Guyanese in US form cancer support group

Stabroek News
November 24, 2002

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Survivors and victims of cancer in Guyana, along with people at risk for the disease, now have more opportunities to learn about its prevention and treatment with the establishment of the Organisation for Social and Health Advancement in Guyana (OSHAG).

OSHAG was founded some ten months ago, after Carol Trim Bagot-Riley, the Community Liaison officer for Senator Sam Johnson in New York, starting referring Guyanese patients who sought her help to Debra Bristol, who works at the Kings County Hospital Center for Breast Cancer. Both Guyanese, they saw the need to assist cancer patients coming from Guyana through the diagnostic process, and help them take care of themselves both before and after being diagnosed.

Along with nine other Guyanese women, the two started off by helping those who travelled up to New York with transportation costs, referrals, medication, follow-up treatment and even a place to stay.

OSHAG, said Bristol, regarded its greatest achievement to date as a workshop which it hosted two weeks ago at the Georgetown Club. The association in collaboration with the Guyana Cancer Society (GSA) was able to bring in a team of doctors, including an HIV/AIDS specialist to speak to the 350 participants.

The two-day workshop mainly for cancer victims and survivors was conducted by Dr James Riley, Director of Surgery at the Kings County Hospital, along with Dr Theophilus Lewis, Associate Director of Surgery and Dr Sheldon Peters, Director of Prostate and Colon Rectal Cancer at the same hospital. The HIV/AIDS specialist was Victoria McKenzie.

The doctors were also able to meet the Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy and Dr Walter Chin of the Cancer Society. McKenzie, in the meantime, was able to meet some of the local HIV/AIDS organisations, as well as personnel of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.

The new organisation was also able to honour Dr Chin, Dr Mitchell, Enid Denbow and survivors Andaiye and Mitzy Campbell at a special dinner at the end of the two-day workshop.

Before leaving the country, Bristol and Bagot-Riley, along with another member of OSHAG, Roxanne Persaud, were able to go to Berbice to share their knowledge and offer guidance on the prevention of cancer and the care of patients suffering from the disease.

They also appeared on a television programme with Andrea McAdam on Channel 9, and were able to communicate valuable information to viewers. The GSA told Bristol and Bagot-Riley, that as a consequence of the television programme some men had contacted the Society for information about cancer.

Speaking on the response to their initiative, the two representatives said they thought that OSHAG had started a new discourse on cancer and they planned on continuing their efforts. "The women," said Bagot-Riley, "were happy that they were able to voice their fears and that they were able to receive a lot of literature and information on the disease."

"We want to make our presence felt," she continued, "and as such we plan to return every year for cancer awareness month, and to concentrate on major funding locally."

Bristol said that following OSHAG's involvement, the Cancer Survivors Association Group (CSAG) has now been inspired to rekindle their group and get involved again in the fight against cancer.

OSHAG has become an incorporated Non-Governmental Organisation in Guyana and hopes to open an office locally so that it can give Guyanese women all the help they need.

The association, with the help of their sponsors from overseas, was able to participate in the annual cancer walk, bringing T-shirts for participants as well as hats for survivors. The members said that they hoped to start sports groups for the victims and their supporters, as supporters played a very important role in the nurturing and care of victims.

OSHAG thanked many of the overseas-based organisations, mainly Universal Airlines, Ahmad Realty, Skyline Mortgage and two locally-based companies - Williams Shipping and Sheriff Jewellery - for all the help they had given in their enterprise.

The two OSHAG members stated that they would continue raising funds for cancer victims on a monthly basis with an occasional breakfast and dinner and dance. They noted that their first breakfast had been a great success, and they intended to have another upon their return to New York. They also have two dinners and dances planned over the course of the next three months.

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