Keeping cancer survivors in mind

  • Metro News
  • Thursday, 30 May 2019

Dr Loh (right) and Wong at the KeepAble Cancer Community Centre garden in Petaling Jaya.

WHEN Joyce Wong was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 60, she was gripped with fear.

But with help and support from family and friends, Wong found the strength to beat the disease.

Now the 74-year-old cancer survivor is supporting others.

“I was scared when I was first diagnosed with biliary tract cancer.

“Breaking the news to my family was the hardest thing and I was crying while on the phone with my children.

“It was a painful experience because I had to undergo several operations to remove the cancer,” she said.

A former nurse, Wong ventured into insurance and started her own agency at 52.

However, she had to stop working after being diagnosed with the illness.

“Luckily, I got support from my families, church members and friends – a supportive community is important to help us go through the journey

“It is also very important to lead a healthy lifestyle and I would like to encourage cancer patients to support each other. They must have faith to make it through the tough times,” said the volunteer at KeepAble Cancer Community Centre (KACC).

The centre’s founder Assoc Prof Dr Loh Siew Yim said there are several myths, taboos and stigmas surrounding cancer.

“This goes across all ethnicities, gender and educational backgrounds. Some say it is caused by bad karma while others believe in various cancer-causing or cancer-curing food.

“Most cancers are related to environmental, lifestyle, or behavioural exposure while only about 10% are hereditary or due to inherited genetic mutations.”

Dr Loh added that cancer survivors have a constant fear the illness will recur, as such a supportive community can facilitate a mindset that they are able and functional.

“We aim to build a supportive, therapeutic community where survivors and their carers join in to help one another on modifiable factors such as engaging in community physical activity, reducing sedentary behaviour, eating well by having a more plant-based diet, weight and obesity management as well as maintaining good mental health,” she said.

Dr Loh, who is a fellow of the National Institute of Health, United States, and lecturer in the Rehabilitation Department, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya (UM), hopes to see the public and cancer survivors joining in the 2019 KeepAble Cancer Walk to create a large “Purple Wave” on June 22.

“The charity walk aims to raise awareness of cancer, destigmatise the disease and encourage cancer survivors and the public to lead a healthy lifestyle,” added.

Jointly organised by the Medical Society of UM and KACC and supported by UMCares, participants will be flagged off from KACC for the 3km route around the UM campus by Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah.

They will return to KACC where various activities have been arranged including a mental health talk, chair-bound exercises, cancer survivor sharing sessions, colorectal cancer screening, breast examination mobile clinic as well as educational booths.

2019 Keepable Cancer Walk organising committee president Lim Pei Thong, 21, and vice-president Then Chui Jin, 21, who are both UM students, said becoming involved in KACC activities had benefited them.

“We learn about patience, perseverance and determination while helping to organise the event in between our hectic timetables while contributing to the community,” Lim said.

“It feels great, learning while supporting cancer patients so that they do not feel alone.

“Some of the activities involve going to the University Malaya Medical Centre to talk to the patients. Seeing them smile gives me great satisfaction,” said Then.

The walk will start from KACC, No. 13, Jalan 16/4, Petaling Jaya and the closing date for registration is June 9. For details, call 016-598 0593 (Beh) or 017-722 1888 (Woon) or visit

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