10 MAY 2016

Saving lives in Surabaya

Contributed by: Dr See Hui Ti

A career change made an impact on CanHOPE counsellor Sari Ardianti’s life – and helped her make a big difference in others’ lives too. Mrs Sari Ardianti was working at a bank in Surabaya when a friend who was working in Parkway Cancer Centre (PCC) asked if she wanted a job “helping people”. Intrigued, she decided to find out more. When she learned that there was an opening for a CanHOPE counsellor in Surabaya, she leapt at the opportunity. For Mrs Ardianti, it was a chance to make a difference in a way that had considerable personal meaning for her. Despite being only 35, this mother-of-two is no stranger to cancer. Three of her aunts developed breast cancer, and her mother-in-law died of colorectal cancer. Cancer was a disease she knew well. That is why she quit her job in banking and joined CanHOPE. At CanHOPE Surabaya, Mrs Ardianti is involved in handling queries, arranging appointments with oncologists in Singapore, giving advice and helping with logistics for patients either travelling to Singapore for treatment or recovering, back home in Surabaya. “I help patients to get information about cancer, help them figure out where is the best place to get treatment, and help them learn more about the doctors available,” said this mother of two girls. While some patients are walk-ins, others have been referred to PCC by doctors in Surabaya because of the complexity of their cases. A negative attitude towards cancer is ultimately self-defeating. Mrs Ardianti said: “Cancer in Indonesia is a curse. If they can hide it, they will hide it.” What this means is that people end up seeking help after the cancer has progressed, making treatment much harder. Another obstacle she faces is that people feel that cancer is a stigma. Getting people to talk about their journey towards healing has not been easy. This is why a patient support group in Surabaya is still in its infancy. In some ways, this makes Mrs Ardianti’s job much harder as she becomes the focal point of information. Thanks to the training she received in Singapore, Mrs Ardianti is able to explain to patients how they should manage their cancer. She is also able to coach family members who are caregivers to people with cancer. She is also at the front line dispensing advice to patients on how to arrange their lives after they return to Surabaya. Acutely aware of the genetic component behind some cancers, she is a big proponent of education for the whole family. “If there is a very strong genetic component, we give information to the family for preventive action,” she said. One of the pleasures of her job is being able to help people get treatment and seeing them get better. She recalls, in particular, one patient who saw PCC’s Dr See Hui Ti in Singapore and is now much better. When Dr See came to Surabaya to deliver a talk, Dr See made it a point to call on her patient to make sure that she was OK. It is small gestures like this that reminds Mrs Ardianti that working in healthcare is very different from working in banking. It is not about making a profit, it is about saving lives. Written by Jimmy Yap
TAGS cancer counsellor, cancer treatment abroad, CanHOPE