BRAVE

Braving Cancer With MAKNA – Azian Hanim


Cancer through a caregiver’s eyes

A positive diagnosis affects not only the patient, but their loved ones too. To mark World Cancer Day this month, a mother shares how she copes with her daughter’s Stage 3 brain cancer.

In 2018, AzianHanim Binti Abu Taleb had her world turned upside down when a minor tumour in her daughter’s brain developed into Stage 3 Left Anaplastic Ependymoma and caused a seizure. Doctors declared that her brain had shut down and requested permission to disconnect her from life support, but her surgeon asked to attempt surgery with a 50:50 chance of survival. The 10-hour procedure saved her life but the battle was far from over.

“It was devastating to think that my daughter was alive in the morning and suddenly declared dead by evening,” shares Azian. “I couldn’t fathom it. I asked the doctors to hold off on disconnecting the life support machine so I could pray to God, and I truly believe my prayer was answered.”

The surgery left her daughter with severe side effects, including memory loss, paralysis of the right side of her body and heightened sensitivity towards noise and bright lights. A second surgery a few weeks later robbed her of speech and movement.

“She was like a newborn baby,” continues Azian. “The whole situation took a heavy toll on her. She was bedridden and could only drink milk through a tube, which resulted in severe weight loss. She was completely dependent on us and needed round-the-clock care.”

The physical and emotional challenges on the family were compounded by increasing financial strain. A single mother with seven school-going children, Azian had to quit her job to provide the care her daughter needed. Two of her children sacrificed their education to work, and Azian herself would make and sell kuihkapit for additional income when possible. Still, the family was barely scraping by.

“At the most desperate times, we were forced to sell some possessions,” she says. “When MAKNA approached us to offer support, I felt a huge burden lifted from my shoulders. They provided essentials for my daughter such as a wheelchair, milk supplements, and diapers. They also covered our travel costs to and from the hospital and even provided an allowance for my children who are still studying. I am incredibly thankful for their assistance. “

Despite the monumental challenges, Azian strives to maintain a positive attitude.

“I prefer to not think about my situation as hard, no matter how trying it can be sometimes,” she says. “I always convince myself that everything will be okay and that there are people out there who are facing much bigger problems, so I should be thankful and not give up easily. My children are my source of strength. I think of them constantly and remind myself that I need to set an example for them by being strong.”

Caregiving is a vital and demanding role, and caregivers need to look after themselves just as much as they do their patients. There are numerous resources about caregiving, including here and here, that might offer insights and support.

World Cancer Day is celebrated every February 4th to raise global awareness of the disease and encourage prevention, detection, and treatment. Early intervention saves lives!

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MCRA SUCCESS STORY : DR RONALD

As a young researcher, getting grants or funds can be a rather challenging task. Knowing the importance of searching for better treatment and possible cure for cancer, MAKNA set up the MAKNA Cancer Research Award (MCRA). This award is made available specifically to young researcher, in order to encourage more participation from them in the field of cancer. Furthermore, this award will also act as a platform which put a spotlight on excellent talents and help them to grow.

For 2016 MAKNA Cancer Research Award, Dr Ronald Teow Sin Yeang was one of the recipients. He is currently a Senior Lecturer at Sunway University. Based in the Department of Medical Sciences in School of Medical and Life Sciences, he is one of the young Malaysian scientists who are conducting research in the field of cancer.

His research focuses on the biology of cancer in colorectal cancer (CRC) including interaction of KRAS mutation and autophagy, and SEPT9 DNA methylation/autophagy interaction. Recently, his research teams have also moved towards understanding the role of gut and oral microbiome in CRC as well as exploring nanomaterials-based anticancer candidates for potential cancer therapies.

According to him, MCRA has given significant impact on his development at Sunway University when he was a research fellow or also known as postdoc. With the existence of the Award, he was able continue his effort towards finding better treatment for cancer

Since the inception of his research, at least two publications and a book chapter have been generated from the findings. Some of the relevant data have also been used for application of other larger-scale MOHE national grants such as Fundamental Research Grant Scheme (FRGS) and Trans-disciplinary Research Grant Scheme (TRGS). Other than that, he had the opportunity to participate in several local and international conferences and invited talks, which led him to additional external research collaborations.

He encourages other postgraduate students, research assistants and peers to apply for the prestigious Award. He himself aspires to conduct many more research projects and without a doubt will look to apply for the Award again so that he can contribute more to the society