We have detected you are using an outdated browser.

Kindly upgrade your version of Internet Explorer or use another browser like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.

Never lose hope: Strathmore Leos player and cancer survivor


Harold Bolton Tende Mwakuro plays as a fly-half for the Strathmore Leos. This is just a stepping stone in his journey in life as he looks forward to achieving greatness in this field. His energetic smile rubs off on you no matter how dull you might be, just what we might be needing during this pandemic. The 23-year-old talks to us about his passion for rugby and how he overcame a battle against cancer.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I play for the Strathmore Leos as a fly-half. I have played for the team for two seasons now. I help teach and train a rugby team in my hometown called ‘Sailors’ which I joined in 2016, a team that I hold close to my heart. I am currently hoping to secure a scholarship to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies.

Your background?

I was born and raised in Mombasa in a family of 11 kids, and am the 5th born. My inspiration to play sports came from my parents; my dad was a footballer and my mum mastered the fundamentals of Taekwondo up to the black belt level. I actually started playing Basketball as a point guard and eventually took up my love for Rugby in Form 3 at Ribe Boys.

Tell us more about your battle against cancer.

I started getting frequent headaches in my last year of high school which I thought were initially rugby-related; however, I managed to sit my KCSE exams. The next six months saw the pain escalate with regular nose bleeds, loss of hearing and slightly impaired eyesight.

In April 2015, I was taken to hospital and a few tests run where they found a tumor around my neck. I was diagnosed with head and neck Cancer. This eventually led to losing my ability to taste, talk and eat. I had to use a nasogastric tube connected from my nose to the stomach for feeding.

How was treatment for you?

I continued with treatment for most of 2016 shuttling between Nairobi and Mombasa to help out in training for the Sailors Rugby team. I wasn’t yet fit to play but still admired the game; I religiously attended all Strathmore Leos matches during this period. The support system during the ailment helped a lot. My family, friends and players from the Kenya Rugby fraternity motivated me. I was in pain but I knew I still had so many goals to achieve in life.

How did you get to join the Leos?

My dream was to always play for the Leos. My friend Julius Shaban played for the Leos and invited me to see them play when they came to Mombasa. I was instantly intrigued by their style of play and knew that’s where I wanted to play. Due to the illness, I couldn’t play but I religiously attended all of Leos’ games. In 2017 I was cleared fit to play and joined the Leos under coach John Mbai at the time, and played my first game against Kabras.

How are you faring in Rugby?

I was in my second season until it was recently cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic for the Leos. I won my first trophy with the Sailors as captain, at a tournament played in my home town Miritini. I was able to Captain the 2nd team during the nationwide league.  For the first team, we were able to maintain an unbeaten streak of 16 wins this season. It hasn’t been an easy journey. I have a dry mouth condition which is a condition in which the salivary glands in your mouth do not make enough saliva to keep your mouth wet, meaning I have to work extra hard to make sure that I stay in shape.

Who do you look up to?

My greatest inspiration comes from my father. He has sacrificed a lot for us raising a family of 11 kids. His passion and dedication to us are what keep me going. My teammates also form a big part in my inspiration. We win and lose games together and they’re always there for me; I consider them my brothers and appreciate them very much.

What would you tell anyone facing similar challenges in their life?

My advice would be, never lose hope, always fix your mind on what you want to achieve and put your trust in God. Once you achieve something keep on pushing; the sky is the limit!

What have you been up to after the season was cancelled?

I am enjoying spending time with my family. We are sent regular workouts weekly by our strength and fitness coach, helping me to still keep in shape during this pandemic.


This article was written by Tuzo Jonathan. 


Would you like to share your experience of living through the circumstances brought by the Covid-19 pandemic? Kindly email: communications@strathmore.edu