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Sabah is one of the thirteen states within the Federation of Malaysia. It gained independence from Britain on August 31, 1963, and joined the Federation of Malaysia on September 16, 1963.

Sabah, formerly called North Borneo, is situated on the northern tip of the island of Borneo, and its population comprises mainly of the indigenous people, Malays, Chinese and Indians. The indigenous people form the majority of which the main ones are the Kadazandusuns, Bajaus, Muruts, Rungus and Lotud.

The capital of Sabah is Kota Kinabalu which is situated 6 degrees north of the Equator.


Dr. Kulkarni who was working as a surgeon at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Kota Kinabalu had been dealing with cancer patients almost every day since 1974 and had been toying with the idea of forming a society to arouse awareness about cancer among the people of Sabah. He discussed this idea with his colleagues and friends and succeeded in getting together a group of people in May 1981 to discuss about the formation of the Cancer Society. In the meeting it was decided that the formation of Cancer Society should be suggested to Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu in which most of the people present were members, to be undertaken as a community project.

The Rotary Club was very receptive to this idea and formed a working committee. The Working Committee recomended that there was a need for the formation of a Society to combat the dreaded sickness termed "Cancer" and to provide relief to those who became victims of this disease.

A year after the first gathering organized by Dr. Kulkarni, on 21st May 1982 a protem committee was set up with Dr.R.N.Roy, who as the President of SABATA was famous all over Sabah as the Protem-chairman. The Society was officially launched on 2nd November 1983. Tan Sri Ben Stephens was appointed as the Patron of the Society.

A number of participants enrolled that day as members of the newly formed Society. In 1984 the Society commenced its operation from a room provided at St.John Ambulance Headquarters and started keeping statistics on cancer in terms of varying incidence based on race, sex, age, rural-urban residence and educational background. It was recognized that the figures collected were only a fraction of the actual number of cases as they did not include patients who went overseas for treatment or those who failed to seek help from the Medical Services Department. In planning its activities, the Society took local conditions into account, such as the communication problems in remote areas.

The following is part of an article Dr. M.G.Kulkarni, ADK, DA(ENG), FRCS(EDIN), the Founder of The Cancer Society of Sabah wrote for the Souvenior Booklet published in connection with the 10th Anniversary of Cancer Society of Sabah.

Cancer with its cruel reality is a common foe and has to be faced squarely as soon as its warning symptoms are recognised. It has a devastating effect not only on the sufferer, but also on his kith and kin, and the public cannot choose to be mere bystanders, watching the pain and suffering of their fellow human being, especially as there is no guarantee that any of us will escape its scourge.

Having to face this common enemy prompts unity of action, and the result is the Cancer Society of Sabah, which inspired by charity, God's gift to humanity, has been formed to find effective ways of fighting this common peril. This is the whole objective of the Society.

Cancer by its very nature not only consumes the flesh, but also the mind and spirit of the victim, and erodes the whole family not only psychologically, but very often, financially. What is more, cancer is feared by the public. They see it as a lion prowling ready to pounce on any unsuspecting victim.

The Cancer Society is a vital unit in the tripartite symbiosis, dedicated to offering "Total Care" to both cancer victim and his/her family and friends. Total care includes Prevention, Cancer Awareness and Education, Early Detection, Research, Total Cancer Rehabilitation. Prevention and Research are closely linked, in that they identify and eradicate environment factors which predispose the growth of cancer.

Cancer Awareness and Education are complementary. Here the emphasis is on the early detection, eradication and cure. Once the disease has taken root, all available means of treatment are sought in government or private hospitals, and the Cancer Society provides rehabilitary support.

The total care Rehabilitation of the patient, in which the Cancer Society is meant to be a catalyst, is an ongoing process which begins even before the definitive treatment and continues until the patient is restored to near normal functioning and assimilated back into society. Total Cancer care involves the physical, mental, spiritual, financial and social needs of the patient, and cares for training prosthesis, home visits, physical rehabilitation and involves relatives, who may need direction and training.

The scope and function of the Cancer Society are very wide, and the public need to be made aware. A handful of dedicated workers in a voluntary organisation cannot achieve all their objectives without public supporting the third component of tripartite symbiosis. Even the relatives active participation cannot be fully realised without help from the public. This does not necessarily mean financial help; the Society depends on willing hands, and charitable deeds; without them, nothing could be done.

K.J.Joseph, rijo@pc.jaring.my , ssssb@tm.net.my


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