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Cancer no longer a death sentence
Cancer is no longer a death sentence, says Patricia Tikasingh, the founder of cancer support group, Smara. Tikasingh said with early detection, treatment, and advances in medicine, in many cases it is now a manageable condition. The patient counsellor/co-ordinator at the Southern Medical Oncology in San Fernando said cancer survivors can live longer, more meaningful lives and have fun.
And this is where the cancer support group Smara comes in to help ease the stress and provide support for people who needs it as they battle the disease.
She said the Smara NGO holds fun-filled events for its members. With the help of family, friends and good Samaritans, and through drives and sponsorships, they raise funds to provide free cancer screening for men and women.
Tikasingh said, “Cancer is no longer a death sentence. The approach to your treatment and a positive attitude are important. We’re not in the doldrums or about feeling sorry for ourselves, it’s about bringing messages of hope, doing things which will enhance our health and lives. Even though if you’re on chemo or not feeling so good today, you want to press on.”
Tikasingh said the Sanskrit word “smara” means rejuvenation or new life and is not an acronym for the cancer support group. She said the reason she chose the name was because it connotes love, new life and new beginnings which cancer survivors experience when they come out of treatment. Tikasingh said the perspectives cancer patients had prior to being diagnosed change, they see things in a different way and light, letting go of the old path.
She said the bigger picture was that they were alive, they were never out of the woods, but they do the best they can as cancer survivors.
She said at the time of her own diagnosis, there wasn’t a formal group or a level of support in the South to really reach out to patients. According to Tikasingh, a cancer survivor for 18 years, if a cancer patient had financial needs in the 90s that were not met such as insurance coverage, which she also did not have, he would have had a problem.
She said her involvement with cancer patients had increased in the last ten years, especially since she came to the oncology centre at Southern Medical Clinic.
Tikasingh said Smara has an amazing core group of 60-plus people which include Gail Dwarika, Carl Atherton, Vera Garcia, Jenny Rose-Dean, Gregory Paynter, O’Neil Friday, George Antoine and many others.
She said in the cancer calendar every month had significance for Smara—June was dedicated to survivorship and the group held its Survivors’ Tea Party soiree that month. In October, the group held its first cooler ship cruise from King’s Wharf to La Brea and also partnered with the T&T Cancer Society offering cervical and prostate screenings where they were able to detect five early cancers.
Tikasingh said the funds raised by Smara went towards offsetting the cost of cancer survivors’ CT scans, screening tests, blood tests and medications.
She said activities continued to the end of the year and include certified yoga and pilates instructor Indra Narinesingh working with the group on Thursdays at the centre, a session on meditation and mindfulness by a member of an American NGO on November 23, and a Christmas luncheon in Penal on December 16.
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