Media personality Kanze Dena has opened up about past struggles and tragedies in life that almost drove her to committing suicide, not once, but twice.
In an emotional interview on the popular Stori Yangu series, which airs every week on GOtv and DStv, the charming Citizen TV Swahili news anchor laid bare some of the most heart wrenching moments in her life and her personal triumph over tragedy.
A tearful Kanze narrates how the death of her first born child and the loss of her mother and one of her closest friends in quick successions plunged her into depression.
Born in Nairobi 38 years ago but raised in Mombasa, Kanze recalls her early childhood, school life and the strained relationship that for so long she had with her mother during her teens.
“I was a very naughty girl. I also used to fight a lot with boys in school. I was always fighting with my mother. We could never see eye to eye,” she recounts.
That is what informed her mother’s decision to send her to boarding in faraway Embu at an early age when she was just in standard five.
She says she held a grudge with her mum for that decision, a situation that persisted even after she completed secondary school and joined college.
In school she also suffered low self-esteem for being a slightly bow-legged girl.
But not everything was that bad. She was a greatly talented student.
“I am a very talented actor, so during drama festivals, I would act and recite poems exemplary well. I had something that everyone applauded me for. That was my escape.”
After completing high school in 1997, she got her first job at her grandfather’s restaurant in Nairobi, first as a potato peeler, than a dish washer and later as a waitress.
A year later, she met a man who charmed his way into her heart although at first she had her doubts because she thought she was not beautiful enough to be loved by a man.
“But I was happy because I finally felt loved. Unfortunately, I soon got pregnant and my boyfriend took off.”
Left by herself, Kanze wondered what she would and how she would tell her mother that she was pregnant.
That was also the time she wanted to join collage and become a nurse although her mother had seen her artistic talent and advised her to enroll for a journalism course.
“I chose to do her bidding so as to hide my pregnancy.”
Meanwhile, she had already made up her mind to give up the baby for adoption immediately after giving birth.
DAUGHTER’S BIRTH AND DEATH
“There was a miscommunication at the delivery room. The midwife forgot to tell her colleague that the child was for adoption. If the child is for adoption the mother is not supposed to see her baby. But the midwife gave me my baby and when I held it, motherly instincts kicked in,” she recounts.
Still, she didn’t have any clothes for the baby because she hadn’t planned to keep it.
Meanwhile, on the day she gave birth to baby Natasha, one of her friends informed her aunt about it.
The following morning she was shocked when her mum and aunt showed up in the maternity ward.
She says she realized that her mother was greatly disappointed with herself, not because she had gotten pregnant, but that her daughter had not informed her about it.
Still, her mother welcomed the new born bay with open arms and took her back to Mombasa as Kanze resumed her studies in college in Nairobi.
Then tragedy struck.
When she was just preparing to return home and reunite with her 3-month daughter, Kanze’s baby, who had shown no signs of illness, suddenly died one night in her mother’s arms.
It was a very painful moment for Kanze.
“I began questioning Gods; why He had prevented me from giving up the baby for adoption only to take her away from me.”
Baby Natasha’s death further dented her relationship with her mother.
FIRST JOB IN THE MEDIA
But she eventually picked herself up, completed her journalism course, and landed an attachment at Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC).
Things were tough for her at the time, but through persistence and determination she got her lucky break and landed her first job in the media with KBC.
“The first time I went on air with Badi Muhsin I got a panic attack and completely lost my voice. Thankfully, Badi completed the intro and during the commercial break, he gave me a quick pep talk that helped me regain my composure,” she recalls with a light laughter.
But in 2005 storm clouds started gathering again when she realized that she was pregnant just after she had just started anchoring news alone.
A few months later she spotted blood and went to the hospital where she was informed that she had lost the baby.
She somehow felt relived but she kept felling uneasy. The father of the child was abroad and when he came back, she told him about her miscarriage.
Unknown to her she was still pregnant. It meant that she was in and out of the hospital with tummy aches until she decided to go to a different hospital where an ultra sound revealed that she was seven months pregnant.
“My relationship with the baby’s father also started deteriorating. We were constantly fighting and disagreeing about almost everything. It was a very turbulent period for me.”
Around the same time, her mother was diagnosed with colon cancer and she thought it wise not to disclose her pregnancy. She would however safely give birth to baby Nathaniel Amani.
MOTHER AND BEST FRIEND’S DEATHS
Shortly after she left KBC to join Citizen TV. Then tragedy struck again. Her ailing mother mother passed on.
“I asked God so many questions. Why had He taken her away just when we had a perfect relationship? My salvation also got very shaky and things got really bad for me.
“I hit depression for like a year and something. Thoughts of committing suicide returned to my mind as had been the case when I lost my daughter.
“At work everyone was celebrating me without knowing that deep down in my heart I was hurting badly. My self-esteem was very low and I hated myself.”
Fortunately, that is when a special person came into her life in the form a lady friend by the name Nasril.
But just when she was beginning to heal, another tragedy struck. Nasril was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I felt like I was reliving the experience with my mother all over again but I made a commitment to stand with Nasril through everything.”
Sadly, inspite of all her best efforts to help her friend get treatment – including a trip to India – Nasril passed on a few months later.
“My world collapsed honestly,” Kanze says amid heavy sobs.
“I began keeping to myself, scared of making friendships again because, I don’t know, maybe I’m jinxed, maybe there is something wrong with me.
“I would just go to work because I have to work. I would read the news bulletin but if you asked me what I had just read I would be clueless.”
But Kanze would eventually get over her sorrows.
“I went back to God and He gave me the strength to overcome everything that I had been through.”
Kanze is now a reborn woman committed to using her bad experiences in life to uplift and encourage others passing through similar situations.
“I look back and I feel I’ve walked the victory walk. I now understand myself better and I love myself immensely. I tell myself that if I don’t love myself, then who will?”
She however confesses that she still has her days of crying and lamentations.
“They are memories that I can’t erase, but nowadays I don’t cry more of loss but more of just remembering the beautiful moments I had with those people, and wishing they were here to share what I have right now, especially my mum who really wanted me to do this job. I’m doing it so well that I wish she was here to just see it,” she reflects.
Her pain and sorrow aside, Kanze has had a remarkably successful career as a journalist, the highlight of which, she says, is interviewing President Uhuru Kenyatta – alongside Lulu Hassan – at State House in the run up the 2017 general election.
She also highly ranks her partnership in co-anchoring the Swahili news bulletin at Citizen TV with Lulu.
“We broke a record. We will go down in history for being the first girl pair of news anchors in Kenya.” she says with a playful chuckle.
Ironically, for all her success on the screen, Kanze’s desire is not to retire as a news anchor but rather go into farming at some point.
Her parting shot?
“Stand where you are and understand that you’ve been placed there for a purpose. Do the work that God has given you diligently. Whether its entertaining people or caring for others, give it your best.”