Shining a light on childhood cancer

Teh (centre) joining Maznah (third from right), Foccan members and young cancer patients in front of Komtar, which is lit in gold every night throughout September to raise awareness of childhood cancer.

PENANG’s iconic Komtar tower is sporting a golden glow until the end of this month to mark Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

It joins many other landmarks worldwide in the global initiative to raise awareness of the disease’s prevalence among young people and to rally communities around families affected by it.

As gold is a precious yet strong metal, the colour was chosen to symbolise how precious such children are and their strength in facing adversities.

Penang youth and health committee chairman Daniel Gooi Zi Sen said battling cancer was extremely stressful for the young patients and their families.

“Besides its physical impact, the disease also exerts a mental, emotional and financial toll,” he said after launching the display themed “Komtar Shimmering in Gold”.

Also present for the launch at Komtar Walk in George Town were Penang tourism and creative economy committee chairman Wong Hon Wai, Komtar assemblyman Teh Lai Heng, members of non-governmental organisation Friends of Childhood Cancer (Foccan) as well as several childhood cancer sufferers and their families.

Foccan northern Malaysia president Maznah Tayib said the number of new childhood cancer cases recorded at Penang Hospital hovered around 130 in both 2021 and 2022.

This year, the figure was 75 at the end of August. The hospital serves as a referral centre for cases in the northern states.

Leukaemia is the most prevalent type of childhood cancer, followed by brain tumour, lymphoma and kidney tumour.

“We’re seeing babies as young as 50 days being diagnosed. This is very worrying.

“However, if a patient receives treatment early, survival rates can be as high as 80%,” said Maznah, who urged families not to resort to alternative medicine or other unproven methods.

Husband and wife Mazuwan Mahat, 46, and Edarozana Md Darus, 44, will attest to the importance of seeking early treatment, having seen their four-year-old daughter beat the odds.

Nur Qaleesya Batrisya, their fourth child, was diagnosed with Down Syndrome and a heart defect not long after birth.

When she was almost two, she was also found to have acute myelogenous leukaemia.

“I felt so down. After helping her overcome her other medical conditions, the second diagnosis really tested our resolve,” said Edarozana, formerly an administrator with a property developer.

“We were initially hesitant to put her through chemotherapy due to the possible side effects, but were told it was the best course of action.

“Nur Qaleesya handled it well and finished her course in April 2021.

“In September that year, her cancer was found to be in remission. She has been clear since.”

Mazuwan, a butcher at a hypermarket, is the family’s sole breadwinner and expressed gratitude to Foccan for providing financial aid, supplies and counselling.

“Their support gave us the strength we needed,” he added.

The organisation regularly brings children on outings, with the latest being “Dote on the Special Children of Foccan” held in collaboration with Maybank Group’s northern division at a McDonald’s outlet last month.

Over 70 young patients were treated to an enjoyable outing that included a treasure hunt, games, hand and face painting, and a meal.

The event was part of the banking giant’s 11th Global Corporate Responsibility Day, which comes under its flagship employee volunteerism programme called “Cahaya Kasih”.

“This year, our social impact programmes are catered to further alleviate the burden of local communities,” said Maybank Group chief human capital officer Datuk Dr Nora Manaf.

“We implement high-impact initiatives that enhance the livelihoods of people and liveability of our planet.”

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