OCA virtual walkathon to be held in November

Muscat: October is the month of Breast Cancer Awareness but the pandemic has brought about slight changes in the plans that typically would have Oman Cancer Association organise the Walkathon during the end of month.

The walkathon will now be done in November but in a different manner.

“We are developing a special platform for a virtual walkathon. We will hold it on November 27, 28, and 29.  The timings will be announced shortly.  People can register online and there will be no T shirts this year, instead we have done face masks to support the Covid-19 pandemic needs.  The event will be virtual and there will be everything that will be done normally on our previous walkathons,” Dr Wahid al Kharousi, Chairman of Oman Cancer Association, said

OCA had to cancel the campaigns that used to be held in the malls during the whole month and depend solely on social media campaigns in spreading awareness.  The Association also had to discontinue the usual classes that were in place for community education on self examination for early detection of breast cancer.

However other services continued such as the mobile mammogram although it was not moving around and was stationary at OCA headquarters in Al Ghubra, with the endorsement of the Ministry of Health with extra precautions in place.

“Mammography has been continuing taking into consideration all the sterilization and distancing.  For the first time in 11 years we have asked people to take appointments so it is not overcrowded.  Yet we are also doing ultrasound if the patients need it and have been referred to us by the hospital or people who need the test after the clinical breast examination, which is a free service that is going on at our association. We have not been doing what we normally do in terms of awareness, but we have replaced them by doing it virtually,” explained Dr Al Kharousi.

The pandemic has been a great challenge for Oman Cancer Association when it comes to the funding that is usually supported by the business community. “The funding has been depleted because all the CSR from our partners has gone to the funding to combat Covid-19 through the Ministry of Health.  But they have been supportive in many other ways,” said Dr Kharousi.

As far as the pandemic is concerned to the cancer patients, a number of them and their families do not have jobs or they are in a situation where they cannot work.  This is where OCA has stepped in.

“The Association found for them Zakat, funding and Sadaka from different people to support the patients, be it meals cooked and sent during Ramadan as in Iftar or meals for them to survive as a family.  It has been a challenge but we have been able to still organize meals for them until now,” he said.

Amidst all this, Dar al Hannan has been going on just like before except with extra procedures and making sure the place is continuously sanitized.

“Our children with cancer have low immunity and we cannot expose them to anything else because of which we have restricted visitors.  People are not happy about that but we have to do it for the sake of the cancer patients.  But once we explain that people understand.  We are supporting cancer patients and survivors with prosthesis and orthosis if they want and the supplement they are having regularly as the chemotherapy and radiotherapy support, which we have been doing for more than a year.

“We are also supporting patients and families who have lost jobs by providing food making sure they have three square meals daily.  This has been done with support from people’s donations and philanthropists who want to donate to OCA through the special account named ‘Patients Support’.  We are very grateful to everyone who has been supporting this initiative,” said Dr Kharousi.