UCSI promotes cancer awareness with a charity run and shave

KUALA LUMPUR: When Norhasnah Hashim – or Amy, as her friends fondly call her – was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2013, she felt scared and alone. But at UCSI University’s (UCSI) Light the Life charity run, she was as cheerful and upbeat as can be. 

This was because she had a little help from her friends – cancer survivors from support groups like National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM), Breast Cancer Welfare Association (BCWA) and Pride Foundation Malaysia (PFM) – whose support helped her keep her head up even when she had to go for major surgery five times in two years, and when she was recently told that her cancer had advanced to stage four. 

“It’s a very difficult journey so it’s important to stay positive,” said Norhasnah, who just had a chemotherapy session last week. “I draw strength from these support groups and the friends I’ve made, they help me feel that my diagnosis is not a death sentence and that I can still live life to the fullest.” 

And she’s living up to that proclamation. She started her day by completing UCSI’s 6K charity run with her fellow cancer survivors, a fundraising event that brought together more than 400 runners to promote cancer awareness. 

“About 100,000 Malaysians are diagnosed with cancer each year and the road to recovery is rough for both the patients and their loved ones,” said Associate Professor Dr Yeong Siew Wei, UCSI’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Student Affairs and Alumni. 

“While we cannot erase the pain and hardship caused by this disease, we hope that the funds that Light the Life has raised can ease some of their financial burden.” 

Organised by UCSI’s Facilitation Programme where students actively drive socially impactful events under the guidance of the University’s Student Affairs division, Light the Life also saw 20 volunteers – most of whom are students at UCSI – shaving their heads in support of the cause. 

Assoc Prof Yeong thanked and commended these volunteers. “Their courageous act will continue spreading awareness of cancer after this event is over to the people that they will meet.” 

Light the Life also featured a cancer info zone, food stalls, a photo booth and performances by Passion Danz Studio and UCSI students including alumnus Ryan Cho Yik Ming, a top 20 finalist in the ongoing 2016 Astro Star Quest. 

The fundraiser received RM34,000 in donations and the funds were disbursed to eight non-profits: the National Cancer Council Malaysia (MAKNA), Sarawak Children's Cancer Society (SCCS), Empowered – The Cancer Advocacy Society of Malaysia, Malaysia Anti-Cancer Society (MACA), Max Family Society Malaysia (MF) as well as NCSM, BWCA and PFM. 

A mock cheque was presented by Assoc Prof Yeong to these beneficiaries, respectively represented by Azuwa Abdullah, CEO of PFM; Rodney Wong, immediate past president of SCCS; Tham Man Kit, Chairman of MACA; Dr Abd Razak Muhamad, President of MF, and more. 

Such donations help to keep these non-profits alive so that they may continue educating the public and providing support and advice to patients like Norhasnah. 

“A lot of people don’t go for regular medical check-ups, maybe because they’re afraid of bad news,” said Lilian Phua, a committee member of BWCA. “But early detection is important, where treatment might not even have to involve chemotherapy. Such awareness programmes like Light the Life is immensely helpful.” 

Having met a cancer patient as young as 21-years-old, Phua says that no one should think they are safe. “In Malaysia, breast cancer affects one in every 20 women. It’s great that the students here are actively participating as it’s never too early to be aware of the symptoms and to make regular check-ups a practice.” 

A cancer survivor herself, Phua is now fully recovered but she remembers the early days when she was scared and confused. “When you’re first diagnosed, you will be inundated with advice from family members and friends,” she said. “They mean well but if they aren’t cancer patients themselves, they don’t have the first-hand experience. BWCA was my lifeline then; whenever I needed advice or support, I would call them.” 

Phua is now on the other end of the phone providing, instead of receiving, counselling and support. Norhasnah is one of them and the two friends embraced excitedly when they met at Light the Life. 

“When people hear the C-word, they think it’s over,” said Norhasnah. “I thought that myself but it’s not true. I’m still alive, I feel good and I can still have fun like finishing this run with my friends.” 

Sponsored by Bridgestone Tyre Sales, Light the Life is the fifth and final initiative in UCSI’s Spread the Love Community Engagement Project 2016. Held in conjunction with the University’s 30th anniversary celebration, the year-long project has benefited a total of 30 non-profit organisations. It has raised funds for animal shelters, orphanages and underprivileged communities, including refugees, as well as promoted awareness on environment and health issues. 

The project in its entirety has raised a total of RM61,000 in kind and cash.