Around 20 cancer survivors and family members take part in Relay for Life

Damchoe Pem/ Thimphu

Bhutan Cancer Society organized a Relay for Life event on 3 June at the Bhutan Athletic Federation ground (commonly known as the YHSS ground). Her Royal Highness Princess Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck graced the event.

Around 20 cancer survivors around the country took part in the relay. 12 ran the relay. The teams involve the family members of those who are affected by cancer. There are 100 plus cancer patient registered with the Bhutan Cancer Society.

Relay for Life was intended to give everyone in the community a chance to come together and celebrate those who have overcome cancer or are under treatment, as well as the people who care for them. The event also provides an opportunity to celebrate the memory of loved ones lost to cancer.

The founder of Bhutan Cancer Society, Dechen Wangmo, said that this event is the first of its kind. “People think that people who are living with the cancer die right after being diagnosed, as cancer is almost synonymous to a death sentence, and this is why they give up hope and they feel they will die at an instant, she added.

The idea behind the event is to showcase cancer survivorship and that cancer is not a death sentence. Bhutan Cancer Society is able to put together the event this year with a support from Tata Motors.

The trinity underlying the event was to celebrate life where the relay starts with the survivor’s lap where survivors are invited to the race track, and help everyone celebrate the victories they have achieved over cancer.

“We have a deeper meaning in a relay, where first team made a first circle which shows the cancer patient who makes the first step of coming out,” she said. During the second lap, the team ran a three legged relay race with family members. The third lap had three runners holding hands signifying that it is not only the family but is also a community or the government coming together to support the cancer patients.

Bhutan Cancer Society believes everyone has to come together to fight against cancer. Treatment alone from the hospital is not enough. There has to be a long term care and support to overcome cancer.

“When we come together, cancer doesn’t stand a chance. Fighting back is where we make a personal commitment to save lives by taking up the fight against cancer and that personal commitment may be to do something as simple as getting a screening tests, quitting smoking or talking to doctors about cancer,” she added.

The same day, a compassionate friend of Bhutan Cancer Society, Tsheten Dorji and a team of passionate walkers took a walk from Paro town in the morning towards Thimphu and the tentative arrival time in Thimphu was 2 pm on the same day. The walk was a show solidarity and support towards the fight against cancer.

According to Annual Health Bulletin, Ministry of Health, the top ten cancers in Bhutan are stomach, cervix, colo-rectum, esophagus, head and neck, hepato-billary, ovary, genitourinary, skin cancer and breast cancer.

Male have higher incidences (61 percent) as compared to females (39 percent). Screening for cancer is the key step to early detection and treatment of cancer. Many cancer patients are referred to hospitals in India for treatment.





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