A young man’s brush with testicular cancer

Age is no guarantee for good health. Zuhairi was only 16 years old when he started experiencing frequent fevers. With the high temperature came an abnormal swelling of his right testis, alerting the young man that something was wrong.

“I immediately sought medical help and was scheduled for an ultrasound,” says the now 28-year-old. “The scan indicated the presence of an unusual growth. I was diagnosed with a malignant mixed germ cell tumour.”

This is a rare cancer comprising at least two types of germ cell tumours, which begin in the cells that form the sperm or eggs. They usually occur in the testicle or ovary, but occasionally also affect the chest, abdomen or brain.

Zuhairi was naturally terrified by the diagnosis.


“After the second cycle, I told my late mother I didn’t want to continue chemo: my hair was falling, I couldn’t sleep and my body was so weak. She was ever compassionate and comforting, and promised that if I went through with the third cycle, it would be my last.”

It was, as the treatment proved successful. The road to recovery was rough but Zuhairi had a strong support system in the form of his family, who rallied around him at his lowest. “I’m very grateful for each and every one of them,” he shares. “They were always there beside me and gave me the strength to carry on.”

Life a decade later looks rather different than it did pre-diagnosis. While cancer can be caused by myriad factors, Zuhairi is careful to pay attention to elements within his control.

“Before all this happened, I didn’t really watch my eating habits or diet, for instance,” he says. “But now I am much more particular about the food I consume. As much as I used to dislike vegetables, I now include them more and more often in my meals. Ultimately, I ensure I look after my health.”

That includes taking charge of self-examinations and paying close attention to his body. Men tend to be more hesitant than women are in seeking medical help, but Zuhairi strongly advocates prioritising medical aid over embarrassment or denial.

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Testicular cancer is relatively uncommon, affecting one in 250 males at some point in their lifetime. The average age of patients upon diagnosis is the mid-30s, but children, teens and older males are also susceptible. However, survival rates are very high, so men are encouraged to seek treatment as early as possible for a smoother recovery.

*Photo shown is not the interview subject.


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!


5 Reasons To Donate to Charitable Organisations

Today, there are numerous charitable organisations and social enterprises which are established across the globe including in Malaysia. These entities dedicate their effort towards helping underprivileged communities, striving to make the world a better place for everyone.

In order for this to become a reality, a great deal of effort and resources have to be allocated especially in terms of financial allocation. Accordingly, most organisations and enterprises are actively seeking donations to raise funds either from corporate sectors or the general public. Thus, to support their cause we are highly encouraged to make donations.

  • Every Donation Counts
    • Whether it is a one-time or continuous donation, every donation can make a difference. Even if the amount is little, your donation means the world to the many people in need out there. Moreover, a compounded amount of small donations will eventually result to a great sum at the end of the day.
  • Financial Benefits Opportunity
    • What you give you get back. By making donations to charitable organisations approved by the Inland Revenue Board of Malaysia (LHDN), you are entitled for a tax receipt. The receipt can be used to claim for tax deduction from your aggregate income for your annual income tax payment. Learn more about the allowable tax deduction from donation in Malaysia here
  • Set Up A Good Example to Children
    • For children, parents are their role model. As demonstrated by the famous psychologist Albert Bandura, children’s development can be rooted from the observation, imitation and modelling of their surroundings. By showing them your effort to support charitable organisations, it is very likely for them to do the same in the future.
  • Kindness is Contagious
    • When you donate, you can also influence others such as our family members or friends to support charitable organisations. When more people donate, more people will be motivated to join the cause. Ultimately, we can create a fabric of society that can help each other together as one.
  • Emotional and Spiritual Joy
    • Helping others can create a sense of joy and satisfaction for your soul. Donating to charitable organisations will not only help them continue their effort but also promotes your emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Here at MAKNA (Majlis Kanser Nasional), we are committed towards assisting underprivileged cancer patients. With your donation, we can reduce the burden of cancer together. You can choose to either make single donation or monthly donation starting from as low as RM38 per month. Plus, you are entitled to receive tax receipt together with our newsletter when you pledge for our monthly donation programme.

Click here to donate to us and support our work.


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An Integrated Effort to Fight Childhood Cancer: A Malaysian & Global Perspective

Cancer is a disease which can occur to anyone from any background at any age group, including children. Childhood cancer is the term coined for any cancers that are commonly associated with children.

Childhood Cancer in Malaysia

The incidence of childhood cancer in Malaysia is still stable as reported by the Ministry of Health. According to the statistics, the most common cancers among children are leukaemia, lymphoma and brain/nervous system cancer. The total number of childhood cancer cases from 2011 to 2016 is 3,829 cases comprising of 2,131 males and 1,698 females. Additionally, children are found to have higher survival rate for cancers that affect blood, bone marrow and lymph nodes compared to adults.

Despite the fact that childhood cancer can be considered as rare, we should not disregard this issue. This is because cancer may cause serious repercussions towards children particularly in terms of education and development. On top of that, some children might find it difficult to adjust with their condition as they are too young to understand the disease. So, it is important for us to always give moral support and promote positivity in them.

Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer

Across the globe, an average of 300,000 children are diagnosed with cancer every year. To prevent further escalation of this issue, the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer in 2018. The initiative has 2 main goals:

• Increase child cancer survival rates to at least 60%
• Alleviate suffering of all children by 2030

Find out more regarding the initiative here.

MAKNA Assistance for Children

At MAKNA, childhood cancer patients are eligible to receive assistance through our Bursary Programme. It is a financial aid which helps patients to purchase necessities and cover their hospital travel expense. Furthermore, MAKNA also provides financial assistance to enable young cancer patients or survivors to complete their education through our Young Survivor Scholarship Programme.

Like all cancers, early detection is crucial in reducing morbidity and mortality of childhood cancer. Parents or caregivers of children need to have the knowledge in identifying the symptoms of childhood cancer. Let us all act together to spread the awareness and support the children in their journey of fighting cancer. Together we can make a difference.

One of our beneficiaries, Faisal, has something to share regarding the struggle of having cancer at a young age. Watch the video below to hear his story.