THE skies opened up over the nation’s capital this morning. And the heavens wept. The announcement that Datin Paduka Seri Endon Mahmood, beloved wife of our Prime Minister, had passed away at 7.55am after a long struggle with cancer, affected all of us. And we wept, too.
But the tears that came from cancer patients, cancer survivors, and their caregivers, were special. It was the passing away of a very extraordinary comrade-in-arms.
Endon’s most significant contributions was to put the Big C squarely into the national spotlight. By openly coming out with her own condition, she removed the aura of mystery and uncertainty often associated with cancer.
She did not see cancer patients as victims or survivors but as champions. “I am myself a cancer champ!” she declared.
She galvanised a nation into prayer, not only for her own well-being, but also for other cancer patients. She worked tirelessly for the cause, even when she was not well, and raised millions of ringgit to support the work of cancer groups.
Because of her passion and the very public display of her condition, others were not afraid to come out into the open. Malaysians had never before seen cancer patients taking to the catwalk, as they did in the highly successful fund-raising effort “Walk with Pride”, an idea by Endon after she attended a similar function in London.
Whenever she went abroad for treatment, the nation paused in prayer and wished her well. We respected her need for privacy and solitude and access to the best treatment that she could possibly get. And each time she returned, how we rejoiced to see her ever-smiling face hitting the front pages of our newspapers.
And in this period of time, we also saw the very public display of love and affection of the Prime Minister and his family whenever Endon’s condition was brought up. We saw how he shed tears when people of all faiths said their prayers for her.
And for all these very public displays, she must have known too that the rest of us, in our prayer time, in our houses of worship, in our care groups at home, were praying for her recovery.
In cancer wards everywhere, she was often the topic of discussion, and perhaps one of the most common remarks I have heard was, “She is such a brave woman. And she is so open about it”.
Yes, Endon touched more people than she probably realised. By coming out in the open, ordinary citizens afflicted by cancer saw hope. They felt a sense of revitalisation because they knew there would be more interest, more support, not just from the Government but also from the private sector.
As we applauded her efforts to not only raise funds, but more importantly to raise awareness of the Big C, we all knew she had set into motion a process that cannot, and must not be turned back.
The efforts of Endon must not be in vain. Those who responded so generously with their money to support cancer research must carry on because that would be her wish. Cancer affects everyone, rich or poor, whatever the race, religion or creed.
Endon knew that early detection is the key. The efforts of NGOs in the urban areas must go hand in hand with the efforts of those working in the rural areas. Companies must take the initiative to have programmes that will allow their staff to go for regular mammograms and pap smear tests.
This is but one of the legacies that Endon will pass on. As a cancer survivor, I weep today. But amidst my tears, I am reminded of Endon’s smile and I am filled with hope. As should all my comrades-in-arms and our families who have either gone through or are going through the journey.
I read once that cancer cannot cripple love, it cannot shatter hope, and it cannot corrode faith.
Endon showed Malaysians and the rest of the world that this is indeed so.
May God bless her soul.
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