01 JUNE 2016

Giving patients hope

Mr Masfiqur’s own experience with cancer helps him aid others in their fight against the disease. In his work at the Parkway Cancer Centre (PCC) in Bangladesh, Mr Masfiqur Rahman Amit meets many patients daily.

Some call him on the phone every day, asking him about all things related to their illness and condition.

Mr Masfiqur, 35, admits he used to feel a little overwhelmed at times, as he tried to juggle family time, work, and helping patients with their queries.

But two years ago, all that changed.

While shaving one morning in October 2013, he discovered a lump in his neck.  It was later diagnosed as papillary carcinoma or thyroid cancer.

After surgery and follow-up treatments, Mr Masfiqur spent a week recovering in hospital and was back at work immediately after.

The sudden discovery of the disease made him realise something about those incessant callers.

“I got to realise the impatience and worries of the patients better,” he said. “It has taught me to understand their agitation better and their attitude.”

Mr Masfiqur has been working for the PCC in Dhaka since 2004 after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature.

Even though he was from an arts background, he had a keen interest in healthcare services and read medical journals and articles.

Starting out as an intern, he was promoted to Senior Marketing Executive two years later and then to Area Manager a year after that. He volunteers at the CanHOPE centre there, which was started in 2006.

He initially spent much of his time introducing PCC’s range of services to people in Bangladesh. But over the years, his role has become more like a medical counsellor, helping patients with their medical questions and liaising between patients and doctors.

The PCC office in Bangladesh has a staff of 14 who attend to patients’ needs such as visa arrangements, accommodation bookings and so on.

Even though the centre opens only at 9.30 am, the staff begins receiving calls from as early as 6.30 am – usually from Bangladeshi patients who are in Singapore. It only closes at around 8.30 pm, after handling about 300 calls and 25 patients.

In between the daily tasks, the staff also organises cancer awareness seminars, and gatherings for cancer survivors.

Mr Masfiqur, who is married, said he may be closer to the patients than to his own family members.

“We spend most of our daily life with the patients and help them when they are in deep trouble. So it’s natural that we become a friend in need to them and they remember and often do heart-touching things for us as a token of gratitude,” he said.

“They acknowledge, they remember and they inspire us. They are the key source of our motivation.”

Mr Masfiqur regularly visits patients in hospital or at their homes and even joins in their family celebrations such as birthdays and anniversaries, sometimes while neglecting himself and his family.

Over the 11 years he has been working with PCC, he has gotten to know some 10,000 patients and another 50,000 of their relatives.

Even though Mr Masfiqur works so closely with cancer patients all day, he did not notice the growth in his own neck in October 2013 till it grew as large as 2.5 cm.

He even postponed his surgery for two weeks to visit Penang to meet others like him who work for CanHOPE centres around the world.

During and after surgery, he felt the warmth from his colleagues – and even from some patients who visited him in hospital. Dr Luke Tan from PCC in Singapore also waived his surgical fees for the operation.

His personal battle with cancer made him realise why patients always ask: “Why me?” and “How long do I have left?”.

“It has taught me to hope, to be courageous and to fight. I feel very lucky that I got an answer to my cancer… I got a second life. What should I complain about?”

Now, he shares his own personal cancer story with patients who are feeling demoralised and ready to give up the fight.

“I give them hope, the courage to fight and motivation to never give up,” said Mr Masfiqur.

“I want every patient to show his loved ones that because of them, he or she never gave up.”

Written by Ben Tan