By Delicia Bailey
The importance of routine screening and early detection of cancer has become more relevant even as the number of children diagnosed with cancer has steadily increased over the years.
This is why, the founder and members one local non-profit has made it their goal to reduce the incidence of late stage diagnosis of cancer by 50% by the year 2020.
In the words of President of the Giving Hope Foundation, Dr Latoya Gooding, no one organization can fight cancer alone but “together in collaboration there is strength.”
To this end the Giving Hope Foundation joined with the Rotaract Club of Georgetown Central to plan and pull of a Balloon Commemoration Ceremony, on Saturday (February 4, 2017) to mark World Cancer Day.
The groups say the event formed part of their ABCD’s to Cancer Care in Kids Project. This project has four components: Awareness (A), Balloon Commemoration Ceremony (B), Cancer Care Packs (C) and Dreams Come True (D). Together they form the ABCD’s project.
Awareness and Education
The importance of cancer awareness was underscored by Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence in her remarks. International statistics, Mrs Lawrence says show that some 160 thousand new cases of cancer in children are diagnosed each year, the majority of which are in children under the age of 15; this results in about 90 thousand deaths annually.
This is why she says the Ministry especially on World Cancer Day is launching a strong appeal for more persons to join in the campaign to heighten awareness of the high incidence of cancer and the deaths that occur.
“The Ministry of Public Health’s approach is to work in collaboration with the NGO’s and agencies to step up the awareness programmes, to extend its outreach to Administrative Regions to intensify education programmes on cancer or pediatric cancer in schools, clinics, health centres and use all forms of media to disseminate this information” she said.
First Lady, Sandra Granger also weighed in on the importance of awareness and early screening but she believes these kinds of campaigns need to be taken one step further and include all chronic non-communicable diseases.
“We can say we’re fighting cancer but as long as we do not instill in our population the recognition that you have to start checking your health early…we will always be behind in our fight against chronic non-communicable diseases and cancers which are life threatening” Mrs Granger said.
The ministry of public health too, has committed to improving access to cancer care in secondary healthcare facilities particularly those in Hinterland regions.
However, Mrs Granger believes it is also important to understand the reasons behind the increase in cancer in children. According to her, we also have to start thinking, why are these children coming down and suffering with cancer at this age.
“Is it in our water? Is it in our food? Is it in our ground? …what is causing this?”
For persons working to investigate these causes, she has extended great praise.
At the end of the formal part of the programme 300 helium filled balloons were released into the atmosphere. The release is said to be highly symbolic and for that event remembers not only those who would have lost their battle with cancer but those who would have survived and those still fighting the disease.
Cancer Care Packages and Dreams Come True
President of the Georgetown Central Rotaract Club, Cecil Maxwell, says the plan was to make available 17 care packages to the children currently being treated for cancer at the hospital.
The plan was also to make 17 dreams come true however unfortunately two children would have succumbed to their illness last week but for those still fighting, they were interviewed and their dreams have been so far delivered.
“The Rotaract Club of Georgetown Central and its members along with the Giving Hope Foundation, decided that every child has a dream and we should try as much as possible to fulfill that dream in any way we can…we did meet that obligation in every respect.” Maxwell explained.
Also present and sharing her story of survival was 11 year cancer veteran, Mekyla Belgrave. This 12 year old, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma when she was months old and as a consequence lost both eyes. She and fellow singer Angelica Bassoo, shared with other children their two award winning Children’s Mashramani Calyspos.
She also noted the significance of the World Cancer Day slogan, “We can, I can” and encouraged those still fighting to not give up.
The event was attended by representatives of the Cancer Institute of Guyana, the Periwinkle Club, the Key Club of Georgetown International Academy.
There was also a small distribution of awards to Ministry staff for their continued dedication to the fight against cancer.