30 November 2020
Strength in Numbers
The sting of the stigma associated with cervical cancer sometimes paled in comparison to my other challenges. At every phase of my cancer journey, my challenges, questions and support needs differed. However, one thing remained constant; it was my need for a community. Here I could share my journey and be inspired by the journeys of my peers.
These communities included the men and women at my treatment centres and online forums. From each other, we learnt valuable lessons about our condition, survivorship and most importantly, how to thrive. These were lessons, insights and the type of support that our healthcare providers could not lend us.
Beyond medical treatment, there is the need for the kind of support I received and continue to receive through the connections I created. The opportunities for this are many a times restricted due to the layout of the healthcare facilities, their policies and culture.
Now COVID-19 has further complicated and severely affected the interactions of these communities.
My thoughts and energies are now focused on how we can remove the “silence barrier” and consistently strive to strengthen networks and communities. Through them, many of our questions are answered, fears quelled, and hopes are fuelled. COVID-19 has forced us to rely more on technology such as Zoom and WhatsApp to provide and receive support. Thus, we need to improve awareness, foster appreciation and facilitate access to the communication and collaboration tools available.
This sentiment is shared not only by those living with cancer, but also by many others from the NCD community. Thus, we need to unite our voices and call on governments, private sectors and civil society to support the creation of enabling environments. This can be achieved through access to knowledge and the provision of resources and skills needed to meet the unique needs of various communities.