had not considered a third possibility. One I learnt about the other day and that reminded me about the complexity that is a child’s brain…

She’s taking her evening porridge and I’m on the couch nursing the little one and minding my own business when she turns to me and says, ‘Mommy, do you know that Kimberly’s dad came to school today?’
‘No,’ I reply, ‘I did not know that, but do tell.’
‘Yes he did. And God gave him hair!’ she continues.
‘What makes you say that?’
‘Because he has hair that is styled like this and like this,’ she explains while showing me what she means using her hand. 'Oh, really?' I reply, not paying much attention.

After a long silence, I’m thrown back when she concludes, ‘Mom, do you know that Kimberly’s dad is not a boy? He’s a good girl.’

I guess I have a lot of explaining to do.

Until we see each other again, 

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Merck, University of Nairobi and Tata Memorial Hospital start the first “Africa Oncology Fellowship Program”

This is part of Merck Cancer Access Program – Merck CAP

Watch video of the first two candidates of the Fellowship Program in India Merck

University of Nairobi and oncology experts discussing the Merck Africa Medical Oncology Fellowship Program. The meeting was attended by among others Chief Social Officer of Merck Healthcare Dr. Rasha Kelej (4th left) and Prof. Isaac Kibwage (3rd right), Principal College of Health Sciences, University of Nairobi.

Merck has announced its first “Africa Medical Oncology Fellowship Program” for Sub-Saharan African countries in partnership with University of Nairobi, Kenya and Tata Memorial Hospital, India. The program will be conducted at the University of Nairobi and at Tata Memorial Hospital with the aim to improve access to cancer care in Africa.

“We are committed to improve patient’s access to care all over the world”, said BelĂ©n Garijo, Member of the Executive Board of Merck and CEO Healthcare. “In Africa, where the number of oncologists is very limited, this starts by building additional medical capacity. We are proud to kick-off the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program which aims to increase the number of qualified oncologists across the continent.”

“The lack of financial resources is never the only challenge in Africa. The scarcity of trained healthcare personnel capable of tackling prevention, early diagnosis and management of cancer is a bigger challenge, and therefore, we firmly believe that initiatives contributing to build medical capacity such as the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program are very critical for Africa and developing countries”, Garijo added.
As a first step, Merck will sponsor nine medical doctors from Sub-Saharan African countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and South Africa for a period of two years. The program will be extended to other African countries in the following year. Moreover, Merck will support another five African doctors to participate in a paediatric and adult medical fellowship program, which will be held annually at Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, India. This program will start in August 2016.

Watch the video below of Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare speaking on the limited number of oncologists in Africa and what Merck is doing together with Maharashtra University, India to address this challenge.

“The shortage of oncologists threatens cancer care in Africa. Merck is planning to sponsor nine medical doctors from Sub-Saharan African countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and South Africa, for this two-year Africa Oncology Fellowship Program in partnership with University of Nairobi as part of its Merck Cancer Access Program. Moreover Merck will support another five African doctors to join the paediatric and adult medical fellowship program that will be conducted in India. The Fellowship Program will include candidates from other African countries next year,” Rasha Kelej Chief Social Officer of Merck Healthcare explained.

Prof. Isaac Kibwage, Principal of Colleges of Health Sciences, University of Nairobi emphasized: “We believe that the only way to effectively prevent, detect and treat the rising number of cancer cases in Africa is through establishing public private partnership-PPP models between health ministries, academia, and industry in implementing successful programs such as this partnership with Merck to provide the Africa Oncology Fellowship. This fellowship program will not only target Kenyan doctors but doctors from all over Africa as well with the aim of improving the quality and accessibility of cancer care in the continent.”

Medical students from African Universities during a “Merck Cancer Control Progam” sessions.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), by 2020 there are expected to be 16 million new cases of cancer every year, 70% of which will be in developing countries where governments are least prepared to address the growing cancer burden and where survival rates are often less than half those of more developed countries.

“Cancer is expected to have a huge economic and social burden on Africa. This will represent a huge challenge since Africa has its share of communicable and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and its healthcare system is built to only tackle them. Therefore, University of Nairobi is happy to partner with Merck to provide Africa Oncology Fellowship Program for medical doctors across Africa starting with Kenya. Merck Cancer Access Program will add tangible value in improving quality of cancer care,” Prof. Kibwage added.

“I was delighted to hear that Merck has offered this opportunity to our hospital. The school has been in need of expanding its oncology set-up being the only oncology centre in the country with only four oncologists serving a population of above 100 million. Looking at the scarce set-up, the Ministry of Health has offered us expansion with a four storey building for patient chemotherapy. Though this is a good opportunity, we have had difficulties because of the shortage of manpower we have, so this fellowship program will be of a great help to our hospital and university and to the country in managing oncology patients,” Dr Daniel Seifu, Dean of School of Medicine, Addis Ababa University said.

Challenges of improving the access to cancer care in Africa

“Engagement in cancer care needs a substantial improvement in infrastructure and increase in the number of specialized workforce, which does not exist in many, if not most, Sub-Saharan African countries. For example, in Kenya there are only 13 oncologists, most of them based in Nairobi for population of 47 million which means one oncologist per 3.6 million people, while in United Kingdom there are around 13 oncologists per 1 million people. Moreover in Ethiopia there are only four oncologists, all based in Addis Ababa for a population of around 100 million. Therefore this fellowship program is very critical for improving access to cancer care in Africa as oncologists are very few here and sadly they only tend to work in the capital cities,” Kelej added.

“With the assistance of Merck, the fight against cancer has jumpstarted in Africa,” said Prof. Nicholas Anthony Othieno Abinya, Consultant Oncologist, University of Nairobi.

Merck to empower women in healthcare and research

Women are underrepresented in research and healthcare and especially in the field of oncology. Most of the candidates for Merck Africa Medical Oncology Fellowship Program are women. The program will create fellowship opportunities for African doctors with the aim to increase the number of oncologists in general, but women special oncology fellowship opportunities will be dedicated for women doctors.

First candidates from Ghana and Tanzania selected for Merck Oncology Fellowship Program in India

The first two candidates to attend the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program at Tata Memorial Center in India have been selected from Tanzania and Ghana.

Nihad Salifu from Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons will attend the Fellowship to train in Paediatric Oncology and Christina Malichewe from Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Tanzania is interested in learning more about the treatment of gastro intestinal malignancies.

Dr. Christina V. Malichewe, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS) Dares Salaam, Tanzania

“Cancer is a growing concern in Tanzania. Limited facilities and few healthcare providers against the high rising number of patients diagnosed at advanced stages pose a great challenge to a developing country like Tanzania. Unfortunately there are only two medical oncologists in a country of approximately 50 million people. One studied in Italy and another in China. We need more specialized oncologists in this field. Thank you Merck for starting this program!! However, it is only through unique opportunities such as the Merck Africa Fellowship Program we can make needed change in our societies so as to improve patient access to cancer care,” Christina Malichewe said.

“I am thankful and proud to be among the young doctors from Tanzania to attend the Merck Africa Medical Oncology Program which I believe after completion will further help in imparting knowledge to others and increasing the access to cancer care in the larger Tanzanian population,” Christina added.

Christina is interested in learning more on the treatment of gastro intestinal malignancies. “I know a lot is changing on the management and in our country there is little interest on this area in terms of screening, management and research among the oncologists compared to cervical, breast and Kaposis sarcoma cancers”.

Dr. Nihad Salifu, Senior Residency trainee in General Pediatrics at Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons.

“Ghana has a population of about 26 million with a cancer rate of 109 per 100,000 people and yet there is no single trained medical oncologist in the whole country. The duty of medical oncologist is handled by other specialties such as radiation oncologist, general surgeons, genitourinary surgeons, and hematologists among others. This makes the care of patients very difficult because these doctors are not formally trained in medical oncology,” says Nihad Salifu, a Senior Resident trainee in general pediatrics at the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons.

“In addition, there are only three paediatric oncologists in the whole country and our cancer cure rate is very low in children- it is about 20% when cure rates are approaching 80% in many developed parts of the world,” adds Salifu.

Salifu, who is one of the first candidates of the Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program says: “This huge human resource deficit in childhood cancer care is the main motivating factor for my applying to be considered for this training. I will benefit from this great opportunity being given to our country by Merck. The Merck Fellowship Program will definitely add to the few pediatric oncologists in Ghana; ease the workload and improve quality of patient care; add to the number of voices advocating for these patients and to the number of trainers of health workers delivering services including awareness creation; and also strengthen the team effort in the area of research and improving the pediatric cancer registry.”

First candidates from South Africa and Uganda for Merck Medical Oncology Fellowship Program at University of Nairobi

Dr Bonginkosi Shadrack Shoba, working with fledgling hematology service at Medunsa in South Africa. Born in rural Kwa Zulu-Natal in South Africa to illiterate parents.

Dr. Shoba shares the challenges of cancer care in South Africa and why he believes that is the solution to improve cancer care in his country and in Africa at large.

“I am extremely excited and indeed very grateful for the wonderful opportunity extended not to me personally but to Africa as a whole by Merck. Personally I watch on a daily basis black, poor, rural, young folk dying merciless, avoidable deaths from even easily treatable Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” Shoba emphasized.

Shoba further explained: “For a very long time the world believed that cancer was a disease of Europe and North America. These countries consequently boast comprehensive cancer centres, many of them. What everyone had forgotten about cancer the world over was that cancer is indeed driven by chronic inflammation therefore transformation and proliferation and the biggest cause of inflammation is infection. It is only in the past five years that the world has woken up to the fact that cancer is in fact a disease of Africa, India and Brazil, the so called third world."

“Two thirds of the total burden of cancer is shouldered by the third world. With the greatest burden HIV/AIDS positioned in Sub-Saharan Africa, it goes without saying that perhaps this is where the biggest concentration of oncologists should be. Alas, for example South Africa has no more than a mere handful of oncologists, all of them in Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban. There are no dedicated oncology centres even in those big cities. There is currently one public stem cell centre in Cape Town that caters for three patients at a time,” adds Shoba.

“Sad but true, a diagnosis of any form of cancer including early stage Hodgkins lymphoma in South Africa carries a swift, cruel death sentence, particularly so if you happen to reside in a rural area, where 80% of South Africa’s population resides. Throughout my early medical school training I have endeavored to position myself where the battle is thickest. I have delivered on this promise. I have spent all my life working as an MO and specialist in the smallest, poorest hospitals in KwaZulu,” Shoba says.

“Over the past five years I have worked at Ngwelezana Hospital where I started single-handedly a service where I treated Kaposi sarcoma and lymphoproliferative neoplasms with great success with the most limited resources. I have a publication from this experience. Currently, I am working with fledgling hematology service at Medunsa where we see poor people from Limpopo, the North-West, parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. I have never seen so much suffering with Burkitts, acute leukemias ever,” emphasizes Shoba.

“I am also very keen on investigating the epidemiology and molecular biology of common cancers in South Africa. I have previously worked on protocols, methodology and ethics towards research in the molecular pathogenesis of Burkitts and also Kaposi sarcoma. All these efforts have been frustrated by lack of funding. It is my dream to work towards creating comprehensive cancer services in South Africa and the frontline states. It is also my intention to intensify training of nurses and junior doctors towards early detection and treatment of cancer at primary and secondary levels. I believe I am capable of demystifying chemotherapy, reducing the paralyzing fear of cancer amongst patients and caregivers and making oncology accessible to many,” Shoba explains.

Dr. Teddy Namulems Diiro, Uganda Cancer Institute.

Dr. Teddy Namulems Diiro from Uganda is one of the other candidates for the Merck Africa Medical Oncology Fellowship Program to be held at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. She talks about the human resource capacity challenges Uganda faces in the provision of cancer care and how her attendance of the Fellowship Program will make a significant contribution.

“With the global incidence of cancer increasing every year, and the fact that most of these new cases are diagnosed in developing countries like Uganda, the need for qualified oncologists has never been greater across the African continent,” says Diiro.

“To manage this ever increasing burden of cancer, the Uganda government is doing a lot to improve the infrastructure at the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) and around the whole country. These includes the new radiotherapy facility under construction at the UCI and setting up regional cancer care centers to mention but a few. All these efforts to improve infrastructure would be in vain if no efforts are made to increase the number of health care personnel in the field of oncology to actually utilize these facilities and take care of the patients,” explains Diiro.

Diiro emphasizes: “The Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program has come at a time when it is most needed and is a ray of hope for most African countries, who are stranded with a huge burden of cancer patients with a limited number of qualified oncologists to handle them. I am very positive that by the end of this two year fellowship, I will be better equipped to manage cancer patients through prevention, early diagnosis and treatment. I plan to continue with my position at UCI, where my experiences from the Fellowship will prove invaluable both in research and care of cancer patients.”

Dr. Angela McLigeyo, Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenya

Dr. Angela McLigeyo, a medical doctor in Kenya has worked as a medical officer and consultant physician for the past 12 years and shares about the challenges oncology patients face in the country and how the Fellowship Program will impact cancer care.

“Five years ago, after a personal experience with cancer, I realized that oncology patients in Kenya have a tough time accessing healthcare because there are no programs to support the expensive treatment and there are practically no public health programs for improving health systems for cancer management. The outcomes therefore for patients with cancer in my country are very dismal,” McLigeyo says.

McLigeyo explains: “My decision to study oncology was made then. One of the goals in this decision has been to improve the quality of oncology care in Kenya. This is especially in the setting of the growing cancer burden in Kenya and the high mortality rates that accompany it. In addition, majority of cancer patients in Kenya have to travel out of the country to seek treatment due to high local treatment costs, shortage of specialists and weak health systems.”

“The decision to study oncology meant taking initiative for self-learning as well as collaborating with like–minded oncologists. To this end, I joined the hemato and medical oncology unit at the Kenyatta National Hospital as a volunteer from early 2014, and I have been working with the team there since then,” adds McLigeyo.

McLigeyo emphasizes: “The Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program” in partnership with University of Nairobi is timely for the African continent. It aptly suits our need for increasing the number of trained oncologists in the continent, both through developing knowledge and skills as well as increasing research and leadership skills. I look forward to the two year learning period after which I hope to train others under the same program in addition to offering quality oncology services in my country, Kenya.”

Dr. Mohammed Ezzi, Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenya

“I have wanted to become an oncologist ever since I was a teenager, after I lost my father to cheek cancer. To make matters worse, I was told that if he would have sought medical attention earlier, he would still be alive,” Ezzi explains. “At that time, cancer was a disease that was not talked about openly. I was told he had cancer, but I had no idea what it was. In my naivety I assumed it was a minor illness that would go away. That was 20 years ago,” he adds.

“The new millennium has brought with it knowledge and technology. The good side is that people are now able to know what cancer is, how it can be tackled and are seeking medical attention. Everywhere, every now and then there is an event that is creating awareness on cancer. The government is also trying to tackle this menace by making cancer a national disaster, setting up regional cancer centers, and buying equipment worth billions of shillings for its early diagnosis. However, the human resource capacity required in managing cancer is lagging behind. We need the personnel- the oncologists to complement the efforts by government and other organizations, so that we can effectively tackle this menace,” Ezzi explains.

The “Merck Africa Oncology Fellowship Program” in partnership with University of Nairobi, therefore is a beacon of hope for Africa. It is the light at the end of the tunnel at a time when we have a very limited number of oncologists,” Ezzi adds. “I applied for this fellowship, because we will be trained by professionals who have a wealth of ideas on what ails cancer in Africa and what the local solutions are. I am positive that at the end of the two year fellowship, I will be better equipped to manage cancer patients in prevention and early diagnosis, followed by treatment. Merck’s Oncology Fellowship Program will set precedence for producing quality oncologists, such that one day, someone’s father will still be alive even after being diagnosed with cancer,” Ezzi says with confidence.

Stay tuned to know about the rest of the candidates and to follow how Merck plays an important role in improving access to cancer care and bringing hope to Africa…

Watch the videos below on the experience of women cancer survivors and how their lives have been empowered through “Merck More than a Patient”.

Until we see each other again, 

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Morning Sickness Linked to Lower Risk of Pregnancy Loss

A new research by the National Institutes of health has confirmed earlier reports that nausea and vomiting is associated with lower risks of miscarriages in expecting women. Though morning sickness has for sometime been associated with a healthy pregnancy, there was no conclusive evidence to support this belief. Until now.

In a study that was published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, Dr. Stefanie N. Hinkle (a staff scientist in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's Epidemiology Branch) and her colleagues analyzed data from a trial that tested whether taking a low-dose aspirin prevented women who'd experienced one or two prior miscarriages from experiencing a future loss. In the trial, the women kept daily diaries on whether they experienced nausea or vomiting from the 2nd to the 8th week of pregnancy. They also answered monthly questionnaires on their symptoms to the 36th week of pregnancy.

In the trial, 797 women had positive pregnancy test, 188 of which ended in loss. By the 8th week of pregnancy, 57.3% of the pregnant women reported experiencing nausea and 26.6 of them reported experiencing both nausea and vomiting. The researchers found that these women who'd experienced either were 50-75% less likely to have a miscarriage compared to those who had not experience either nausea alone, or nausea and vomiting.

Just one more reason to enjoy the pains of pregnancy. Turns out some of them are actually good for you and your child. 

Until we see each other again, 

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“Merck More than a Patient” Initiative in partnership with “Women For Cancer” to empower women cancer survivors in Africa

 Merck More than a Patient” is a new initiative of “Merck Cancer Access Program” in Africa. Merck in partnership with Kenya’s “Women For Cancer” started this initiative with the aim to empower women cancer survivors in Kenya through supporting them to establish their own small business so that they can lead an independent and productive life. 

“I am very happy that “Merck More than a Patient” has this positive impact on these women’s lives. Therefore, this initiative will be launched in other African countries in 2017. Through our collaboration with cancer patients associations and cancer institutions across Africa, we aim to help uplift women cancer survivors to reclaim their lives and become active contributors to the economy – and by doing so, they can now give back to the society through their new businesses. They will become more than cancer patients,” says Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer of Merck Healthcare.

Benda Kithaka and Co-Founder and Board Chair of Women4Cancer Early Detection & Treatment emphasized: “We are grateful to Merck for the continued support towards Women 4 Cancer survivors and our recent collaboration through the “Merck More than a Patient” initiative. The cancer patients are also appreciative that Merck is assisting them to make strides in gaining financial independence beyond their cancer survivorship.” 

“Merck is helping us achieve our “Women 4 Cancer” goal of ensuring the women our programme assists are getting a new found hope of a better tomorrow beyond the suffering brought on by cancer,” Kithaka added.

Benda Kithaka (3rd left standing), Co-Founder and Board Chair of Women 4 Cancer with Patient Navigators

Merck More than a Patient” empowers Rose Chiedo, a cervical cancer survivor - read her story …

Rose Atieno Chiedo, a 46 year old mother of one who lives in Nairobi, Kenya, is a cervical cancer survivor. Rose used to make and sell samosas before her cancer diagnosis and after her recovery she started to make jewellery in a small scale to cover some of her needs. “Merck More than a Patient” has helped Rose to expand her jewellery business enabling her to generate a better and steady income to meet her needs and re-build her life.

More than a Patient: Rose Chiedo

Below is Rose’s story before and after meeting “Merck More than a Patient.”

Rose used to complain of lower backaches and suffered from spotting. She went to Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi for further investigation where she found out that she had cervical cancer Stage 2B. 

“When I was diagnosed with cancer in July 2013 the first thing that came to my mind was death,” Rose says as she narrates her painful journey. “Basically that is what anyone would think. People have a negative attitude towards cancer. The perception is that it cannot be treated,” she adds. 

“I shared the news with my brother and he was shocked. He became very worried about my health and where the money to cater for my treatment would come from as we are orphans. There was no one who could help me other than him. It was a big blow to him because he knew the whole burden would be on him of which he actually took up,” Rose explains.

Sad journey of treatment:

“From the beginning to the end of my treatment it was just sad because I didn’t have money and I was depending on someone else for support. Before my illness, I used to sell samosas (a fried flour shell filled with minced meat or vegetables and spices) at that time at Ksh 5 per piece. So for 100 samosas I would get Ksh 500 (USD 5) in a day. But I was not able to manage the business as I would get weak and they are very heavy to carry and deliver for customers. So I stopped the business,” Rose says sadly.

Rose was able to get treatment (radiotherapy and chemotherapy) in March 2014 after waiting for eight months. In August of the same year there was a recurrence and Rose had to go for further treatment. Women4Cancer a charitable organisation in Kenya supported her to cover her treatment in 2015.

Speaking of her treatment Rose says: “The queues are so long at the hospital. It seems like one is fighting a losing battle. But I realized it was not a losing battle when I finished my treatment. And that is when I started fighting to survive.”

After recovery, Rose has been making jewellery but on a very small scale to sell and support herself and other needy women. Rose had a dream to expand the business and train other women to generate income so that they become productive members in society.

Rose’s jewellery business expanded:

Merck More than a Patient” is a new initiative of Merck Cancer Access Program with the aim to empower women cancer survivors to re-build their shattered lives after the devastating cancer experience. It will help them to reclaim their lives and become active contributors to the economy,” says Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

Merck More than a Patient” has helped Rose to expand her jewellery business. Moreover, it has enrolled her in the Kenya Chamber of Commerce - Women in Business body, which will help her network with other entrepreneurial women, thus giving her a platform to generate even more business.

“What Merck has done is really going to help me to improve my business from small-scale to large-scale. I make my jewellery at home and sell it to my neighbors and friends. This business is something I can do at my convenience. I can carry the beads wherever I am going and I can sit anywhere and do my bead work,” Rose says with confidence and joy.

“I would really want to thank “Merck More than a Patient” and really appreciate them because this will help me to improve my life and will also enable me to use better quality materials because I can now be able to afford to buy them,” Rose adds.

I am not a patient anymore. I am a survivor and I am a victor! Rose concludes.

“Merck More than a Patient” empowers Esther Muthike, a cervical cancer survivor – read her story …

Esther Wakabari Muthike is a 75 year old widow from Kirinyaga in eastern Kenya and is a cancer survivor. Her husband passed away 25 years ago. Before she fell ill, Esther was a farmer who also reared cows for milk. She had to sell her cow to cater for her cancer treatment expenses. “Merck More than a Patient” has helped Esther to get a cow from which she is able to get milk to sell to cover her needs. This has enabled Esther to get a steady income to become independent and re-build her life.

More than a Patient: Esther Wakabari Muthike

Below is Esther’s story before and after meeting “Merck More than a Patient.”

Esther found out that she had cervical cancer in May 2015 at a medical camp organised by Women4Cancer. She was referred to Kenyatta National Hospital for further investigations and treatment in July 2015. She started radiotherapy and chemotherapy in September 2015 and finished treatment in November 2015.

“When I was told I had cancer, I knew I would die even if I was being treated. The doctors told us that cancer is incurable,” Esther says.

Stigmatised by family and community for having cancer:

Esther explains how she was stigmatised by her family and community: “When people heard that I had cancer, they told me to sell all my property because the disease is incurable. People in the community avoided me because they thought I would infect them with cancer. It is only one of my daughters - Susan who stood by me. She is the only one who used to wash my clothes. I had a foul smell and so people avoided me. I could not even go to visit my neighbours either. I could only visit Susan my daughter.”

“I used to be a small-scale farmer and I also had a cow that provided me and family with milk to sell some for an income. But I had to sell my cow when I fell ill with cancer. My daughter also sold her goats to help with the expenses,” Esther explains. 

Esther also stopped farming for a while due to the health issues and treatment procedures. However, after treatment, she went back to farming and hoped for help to buy a cow that would enable her to generate a steady income from the sale of milk to cater for her needs. 

Esther empowered and independent again:

Merck More than a Patient” initiative aims to empower women cancer survivors in Africa. This initiative has supported Esther to buy a cow to replace the one she sold to cover her treatment and to enable her to meet her needs and become independent again,” says Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

More than a Patient: Esther Wakabari Muthike
“Merck has really changed my life by giving me a cow.  I now feel better. I now get milk to drink and sell. I have money in my hands from the sale of the milk. Previously I was not getting any money. I have named this cow Wambui because of its beauty. Before, I used to borrow milk from my neighbours. But now I am enjoying milk from Wambui. Since I got Wambui, I pray for Merck every day that they bless others the way they have blessed me. I am a victor, I am not sick anymore,” Esther says with a smile.

“Merck More than a Patient” empowers Margaret Njenga, a cervical cancer survivor – read her story …

Margaret Wanjiku Njenga is a cervical cancer survivor from Kiambu, Kenya. Margaret who is 47 years old is married with six children. She was diagnosed with cancer in August 2013 at a medical camp run by Women4Cancer. She was an active business woman who used to make and sell soap and disinfectants to schools. She also had a cow whose milk she used to sell. She could not continue with the business after she fell ill and she also had to sell her cow. “Merck More than a Patient” has helped Margaret to get a cow which is about to give birth and she will have two. Margaret will be able to get a steady income from the sale of milk and be able to educate her children.

Margaret Wanjiku Njenga

Below is Margaret’s story before and after meeting “Merck More than a Patient.”

Margaret explains: “My mother was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2010. My sisters and I were advised to go for regular cancer screenings as we could also get it as it could be in our genes. I was screened four times and the doctors kept saying they could see something. In each of these times I was given medication. I went for a fifth check-up and the results showed an anomaly. I was advised to go to hospital and I was diagnosed with cancer.”

Diagnosed with cancer and stops doing business and farming:

At the hospital, Margaret was told she would need to have her uterus removed. “I went home and told my husband that I had cancer. Remembering how much pain my late mother had gone through and the amount of money she had spent on treatment and she still died, I told him it would be better to have my uterus removed so that I can raise my children,” she explains. “It didn’t mean that I would not die but I would have a few more years to live,” she adds.

“I would lock myself in the house after my children go school. I would think a lot and cry. I always saw myself dying. Who would take care of my children? I asked myself. My heart was very troubled,” Margaret narrates sadly.

“Before I became sick I used to make and sell home-made soap. I would go to schools to look for orders to supply them with the soap. I also started supplying the schools with toilet disinfectant. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I had to stop this job as it required walking long distances,” says Margaret.

“A friend who also had her uterus removed loaned me Ksh 10,000 (USD 100) to book for treatment at the hospital. I also had a cow whose milk I used to sell. I had to sell my cow so that I could raise money for my treatment as I did not have the  Ksh 30,000 (USD 300) required for the treatment all at once. I was also too stressed such that I could not work,” Margaret adds. 

Margaret empowered and uplifted:

When Margaret came from hospital she was unable to continue with the business she used to do before and they were struggling financially as a family. Their children were sent away from school for lack of fees as the money was not enough as she still had to buy medicine. 

Merck More than a Patient” is a new initiative of Merck Cancer Access Program with the aim to empower women cancer survivors to re-build their shattered lives after the devastating cancer experience. It will help them to reclaim their lives and become active contributors to the economy,” says Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare.

Merck through “Merck More than a Patient” has helped Margaret to buy a cow that will enable her financially through selling milk. “I am very happy because “Merck More than a Patient” has come to my aid and bought me a cow that will help me to continue raising my children. They have uplifted me and I am very happy and may God bless them,” Margaret says with joy. 

“Merck More than a Patient” empowers Loise Kimani, a cervical cancer survivor – read her story …

Loise Wambui Kimani from Dagoretti, Nairobi was diagnosed with cervical cancer in August 2015. Loise who is 45 years and is married with five children has been struggling to take care of her family ever since as she had to stop working as a house help for a living. “Merck More than a Patient” has helped Loise to establish a shop from which she is able to get a steady income to cater for her needs and that of her family.
Loise Wambui Kimani

Below is Loise’s story before and after meeting “Merck More than a Patient.”

“I used to work as a house-help and used to be paid Ksh 6,000 (USD 60) per month which helped me cater for my children’s needs. When I was diagnosed with cancer I continued working but had to stop as I could not cope with the work load,” Loise explains. 

“I heard that anyone with cancer dies. I imagined I would die. I was in shock. I told my friends I had cancer but most of them told me when you have cancer you don’t live for long that someone just dies. I thought my life had come to an end,” Loise says. 

Rejected by community and life becomes hard:

“People around me rejected me and thought I would infect them with cancer,” Loise says with sadness. 

“I eventually had my uterus removed and started radiotherapy in January 2016. When I came back home from the hospital, life became very hard. My husband became the sole breadwinner unlike before when we used to help each other. Our combined income used to help sustain the family,” she adds.

Loise empowered and is now a victor:

Merck through “Merck More than a Patient” has helped Loise establish a shop which is giving her a steady income and enabling her to take care of her family’s needs.

 “Merck has been very helpful because they have opened a shop for me and I am already enjoying the benefits. This shop is helping me to bring up my children and now I am able to help my husband,” Loise says with a smile. 

“I would like Merck to continue helping other cancer survivors because the disease is financially draining and when Merck comes in to help the burden becomes lighter. I thank them because they have done great things and God bless them very much. I am doing well, I am healed and I am a victor,” she says.

“Merck More than a Patient initiative aims to empower women cancer survivors by helping them to establish a small business in order to generate a steady income to cater for their needs and enable them to re-build their lives,” says Rasha Kelej, Chief Social Officer, Merck Healthcare. 

Until we see each other again, 

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How to Lose the Baby Weight Fast

My baby just turned one month and I’ve never felt sexier. I’m still far from my pre-pregnancy weight but my tummy is almost flat and I feel healthy. Being my second baby, I followed the tips and tricks I learned with my first and dropping the pounds has been easier this time round. In this post I’ll discuss the tips I’ve found the most effective on how to lose the baby weight fast. 

Gain a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy

If you’re a woman with a healthy pre-pregnancy weight, you should gain between 10 and 15 kilograms during pregnancy. Aim to gain a little less if you started out overweight or a little more than this if you are underweight. The less weight you gain, the higher your chance of shedding it all after delivering your baby.

To ensure that you gain a healthy amount of weight, forget the myth that claims you are eating for two. Your appetite may increase in the second and the third trimester, but your body only needs 300 to 500 extra calories a day and nothing more. Control the amount you take in by eating filling and healthy snacks in between meals. Fruits and vegetables are full of fiber and therefore very filling. Remember also to drink lots of water.

Postpartum Belly band

Use Postpartum belts to flatten the belly

The hardest part of the body to lose weight postpartum is the mid-section. Immediately after delivery, a new mom looks like she’s still 5 or 6 months pregnant. Our moms would tighten a leso around their tummies to help it shrink faster. These days, there are different designs of postpartum belly bands and pants that help to do the same while providing the back with the much needed support. If you have a CS scar, look for a belt made specifically for moms who have gone through CS. In most cases, you can wear the belt a few hours after delivery.

For best results, ensure that you wear it day and night for at least a month. I’ve used different types and they work like magic. You can read a review here or buy one here.

Breastfeed constantly while eating healthy

One of the most effective methods of doing away with the pregnancy weight is to breastfeed. Milk production consumes about 500 calories a day. The problem is, nursing moms have huge appetites and this can actually work against them. The important thing to remember is that just like while pregnant, you need not eat for two. An extra light meal and lots of water will do.

Try to avoid unhealthy meals that are full of fats and sugar and do away with soft drinks and juices. If you are disciplined enough to eat right, you’ll find that breastfeeding is a fat-burning exercise.

Do Core exercises

Just after delivery, it is not possible to work out. Not only is it not safe, you also don’t have the energy or the time. There is however an exercise that I love so much, and that can be done just hours after delivery. It is known as the stomach vacuum and is very effective. Read more about stomach vacuum here.

Basically, what you do is start out while seated, lying down or on all fours. Take a deep breath and as you breathe out, contract your stomach muscles pulling your navel as far back towards your spine as possible. Hold that position for as long as you can while breathing normally. Repeat. The thing I like the most about this exercise is that you can do it anywhere and anytime. It also helps that it is one of the most effective ways of building the core muscles and getting a flat tummy.

Once your doctor has cleared you for more intensive workouts, you can do crunches, sit-ups or just use a tummy trimmer to do other exercises. 

A tummy trimmer can help you with a number of core exercises.

Start as early as now

We mostly make the mistake of letting ourselves go until it is too late. Studies have shown that if you do not lose most of the baby weight before your baby turns 6 months, you probably won’t; at least not without a fight. All the methods we’ve outlined above work, but you have to start as soon as possible.

If you are about to embark on a pre-baby body journey, I have compiled an EBook on How toLose the Baby Weight Right Now. Leave your name and email address and I’ll email it to you for free by following the link or clicking on the book cover below.

Until we see each other again, 

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