Helping the people get quality cancer care is no easy task in Medan. But CanHOPE manager Rianto Tandiono does not give up.
Even though there is free cancer treatment – thanks to the national insurance system – there is still a need for a place like CanHOPE Medan.
“People come to us to seek a second opinion,” said Rianto Tandiono, the manager of CanHOPE Medan and Parkway Medan.
As the manager, his job is to ensure that people who walk or call in are given information on Parkway Cancer Centre in Singapore and to help arrange for consultations.
One challenge he faces in Medan is that it is a stronghold of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), especially within the Chinese community. TCM is so well-established that even when people want to see an oncologist, they get advice from friends and relatives to stick with TCM instead.
“A lot of cancer patients try TCM first, so by the time they come to us, it may be too late and many of the cases are critical,” said Rianto. “People see Singapore as the last option.”
Late-stage cancers are much harder to treat than early-stage cancers. That is why an important aspect of his job is to educate people on the need for regular check-ups, early-stage detection, and early medical intervention.
CanHOPE Medan organises talks by doctors and works with partners such as insurance companies to reach out to their clients. It also encourages patients to share their experiences, so that they can encourage and help educate others about how to cope with cancer.
One such person was a patient in her 60s, who was diagnosed with breast cancer about two years ago. Fortunately for her, when she felt the lump in her breast she did not hesitate to get a test. She found that she had Stage 2 breast cancer.
“She came to us and we sent her to our breast surgeon in Singapore. After it was removed, she did chemotherapy and radiation,” he recalled.
Now a cancer survivor, she is grateful for the care received and has become an advocate for early detection and action. She is active socially and attends talks regularly.
Apart from matching patients with doctors and educating the public, another important part of CanHOPE Medan’s job is to help patients who have returned to the city after treatment.
“About a month after they come back, we follow up to ask how they are, whether there are any more appointments and if they need any more help,” said Rianto.
CanHOPE also organises activities such as yoga classes for cancer survivors in the city. This has been slow to take off because of cultural factors, he said. “The culture here is that if I have cancer, I don’t want anyone to know about it.”
The challenges of running CanHOPE Medan spur Rianto to redouble efforts to reach out to people. What motivates him is the ability to help others.
“When I first joined Parkway Medan, I met a CanHOPE counsellor who came from Singapore and who made a big impression on me. She was able to make a difference and it showed me that I could too.”
Written by Jimmy Yap
Tags: cancer survivorship, cancer treatment abroad, CanHOPE, TCM cancer treatment