Nov 07, 2021 News
…a haven for support and care of cancer patients
By Rehanna Ramsay
The Guyana Cancer Foundation (GCF) continues to make strides in the advocacy and support for the treatment of cancer patients locally.
In its 16th year of existence, the GCF not only continues to host successful breast cancer awareness activities but the organisation is now poised to make significant strides towards improving the overall care and treatment of cancer patients here.On the heels of a successful awareness month of activities, Founder of the GCF, Bibi Saeedah Aktar Hassan told Kaieteur News that the GCF has been focused on lobbying various Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and even the government to implement better facilities to assist those affected by the disease.
In this regard, Hassan said that as Head of the organisation, she has been advocating for “the Government or possibly some other agency to open a radiation centre to treat cancer patients in Guyana.”
She explained, “Radiation treatment in Guyana is very expensive; a couple of sessions of the treatment can cost from GYD$600,000 to up to GYD$1million.
Hassan works closely with several cancer patients and many of them, she said, cannot afford that treatment.
“The Government currently subsidises radiation treatment for cancer patients through the Guyana Cancer Institute but even with the subsidy it’s still quite expensive,” she added.In this regard, Hassan is hoping that in the New Year, the government and relative stakeholders will pay closer attention and take heed to the cries of cancer patients.
“Some person who can afford usually travel overseas to access the radiation treatment but that is not a viable option for many persons, that is why I have been advocating for this…” she added.
In the meantime, Hassan says that the GCF has lots to be thankful for. She noted that in spite of the restrictions occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, the foundation has been able to reach its awareness and advocacy goals.“We have lots to celebrate this year. Our Breast Cancer Awareness Month of activities which concluded on the 31st of October garnered much support and was quite successful. We have some persons and agencies that we never had before, come on board. We are very grateful to them,” she said.
In addition to GCF’s candlelight vigil for persons who lost their battle to cancer which was held on October 15, the awareness activities 2021 included a talk session which was opened to special invitees and staff at Muneshwer’s Travel Service, a High Tea and Fashion event hosted by the Pegasus Hotel, a National No Bra Day event held on October 13, and a National Mammography Day/Wear It Pink Friday, on October 20 and October 22 respectively. The activities also included the regular cancer awareness tree wrapping exercise and a month-long free screening and checkup activity offered through the Dr. Balwant Singh Hospital, a medical outreach programme which was hosted in Region 10 as well as a Sip Chat and Paint event which concluded the events, last Sunday.
Hassan explained that all events were aimed towards promoting awareness and increasing the support for cancer patients and survivors.
“The events were all successful; the High Tea and Fashion show at the Pegasus was a particular highlight of our activities. We had Guyanese designer Karen Hughes Braithwaite put out her designs, which were modelled by some of our survivors under the theme ‘Kosmic Vibes’,” she said.
To this end, Hassan expressed gratitude to all the sponsors of the events which included Twins Manufacturing Chemists, the Pegasus Hotel, Beharry Restaurant Holdings Inc., GBTI Bank, Demerara Bank Limited, King’s Jewellery World, Bistro Cafe & Bar, Deluxe Trading, Dyna’s Embroidery, Jacobs Jewellery and Pawn Shop, Outdoor Store and Pet Shop, Babe Cave Guyana, New Vision Labs Inc, NeuroSpine Services Inc., E-NETWORKS Inc., Bernie’s Pharmacy Grace Kennedy Remittance Services Inc, Cake Royal, and De Sinco Limited, Oasis Cafe and recreation party services.
Outside of the awareness activities, Hassan told Kaieteur News that the future of GCF’s efforts has just become better.“We have just some good news in terms of work,” she said adding that “The Guyana Cancer Foundation has been selected from among other local entities to be a partner with the American Cancer Society; a well-known NGO in the US for engagements to develop and deliver a better quality of cancer care here in Guyana.”
The GCF founder expressed excitement over the prospects of such a partnership. “This is actually an answer to my prayers, I am really excited and optimistic about this new venture because while we have been doing our best as a local NGO, organisations like the American Cancer Society that has been involved in this kind of work for many, many years can really add another level of care to what is currently being offered here. Their work is so advanced and so I believe that they can improve the level of service that is being offered here as well,” she disclosed.
According to Hassan, the GCF has already held its first meeting with the Region’s strategic partner for the American Cancer Society. The strategic partner, she explained, has been working with various Caribbean territories such as Jamaica, Belize, and St. Lucia to deliver high-quality cancer care and treatment services in those places.
Meanwhile, as it relates to her current goal for the organisation, Hassan says that the GFC is continuing the push locally to eradicate breast and cervical cancer in Guyana by 2025.Though an ambitious feat, Hassan is optimistic that with adequate support it can be accomplished. She has said, “We can make a difference in saving lives, and while our goal may seem enormous, we want to eradicate breast and cervical cancer in Guyana by 2025, if not the whole or even a half of the country, at least in one community or area, where we can say women are free from cancer.”
Hassan emphasised nevertheless, that the success of this task depends on partnership with the government, international funding institutions, non-governmental organisations, the private sector and all of society.
Hassan has been with the GCF since 2005 when a small group of Avon part-time representatives was selected by the CEO of Beauty and Home Innovations (BHI) Guyana, Ms. Ann Singh, who also helped to set up the Avon Community Help Fund to start breast cancer awareness in Guyana.Hassan was selected by the committee to be the treasurer of the fund. From there on her journey started with the fund to create awareness and education. The Avon Community Help Fund and its representatives started to raise funds through the business community and with the help of their close friends, they started their education and awareness programme.
Over the years, the fund conducted Breast Cancer Awareness activities through a number of initiatives, particularly sessions on how to do breast self-examination at home. Given their awareness and advocacy programmes, five years after its inception, they came up with the initiative to provide access to screening services including mammograms and sonograms for high-risk women, including the medically underserved and underinsured women. This intervention would motivate more women to take action to fight this disease and create opportunities for them to seek early medical care.
On January 29, 2015, Avon was dissolved in the Caribbean and the Fund couldn’t use the name “Avon Community Help Fund” anymore.
Later in April 2015, Hassan received a call from Ms. Singh of Avon Community Help Fund, who was and still is the CEO of Beauty and Home Innovations Guyana, asking her to take over the Avon Community Help Fund because she had a vision for it.As a result, the GCF was formed. Today, the foundation also provides counselling to patients and their families and guides them to treatment options and facilities. Outreach with screening and support services were done in areas such as Georgetown, Berbice River, Charity, Bartica, Mahaicony, Moraikoba, and Linden.
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