Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cancer, Color Blindness and Race Relations

Sunday October 12, 2008(from The Star)
Spreading the message

Creating cancer awareness is a continuing mission.

OCTOBER, by tradition, is the month when cancer advocacy groups throughout the world go pink to build awareness of breast cancer issues.

The first Breast Cancer Awareness Month programme took place in October 1985 in the US as a week-long event to fill the information void in public communication about breast cancer.

In the past two decades, many countries around the world, including Malaysia, have embraced the programme.

Although the primary focus is on breast cancer, this programme has also successfully created awareness on other cancers.

As a cancer survivor myself, I look forward to this month because it provides great opportunities for several national public service organisations, professional medical associations, and government agencies to work in partnership to build breast cancer awareness, share information and provide access to screening services.

Cancer patients also take this opportunity to share their experiences at this time of the year.

I was reflecting on how different this month will be from previous years and it struck me that if all our politicians were to take a breather from the world of politics, they will learn many useful lessons from the world of cancer.

Those who lament about how tense ethnic and religious issues have become in recent months have probably not stepped into the oncology wards.

I have been to many, both in public and private hospitals, and I can assure you that no one patient, doctor, nurse, caregiver thinks or acts in ethnic or religious terms.

We patients are united as one. We do not need a Race Relations Act to remind us how to act and speak to one another.

My own journeys, first in 1999 and then last year, have reaffirmed my conviction about this wonderful mosaic of Malaysia that is truly caring and truly muhibbah.

Anyone needing blood will realise that while we may have different blood groups, the colour of blood is red and it can flow into the veins of anyone irregardless of race or religion.

When I was undergoing chemotherapy last year, my fellow patients used to laugh about the fact that we were taking in similar drugs and growing bald around the same time.

There was one day when I was totally bald and the three women in the same room took off their wigs to be in solidarity with me. One was Chinese, one Malay and one Indian.

I am much encouraged that through events in Pink October, there is so much more awareness on the need to recognise the symptoms early and go for treatment fast.

The various groups and individuals who come out in full force this month are truly the unsung Malaysian heroes.

For all that they do, and continue to do, may God bless them in all their endeavours.

To all the politicians who seek to grab headlines for all the wrong reasons, I would encourage you to drop by one of the many cancer-related events to be held this month and see for yourselves what is being done and reflect on what you can do in the political sphere to complement the work in this area.

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