KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 8 — The Breast Cancer Welfare Association Malaysia (BCWA), supported by Pfizer Malaysia, continues its mission to raise awareness of metastatic breast cancer (mBC) among the public through the #UNPAUSE campaign. This year, the campaign expands its focus to celebrate and recognise caregivers in their role as they continue to provide critical care and support to mBC patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women worldwide. Even when diagnosed early, up to 30 per cent of women with early breast cancer will eventually progress to metastatic disease.
Furthermore, the emotional toll of mBC can be profound and can influence the way people feel about themselves, communicate with others and live their lives. Therefore, good, reliable caregiver support is critical to the physical and emotional wellbeing of patients with mBC.
“When a patient is diagnosed with mBC, it can feel like their whole life is put on pause. At BCWA, we understand that an mBC diagnosis can be emotionally and physically challenging, but patients do not have to travel this path alone. It is important to know that living life to the fullest after an mBC diagnosis is possible. There is also support beyond treatment to help patients embrace life and connect with local programs as well as online communities that can offer encouragement and emotional support,” said Ranjit Kaur, BCWA president.
“Often, a caregiver’s life can be put on the backburner because of their responsibilities. Many of them also have part or full-time jobs and families of their own to raise as they simultaneously act as the caregiver. As Edward Albert said so eloquently – the simple act of caring is heroic. Through the #UNPAUSE campaign this year, we would like to draw attention to our mBC caregivers, thank them for their efforts, and share their stories to motivate and inspire many more caregivers out there. We are proud to partner with Pfizer again to #UNPAUSE lives that are touched by metastatic breast cancer,” Ranjit added.
As part of the campaign, BCWA has introduced Malaysia’s first-ever digital metastatic breast cancer patient guide called “Me & mBC”, which simplifies complex medical information for patients, their loved ones, and caregivers.
The patient guide was developed to answer the most urgent questions an mBC patient or caregiver may have on diagnosis, treatment, and coping with daily life. It also provides a list of resources for more help – where to find more information, patient support groups, a doctor or counsellor, financial support, and other resources in your area.
Launched in conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the development of the Me & mBC patient guide was led by patient advocates and healthcare professionals from BCWA with the involvement and support of Pfizer Malaysia. The Me & mBC patient guide is also available in audiobook format as an alternative for the public.
When it comes to treatment-seeking approaches, the 2019 survey by BCWA revealed that about 80 per cent of survey respondents believed that affordability is the main barrier preventing patients from seeking effective medical treatment.
“Affordability remains one of the main barriers faced by patients when it comes to mBC treatments. There are several financing options in Malaysia that support mBC patients, for example, government hospitals, SOCSO (Social Security Organization) and EPF (Employees’ Provident Fund), insurance and patient assistance programmes such as EMBRACE. Speak to your doctor to learn more,” Ranjit explained.
EMBRACE is a patient assistance programme by Pfizer to support HR+/HER2- mBC patients’ treatment continuity for improved outcomes and quality of life. Through this programme, mBC patients can better plan their finances and gain access to innovative medical treatment.
“The costs associated with cancer care can have a tremendous financial impact on patients and their families, especially during this time. Pfizer is committed to supporting mBC patients throughout their treatment journey, including financial needs. In 2019, we launched the EMBRACE programme to put effective treatment in the hands of those who need it so that patients can live their lives to the fullest. The programme has since aided a few hundred mBC patients gain access to innovative medical treatment,” said Luksanawan Thangpaibool, country manager, Pfizer Malaysia and Brunei.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has put our medical system under immense pressure, but we have made adjustments to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission so that patients can continue to get the best care possible care,” said Dr David Paul Capelle, palliative care physician, University of Malaya Medical Centre.
“One example of adjustments made is the adoption of telehealth where we can share information frequently and safely with patients and their families online. Please consult your care team for advice on safe visits and options available. The Me & mBC patient guide also provides information about cancer care during the pandemic,” added Dr Capelle.
Caregiving is a demanding endeavour that can affect even the most resilient person. Redzuawan Ismail, or better known as Chef Wan, has always offered an unfiltered look into his daily life with his mother Noraini Abdullah, or as he affectionately calls her, Cik Ani.
As Cik Ani’s eldest child, Chef Wan dutifully takes care of his mother, and has been Cik Ani’s primary caregiver for many years. Last October was a challenging period for Chef Wan as Cik Ani was diagnosed with breast cancer. He could not sleep all night when he received the news but was determined to put on a brave front for Cik Ani.
“When my mother first started on her treatment for breast cancer, she had trouble controlling her bodily functions, and it must have been so embarrassing for her. As a son, seeing my mother go through that is, of course, difficult and heartbreaking, but all I could think was that I had to be strong for her. I looked for solutions, tried different ways to help my mom, and I found that what would help my mother was a routine, so we would take her to the bathroom every hour even if she did not need to go,” Chef Wan shared.
“Most importantly, I will care and nurse my mother the best I can. Shower her with lots of love, comfort her till her last breath. If you are like me, currently caring for someone you love who is diagnosed with cancer, please be strong and know that you are not alone. If you are a patient, do not forget to thank the person caring for you,” added Chef Wan.
This year’s #UNPAUSE campaign will see stories of courage, compassion, and dedication from caregivers like Chef Wan who deliver care, hope, and strength to their loved ones.
“Unseen and undefined, there are many heroes among us who are caring for our mBC patients each day. Pfizer is proud to support BCWA in this meaningful national campaign to make us all aware of these hidden heroes – to acknowledge what they do and to connect them to people with similar experiences as well as valuable resources. Many times, these heroes rarely ask for help, but they deserve our support,” said Luksanawan.
To learn more about mBC, the #UNPAUSE campaign or the “Me & mBC” patient guide, please click here.