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Setshedis endometriosis life story

08 May 2023

From yore, societal expectations are that wives should bear children for their husbands.

The pressure starts to mount as soon as marriage takes place, hence a adages such as go tlhatswa lesire.

Such expectations weigh heavily on women, leading the society to viewing those who cannot conceive awkwardly to an extent of calling them names.

Despite facing such a challenge at a tender age, Karabo Setshedi still wears her smile. “I have seen a lot during my youth. It has been quite a journey health and social wise,” she said in a recent interview.

Setshedi indicated that she was diagnosed with endometriosis in 2014 just after she got married. Wedded at age 24, the expectation would be for her to start child bearing, usually indicated by common question such as, ‘when are you getting a baby?’ a probe that has become most women’s undoing.

“It was a very wrong time to be diagnosed with the disease. Imagine you are told of such bad news, and then the society piles pressure on to you on the other hand.

It started with signs such as pains, which got severe during my periods.

I also used to vomit a lot, especially after getting injections.

I then went for a scan and they noted a growth which they initially mistook for pregnancy, but further scans revealed a 14cm cyst.

I was then referred to Princess Marina Hospital for an operation,” she said.

Little did she know that her constant visits to the hospital were just the beginning!

“After the cyst was removed, it didn’t take long for the growth to re-emerge, and worse still, there was another one on top of the old one.

I was then told that I have endometriosis,” she said.

She said at that point, she had no idea what the word meant, and so went about her daily life.

When the pain persisted, she went to a private doctor for a second operation, whereupon she informed the doctor that she was diagnosed with a certain ailment called endometriosis.

“From my body language, the doctor might have picked that I had no idea about the disorder or its implications, and that is when he explained to me in details.

That is when the magnitude of the problem sank. Here I was, newly married with expectations from my husband and all other people that I should start having children,” she said, for once in a long while her head dropping.

She said that they did a scan once again, which revealed that she was in stage four of endometriosis, which was the last and severe stage, and that the disease had affected part of her womb.

From there, she went through one treatment after the other in an effort to boost her chances of conception.

“The doctors were not so hopeful of my chances of conceiving, but encouraged me to go through with the treatment.

My husband was less understanding of the condition and wanted us to keep it a secret from all those close to us,” she said.

She said that as time went by, she depleted her medical aid limit and was forced to fork from her pocked.

The medication was expensive, a single injection was P2 000, but she said her thirst for a child meant that quitting treatment was no option.

Such as the saying that where there is a will there is a way, her prayers were answered in 2016 when she finally managed to conceive against all odds, and she delivered a child the following year.

“Unfortunately by the time I discovered about the pregnancy, my husband was already gone.

Although he cited the issue of my condition as the reason, I feel that was just an excuse to leave.”

Setshedi said having a child was one of the most joyful occasions considering what she faced.

On the belief that women with endometriosis cannot conceive, Setshedi said that it differs from woman to woman. Some women can conceive while in stage four while others can fail to conceive while at the mild stage one.

She said the challenge with trying for a child while having the condition was that one has to go through many operations, indicating that she went through a total of four before she conceived, something she said made considerations for another child remote.

“Even after conception, there are risks such as miscarriage,” she said.

On the societal view on endometriosis, Setshedi said a lot of public education was needed, especially for men.

“Most of the time when a woman has this challenge, their partners leave, but it is just a matter of discussing other options such as adoption.

Even if you agree to part, it should be something you discuss rather than them running away and labelling you with unprintables,” she said.

Setshedi, a member of Botswana Endometriosis Foundation, said the foundation’s large membership was an indication that the problem was prevalent in the society.

“Some of our group members quit because they are not comfortable discussing the matter even in the group, a group solely for people with the challenge similar to theirs. Society really needs education because it does not understand, which breeds stigma and divorces for those married,” she said.

She said the understanding of endometriosis would enable many women to come out in the open and get the assistance they needed. Setshedi also revealed that endometriosis could also affect men, although extremely rare.

“It can attack other parts of the body such as the bladder, so this means that even men can have it. It is mostly associated with women because it is more apparent when a woman cannot conceive,” she said.

Setshedi also appreciated the Botswana Endometriosis Foundation, and said it helped a lot psychologically.

“We have formed a WhatsApp group and there is nobody that understands more than that group. The first instant a member needs help they are already there for you, no matter what time of the day,” she said of the now nationwide foundation. Ends

Source : BOPA

Author : Olekantse Sennamose

Location : Gaborone

Event : Interview

Date : 08 May 2023