St Peter’s Church hosts cancer awareness talk

The Church of St Peter buzzed with activity on a recent Sunday afternoon, with an enlightening talk on Cancer Awareness and Patient Realities.

May 03, 2024

Madam Viji and Puan Fadzilah with Fr Lionel Thomas.

By Damian Prakash
The Church of St Peter buzzed with activity on a recent Sunday afternoon, with an enlightening talk on Cancer Awareness and Patient Realities.

This initiative was spearheaded by parish priest Fr Lionel Thomas who, after witnessing many of his parishioners battling this disease, felt compelled to address the issue head-on. While he had been organising special prayer vigils to offer solace to those affected, Fr Lionel believed that raising awareness was equally vital to support families facing this challenge.

It was fortunate when the National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM) reached out to the cleric, offering to collaborate on this crucial initiative. Leading the session on April 21 was Madam Vijayalakshimy Silvathorai, affectionately known as Madam Viji, the community ambassador for NCSM. Madam Viji engaged the audience by first highlighting the impact of dietary choices on our health, reflecting on how modern lifestyles sometimes blur the lines between nutritious and indulgent foods. “In today’s parenting landscape, what used to be considered ‘junk’ is now often perceived as ‘healthy’,” she observed.

She remarked that our bodies often send us signals, yet many people either ignore them or attempt self-diagnosis, downplaying their significance. Reflecting on her experience with cancer patients, she noted that many exhibit symptoms such as persistent coughs or unusual bodily discharges, which are frequently dismissed. Despite this, she reassured the audience that not all symptoms and test lead to cancer and urged us to get the necessary tests done to rule out any danger.

It is disheartening, she emphasised, to witness individuals seeking medical attention only in the advanced stages of cancer when signs were present much earlier. Stressing the importance of early detection, she highlighted the significant benefits it offers, including saving time, money, and unnecessary stress for both patients and caregivers. Self-care emerged as a central theme, with a strong emphasis on the vital role parents play in instilling self-care practices in their children. The revelation that there exist more than twenty types of breast cancer startled many attendees.

Madam Viji illuminated various dimensions of the patient experience, offering invaluable insights into how to communicate with and support them. Through compelling case studies and firsthand anecdotes, she delved into the realities of interacting with patients and survivors. Recognising the sincere but occasionally insensitive questions posed to patients, Madam Viji championed a more compassionate approach to providing support. She highlighted how inquiries about a patient’s cancer stage or chemotherapy experience, while well-meaning, can inadvertently dampen spirits. Instead, she suggested more uplifting and practical ways to help.

Rather than focusing solely on medical updates, Madam Viji proposed asking patients how one could best support them in their daily lives. Whether it’s helping with tasks like childcare, grocery shopping, or transportation to medical appointments, she underscored the importance of tailoring support to meet the specific needs and preferences of each individual. By shifting the conversation from medical details to tangible acts of kindness, she emphasised the power of fostering a sense of community and solidarity in the face of adversity.

Drawing from her own journey as a cancer survivor, Madam Viji recounted the challenges she faced, and the pivotal role played by her family and close friends in her recovery. Her resilience stood as a testament to the profound impact of unwavering support and motivation in navigating the turbulent waters of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Introducing the audience to the Patient Navigation programme, a flagship initiative of NCSM, Madam Viji outlined opportunities for individuals to undergo comprehensive training and become certified patient navigators. Puan Fadzilah, a fellow senior navigator, recounted her gratifying experiences of aiding cancer patients through the program, emphasising the profound impact of their support.

Amidst heartfelt discussions and shared experiences, the event concluded on a hopeful note, echoing the sentiment that life after cancer can indeed be beautiful. As attendees mingled over refreshments, many sought guidance from Madam Viji and Puan Fadzilah, eager to explore avenues for support or contribute to the cause as navigators. Fr Lionel expressed his commitment to hosting more such sessions, recognising the importance of ongoing awareness and support within the parish community.

To enquire about hosting similar talks in your parish or organisation, please contact NCSM through Hiba at [email protected] or Madam Viji at [email protected].

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