As Vice-President and Project Director of the National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM), Clare Ratnasingham has had many encounters involving cancer patients that really pull on the heartstrings.
One that had stuck with her was of a mother who was battling breast cancer. She was very poor but had to make the tough decision to forgo treatment so that she could work to support her family by earning a meagre amount selling Nasi Lemak.
"More support groups and more help. That’s what the families need,” says Clare.
More support groups and more help. That’s what the families need
The Nasi Lemak seller is just one of over 100,000 thousand Malaysians living with cancer, according to NCSM, with breast cancer being most prevalent among women and colorectal cancer highest among men. Meanwhile, leukemia is the most prevalent cancer amongst children aged 19 and below.
With three key pillars in mind, Claire and her NCSM team aim not only to educate the public on cancer awareness, it also provides support to cancer patients and is striving towards increasing access to care for those battling this rising global epidemic.
“Treatment for all - that’s what the World Cancer Congress is,” says Clare. NCSM hosted the very first World Cancer Congress in South East Asia recently. Held at Kuala Lumpur, it saw the participation of thousands of experts, academicians, NGOs and even, Princess Dina Mired of Jordan, to exchange ideas and best practices in global cancer control.
Clare, speaking at the Pink Brunch fundraising event held in conjunction with the WCC, hopes to get more support from the private sector in helping NCSM to fund programmes for cancer patients.
At the event, breast cancer survivors strutted the catwalk, wearing apparels by local designers. Proceeds from the event go toward a fund to subsidise food and travel expenses for cancer patients unable to afford treatment.
She further explains that some of the programs carried out by NCSM, for instance makeup classes, are aimed at helping patients to cope emotionally.
“It’s (about) going there and saying ‘Oh, I finished the treatment; I’ve (had cancer) for three years.’ When the new girls walk in, they see that ‘She can be here after three years, I can live through this (too). It’s mind over matter and the mind is a powerful organ,” Clare explains.
With cancer hitting more and more young people, NCSM has set up the Young Cancer Survivors Group in 2016.
Young cancer survivors face different sets of issues and challenges, such as the feeling of isolation from classmates and friends or difficulty in securing jobs after they are diagnosed.
Clare felt that a support system is needed for young cancer survivors who can relate to each other’s experiences as they are in the similar phase of life.
Another area that NCSM is looking into raising awareness is among rural folks, especially women given the rise of cervical and breast cancer. One of the way is through advocating awareness on mammogram screening and Pap Smear tests.
“We have to let the public know, they must do their Pap Smear (tests),” says Clare adding that early detection is crucial to battle cancer.
“Do the treatment. Get yourself checked. If you are diagnosed and you are not happy (with the results), go for a second check-up. It is your right.”
NCSM provides cancer support to patients and caregivers. For more info, contact NCSM helpline at 1-800-88-1000.