Cancer focus

Fred Wesley. Picture: ELIKI NUKUTABU

Fred Wesley. Picture: ELIKI NUKUTABU

THE fact that there are 1100 new cases of cancer every year, and that an average of 700 people die annually from it is frightening.

The figures are according to the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.

In fact the mere thought of cancer, as it is, is quite daunting really for many people.

The figure was highlighted by Fiji Cancer Society board member Makrava Wilson while speaking during the Bank South Pacific (BSP) organised Bushells Fiji’s Biggest Morning Tea to kick-start its annual series of cancer awareness fundraisers in Suva recently.

Mr Wilson said of these deaths, more than 50 per cent were found to be because of breast and cervical cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.

A specialist in the post-surgical care of female cancer patients, Marica Naigulevu, called for support in the area of palliative care.

This is our last line of care for patients with incurable diseases, she said, where we try to relieve their suffering and support them through the final stages of their life.

The key, she points out, is making the effort to put more life into their days and not just more days into their life. That shifts the focus firmly onto caring for patients.

To that end, the challenge is to enhance knowledge in our communities about caring for loved ones suffering from cancer during the final stages of their lives.

Families with cancer patients face tough times.

They face uncertainty and go through episodes of fear of the unknown, concern, stress and sadness.

But there are days in their lives when hope reverberates through the walls of despair.

A single parent Sarita Kumari, for instance, has a story to share.

Losing her son and husband has not deterred her from keeping her hopes up for her daughter who has cancer. Ms Kumari’s daughter Avnishta Sen was diagnosed in 2016 with acute promyeloid leukemia (APML) and undergoes chemotherapy sessions once a month at Lautoka Hospital.

Her daughter was the only child treated for this subclass of leukemia at Lautoka Hospital, she said.

Ms Kumari has faced a lot of challenges taking care of her child’s health and welfare.

Looking after Avnishta at the hospital and at the same time being worried about her other two daughters at home isn’t something any parent yearns to go through.

It is tough. But that is the sad reality of living with cancer for some families. They must stay strong and positive for their loved one.

This is where organisations such as Walk On Walk Strong (WOWS) Kids Fiji have come in, providing a powerful base for many of them, and a beacon of hope.

Cancer does not differentiate colour, ethnicity or religion. It cuts right through all barriers.

The challenge is how we embrace the need to stay positive and make a difference for our loved ones. Parents such as Ms Kumari need our support and understanding.

Awareness is critically important. That we must embrace.

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