Restructuring of health policies is necessary to ensure that the demands of the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases like cancer are adequately met. This was said by Dr Karl Seligmann at the 2015 World Cancer Day commemoration held at the Three Chiefs Monument (CBD).
He said this will require a shifting of focus and the rechanneling of some resources from the communicable disease pool. “This is of course a challenge as we are part of the region most affected by the HIV pandemic,” he said.
Dr Seligmann said the adoption of the three year ‘Together for Action’ campaign focal areas of- integrating global health agreements, uniting the global cancer community, and improving global capacity building launched in 2014 by the Union for International Cancer Control gives hope .
“As a first step to joining the world in the fight against cancer we have pledged efforts to support the success of the nine World Cancer Declaration Targets for reducing the global cancer burden by 2025,” he said.
He said working with relevant stakeholders in the forefront such as hospices, public and private health facilities, and policy makers to focus on Cancer Planning and Surveillance, Cancer Prevention and Early Detection and Cancer Treatment and Care will help make significant headway in achieving the target.
Dr Seligmann said many a time people tend to overlook the bare necessities of survival but yet envision a perfect world. “We take for granted the advice we receive from peers, media and specialists. We have become a global village connected by various elements ÔÇô some good and some bad and as we discover these elements, we try to understand and tailor make them to suit ourselves,” he said.
Onneetse Isaiah, a cancer survivor, was also present on the night to give testimony about her experiences with cancer.
Isaiah (26) was diagnosed with cancer in 1999 at the age of ten. She had felt some pain behind her right knee. “I went to a local clinic and they gave me some pain killers but the pain did not go away,” she said.
Her parents then decided to take her to a specialist who referred her to a primary hospital for more tests. It got to a point where she could not walk anymore because her leg could not stretch .It was after some more tests at the hospital that she was told it was cancer. Her entire right leg was consequently amputated.
“As if the amputation was not enough I had to endure excruciatingly painful periods of chemotherapy as part of the cancer treatment.” She said in addition to losing weight she also experienced hair loss because of the treatment. “My hair just fell off. Imagine what a blow it is for a teenage girl not to be able to grow and style your hair like everyone else,” she said. Isaiah said she also experienced a lot of problems trying to get other children and some members of the community to come to terms with her condition. Some would just stare while others called her names, she said. She said she would break down and cry but soon realised she would have to be strong to survive.
“Now people think I look back at my life with regrets because they feel I missed out a lot but I don’t,” she said, “I rather look at it as an achievement because it is not everyone who survives cancer and gets to tell a story about it. Onneetse pleaded with the public to pray for 14 year old Abbian Ntshabele who is yet to undergo treatment following a year of fundraising. “God cannot put her through something he knows she cannot survive. She said life after cancer is great because one gets to appreciate every little thing that comes their way. Isaiah’s pastimes include playing tennis.
The theme for this year’s commemoration was ‘Not beyond Us’. “As we commemorate the annual World Cancer Day on 4th February with the rest of the globe noting that cancer is “Not Beyond Us”, we, the coordinating organizations-Cancer Association of Botswana (CAB), Bamalete Lutheran Hospital (BLH)(Ramotswa Hospice at Home), Holly Cross Hospice (HCH) and Botswana Hospice and Palliative Care Association (BHPCA) publicly appealing to every individual and institution to sign the World cancer Declaration as a pledge to making the four focus points of defeating cancer a reality.”