People from different walks of life have mourned former Miss Malawi, Blandina Khondowe, who died yesterday afternoon in Lilongwe.
While confirming Khondowe’s death, Sosten Lingwalanya, one of the directors at the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and wildlife, where Khondowe has been working since 2008, was at a loss for words when contacted yesterday, after efforts to get family members failed.
“Everyone is shocked. She was our colleague and we worked well with her. We had hoped that she would pull through after the treatment. Everyone in the ministry is just shocked,” said Lingwalanya in a telephone interview.
He said Khondowe was pronounced dead at Spring Valley Private Hospital in Lilongwe after she had collapsed at home.
Khondowe, who won the national beauty crown in 2002, was an iconic advocate for better treatment and care for cancer patients in the country.
In a condolence message shared on social media, UTM president Saulos Chilima and his wife Mary, have shown devastation at the loss of Khondowe whom they have described as “a consummate patriot, a fearless and courageous fighter”.
Khondowe, born on October 12 1980, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, which she later overcame after chemotherapy and other treatments, only to be diagnosed with it again in 2017.
Following her diagnosis and later survival, she became a passionate breast cancer advocate through two initiatives she founded —Think Pink Malawi (in 2013)—to campaign for breast cancer awareness, and later, Hope for Cancer Foundation (in 2015).
Through the initiatives she has directly impacted over 10 000 people with cancer awareness and screenings. She was also a cancer educative columnist in Times Group’s Malawi News. She was also part of a team that coordinated the publishing of “Breast Cancer Screening in Low-and Middle-Income Countries: A Perspective of Malawi, which was published in the journal of Global Oncology.
Khondowe greatly empathised with the less privileged and marginalised in the country who continue to struggle to access the right information, diagnostics and treatment of breast cancer.
The cancer activist was also the 2019 recipient of the Barbara Brenner Breast Cancer Activist Scholarship to attend the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) in Texas.
The SABCS is the largest scientific annual meeting in the world devoted exclusively to breast cancer research, treatment, and survivorship.
Until her death, Khondowe was principal tourism officer in the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture. She is survived by a husband and two children.