The current system is not yet fully adapted to cancer patients
MIRI (July 18): It goes without saying that undergoing cancer treatments can be complicated, with patients often experiencing side effects during and after the procedures.
This is what Thng Joo Hua, a journalist and former president of the North Sarawak Journalists Association (NSJA) is going through.
However, he also feels that the current system does not always prepare cancer patients for what to expect.
Recounting his own experience, he said that after being diagnosed with stage 4 nasopharyngeal cancer in January this year, he was told chemotherapy would be the first phase of treatment.
“But they didn’t tell me what to expect. I had to travel to Kuching from Miri for an examination and diagnosis, before being arranged for chemotherapy, which I then requested at Miri Hospital.
“Before my first cycle of chemotherapy, I met a doctor who was kind enough to share the vital information I needed to know, such as reminding me to get my dental work done before undergoing chemotherapy.
“It may seem trivial to an ordinary healthy person, but it is not.
“It made me see the importance of having a comprehensive cancer care system that should have been put in place by our government to educate the public about cancer,” he told the Borneo Post.
Thng said that despite having been a volunteer with the Sarawak Children’s Cancer Society (SCCS) for more than 10 years and writing short stories aimed at raising awareness of childhood cancer, the reality he faced was neither what he had heard nor what he expected.
Solve problems before treatment
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, chemotherapy can affect dental health because drugs used to kill cancer cells can also damage normal cells, including those in the mouth.
The side effects of chemotherapy on dental health are sore mouth and gums; dry mouth; burning, peeling or swelling of the tongue which may make it difficult to eat, speak or swallow; infection that could be harmful; and change in taste.
Reiterating the advice given to him by the doctor, Thng said it was necessary for him to take care of any dental issues before treatment, such as the extraction of a wisdom tooth or a decayed tooth.
“I was also told that those who were not told to do it before chemotherapy and might consider doing it afterwards might face complications such as slow wound healing due to narrowing of blood vessels. , caused by chemo drugs.
“If you’re wondering, yes – I had my tooth extracted weeks before the treatment,” the 38-year-old said.
In this regard, Thng said he learned a number of things during his therapy and was grateful that there were people he could turn to for advice and consultation along the way.
Yet he also felt that few patients were as lucky as he was.
“At the beginning of my chemotherapy, there were communication problems between doctors, nurses and doctors during my treatment at Miri Hospital, which led to a bit of chaos.
“In hindsight, however, it was understandable given the number of cases they had to deal with on a daily basis – it is overwhelming to say the least.
“It actually validates why a cancer treatment center is so badly needed in the northern region of Sarawak.”
According to Thng, the Miri hospital not only treats local cases but also those from other districts.
He added: “To be honest, I see all the more reason to have a proper cancer control system in place because it can cover all aspects, including cancer registries, education on health care, certification, research and provision of related services. ”
Recounting his experience, Thng said queuing for blood tests had become routine, which he described as “more painful than the treatment itself”.
However, he considered himself “lucky” because he was still strong enough to move around and wait in line.
“But patients in wheelchairs who need to be accompanied by their carers, those who don’t have their own transport and those who have to travel far from rural areas, the current system is doing them an injustice.
“And it’s just to get treatment; we didn’t mention mixed appointments, last-minute changes, or other issues. »
“No other options”
By the end of May this year, Thng had completed 22 cycles of chemotherapy.
For now, he is undergoing the next phase of treatment, which is radiation therapy, at Sarawak General Hospital (SGH).
In this regard, he said he only spent a few hundred ringgits for the 22 cycles of chemotherapy at Miri Hospital, while being able to be at home with his family.
It was different when it was in Kuching, where he stayed in a rented apartment near the SGH and arranged his own daily meals and transportation, which involved several thousand ringgits, and that excluded the treatment fee.
He also checked the rate at a private hospital, which charged at least RM10,000 per round of chemotherapy.
“You just have to be grateful for the government grant.
“However, those in rural areas, especially in the northern region of Sarawak, who seek treatment in Kuching or Miri, can save on treatment fees, but other expenses could add up to a huge amount. .
“Fighting cancer is hard enough. If the best option is Kuching or Peninsular Malaysia where better cancer treatments are readily available, how many of those in financial difficulty can afford it?
“How many could cover their insurance plans, and how many gave up before the fight even?”
In this sense, Thng commended the SCCS for “continuing to do its best as a non-governmental organization (NGO)”.
“It’s about helping children affected by cancer and covering all expenses – accommodation, financial aid, transport and medical aid, to name a few.
“The SCCS halfway houses in Kuching, Miri and Sibu are meant to help every patient who comes for help.
“However, can an adult cancer patient get such help?
“I, along with so many other patients, share the same hope that we could get this kind of center so those who need help don’t have to go too far,” Thng said.
> The next article will discuss the emotional support needed by cancer patients and will feature Jocelyn Hee, SCCS Miri Liaison. Look out next Monday.