“The challenges I faced whilst studying were enough to make me throw in the towel and give up. However the choice I made and the stark reminder of my passion to serve others kept me steady on my path,” affectionately affirms the charismatic pharmacist, Cawekazi Tsitywa, a pharmacist at a tertiary health care institution, who has recently acquired certification into the discipline of oncology pharmacy.

A pharmacist is best described as one who provides pharmaceutical care to the sick and ailing alongside other medical professionals. This is achieved through collaboration as part of a multi-disciplinary team with an elaborate mandate to regulate the use of medicine and treatment.

The calling versus the duty

“This journey that I took led me to my destination, I was called to this kind of work,” Cawekazi clarifies.

“I could have deregistered way earlier on before my professional career blew full steam. I had many opportunities to do so while at school, but I did not – the thought never even crossed my mind,” she adds.

During the course of one’s studies and before you start clinical rotation you will need to work in a lab with test tubes, chemicals and practice on mannequins. When you finally complete that process, you will then take to the field and work in hospitals and clinics to do the actual work. Working in close proximity with people who are ill and look to you for healing and counsel, reaffirms that these are not mannequins, but human beings. To do this kind of work, you have to be called into it. Putting the needs of others ahead of your own and going over and above the call of duty requires ubizo – a calling.

“Kananjalo ke, yonke imihla, ndibhenela kubizo lwam (And, as such, I turn to my calling, every day).”

Umzingisi akanashwa… Perseverance knows no shame.

“Growing up in the Eastern Cape, from a middle-class family with absolutely no privilege – I knew what I had to do to change the situation at home. I had to work hard and that meant doing well in my studies and securing a job as quickly as possible.

“I struggled tremendously as a student. I recall how I applied for a bursary for three consecutive years and I did not get it despite the fact that I met all the requirements – I was an academic achiever and I displayed the need for financial assistance!

“I applied yet again in my final year because I knew the benefits of having a bursary versus a student loan and I kept my determination towards academic excellence. Finally, I got it!”

“I knew very early in my academic career that my success was my responsibility – I owed it to myself to rise above any challenge, stride forward and do well. I had a mission of changing the situation back home and mine as well and that weight of responsibility rested on my shoulders, I held myself personally accountable to my dreams,” she explains engagingly.

We all need mentors

We are not all born with confidence to confront the Goliaths of lives – our dreams, fears, hopes, insecurities, no! Some people struggle with this their entire lives, some people outgrow it and for Cawekazi, she needed to learn this and receive guidance.

“I do not have an older sister whom I could confide in and so when I met my mentor in university I felt blessed beyond measure,” Cawekazi said.

“She came along at a time when I needed to make important decisions and being an introvert who struggled with confidence. I found it very hard to open up to her but she guided me with so much love and compassion, I found myself opening up,” confides Cawekazi.

We all need mentors in our journey through life to help us understand ourselves, the world we live in and how we ought to show up to it – every day.

Introduction to oncology

During Cawekazi’s internship, she was fortunate enough to receive training in the field of oncology, not knowing that it would change the trajectory of her life. Oncology is the study of the treatment of cancer. Upon completing her internship, she secured employment in the outskirts of Mpumalanga; a period she describes as being difficult. She encountered many hardships in terms of adjusting to the environment, which negatively affected her work performance. In no time, she was back home as she was not coping emotionally and in other ways. Little did she know that the setback meant great opportunities were afoot.

When she eventually secured employment at her current post as a pharmacist, she was approached by her supervisor with the opportunity to further her studies in an oncology pharmacy as they were establishing an oncology unit at the hospital. Delighted and overjoyed she accepted the offer and she soon found herself in Nairobi, Kenya, where she would spend four weeks learning the ropes. At the end of the four weeks, she sat for exams and came back home with a certificate in oncology pharmacy.

“I spend 90% of my time doing oncology-related work, working very closely with adult cancer patients. As a small team of 20, we are dedicated to providing quality health care for our patients.”

Personal motto

“I have a lot of mottos that I live by,” she chuckles. “Yet the one that resonates with me the most is, ‘Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you have not planted’ – David Bly.”


Tell us: How have you persevered through difficult periods in your life?