Let's make cancer treatment in Guyana a reality Viewpoint by Christopher Ram
Guyana Chronicle
November 4, 2003

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Mrs. Viola Burnham, Brad De Clou, Maureen Simpson, Mary Charles, Sukraj Persaud and Patsy Morgan.

What do these males and females whose ages range from 60 plus to under nine who are Afro and Indo Guyanese have in common?

And what about Shaun Campbell, Evelyn Vogel, Sudamma Persaud and Emelda Singh?

You know what it is? The first set died of cancer while the second set wait and hope that the system will make available the resources to help them to combat their illness.

Listeners will recall how not long ago, Selena Ramnarine another cancer patient had to go on television to appeal for funds to go to Trinidad for treatment. If present trends continue, Selena will not be the last who will have to rely on donations from the public to receive basic cancer treatment abroad.

As our many examples show - and believe me there are thousands, - cancer has no respect for gender, age or class. While many of the better off can afford to go to North America and elsewhere for private treatment, those less well off languish often in physical as well as emotional pain, in perpetual fear of death and often without the basic requirements for a normal life.

For years now the Guyana Cancer Society and indeed the rest of society have been calling on the Government to make cancer treatment available in Guyana. The Guyana Cancer Society formed over ten years ago with the assistance of volunteers continues its efforts in the fight against cancer. It is particularly well know for its Pap smear testing done across the country and for its work among cancer survivors. It has tried to lobby the authorities for more and better resources. The Guyanese pubic too seems enthusiastic often responding magnificently to calls for help. Indeed the Central Islamic Organization of Guyana donated a Caesium Unit costing millions of dollars to the Government of Guyana.

Four years later, that unit is in parts and not operational and even worse it is now the subject of a public fare up prompted by a statement from Dr. Y. Bacchus the medical advisor to the Central Islamic Organization of Guyana.

The saga does nothing for the credibility of the Ministry of Health while the Central Islamic Organization of Guyana is embarrassed to go back to its benefactors with further requests for similar assistance. The public in general and cancer patients in particular must now despair at the insensitivity of successive Ministers of Health.

Given the prevalence of cancer, it is highly likely that every Guyanese is or has been directly or indirectly affected by cancer. It is time that the Government makes cancer prevention and treatment a top priority on par with macro-economic stability, crime and AIDS. Let us put aside the political posturing at the national level and make available meaningful resources that address the real problem, that is, those at risk of and those suffering from cancer.

If we do not have enough funds for cancer care, surely there are enough willing and wealthy international philanthropic and donor organizations whose approach would most certainly be willing to assist. Have our authorities made any of these approaches? As Guyanese and humans we should all feel a deep sense of shame at the callous disregard for human life and suffering displayed by our administrators who were more concerned with sharing blame than taking action. We should not be surprised that our society appears to have become desensitized to violence and killing if that is the example being shown to us.

November has been designated Cancer Awareness Month and The Guyana Cancer Society has organized a series of activities which will be published in the National media.

On behalf of the Society, I appeal to you to support and participate in the activities under the theme, "Cancer Treatment in Guyana in 2004." Let's make this a reality.