Mascot ‘ELE’ and website launched for Suwa Arana – A place for healing

October 28, 2021 by Rochelle Palipane Gunaratne , Elegant Magazine

My second cousin was only seven years old when she was diagnosed with cancer and the manner in which she braved the assault of the deadly disease was ‘supernatural,’ reflected her parents who still miss her twenty five years later. While cancer has claimed countless lives, the fight against it is increasing day by day and Indira Cancer Trust is one of its fiercest advocates promulgating multiple strategies to combat the enemy. Furthermore, I received a message a few weeks back from a bosom friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer, coincidently during the month dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness, yet she overcame the setback through a heady dose of positivity and since it was detected at the early stage it was not fatal.

The National Cancer Control programme of the Ministry of Health, the Sri Lanka College of Oncologists, Sri Lanka Association of Breast Cancer Surgeons, Lions district 306B2, IFSolutions (Pvt) Ltd, Sri Lanka Cancer Society together with Indira Cancer Trust teamed up to signify the end of Paediatric Cancer Month in September and the launch of another very important cancer related month, October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

‘Suwa Arana’ – A Place for Healing, will be the first paediatric palliative care centre in Sri Lanka and is currently under construction and scheduled to open its doors in February 2023 to admit children with cancer and their families. Palliative care is individual blending of care directed at underlying illness and physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of child and family with continued re-evaluation and adjustment. Suwa Arana – will consist of 32 en-suite rooms and will provide individual care to children and their families, with all facilities provided on site that fulfils the criteria for paediatric palliative care.

“ELE” the adorable elephant is the mascot for Suwa Arana and signifies all the facets of paediatric palliative care provided there. All purchases of ELE contributes to the mission of ICT to give children fighting cancer a place to receive holistic care. The launch of the website for Suwa Arana also signifies another opportunity in providing information on this project of key significance to Sri Lanka.

The launch of Breast Cancer Awareness Month is again a significant month to commemorate as the primary cancer to effect women, this is easily preventable if detected early. The TLC (Touch, Look, Check) campaign which has been ongoing with continued “Pink Wednesday campaign” initiated by cricketing legend, Roshan Mahanama promotes a single message to all women above 20 years to examine themselves on a monthly basis.

Speaking at the event, representing the National Cancer Control Program of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Irosha Nilaweera highlighted the Sri Lankan situation for breast cancer with 2500 to 3000 women being diagnosed with breast cancer every year with a trend of increased prevalence with increasing age and reaching a peak at ages between 45 to 65 years. Paediatric cancers in Sri Lanka are also increasing with a new patient load of 750 diagnosed annually with Leukemia being the highest in number. The need for paediatric palliative care services is highlighted in the Strategic Plan on Childhood and Adolescent Cancer Care 2021-2025 which was launched by the Ministry of Health.

Dr. Thushari Hapuarachchi, Consultant Clinical Oncologist from National Cancer Institute Maharagama and the only specialised trainer for paediatric palliative care in Sri Lanka serving as a master trainer in palliative care and an EPEC trainer in paediatric palliative care, commenting at the event, spoke of the absolute need for Sri Lanka to promote and support the initiatives to strengthen paediatric palliative care in Sri Lanka in line with requirements.  She congratulated Indira Cancer Trust in this effort of setting up the first paediatric palliative care in Sri Lanka which puts Sri Lanka in line with the World Health Organisation global initiative for childhood cancer.

Lion Indhra Kaushal Rajapakshe, District Governor 306B2 for 2021-2022 speaking at the event expressed his happiness in supporting Suwa Arana through setting up a ‘Lions floor’ within the building which will house eight families. The district also plans to have a long term collaboration with Indira Cancer Trust in maintaining this effort. Mr. Gratien Fernando – President Elect of District 306B2 and Mr. Johnny Fernando presented a cheque to Indira Cancer Trust signifying Children’s Day, to support activities conducted for children with cancer.

Launching the website suwaarana.org Mr. Daniel Ortiz, shareholder and Mr. Niraj Appuhamu, CEO of IF Solutions (Pvt) Ltd expressed their commitment to this project as the donor and developer of suwaarana.org. This will create an opportunity for much advocacy so that the world will know about this unique initiative in Sri Lanka.

“ELE” mascot of Suwa Arana is indeed a symbol of inspiration and hope. Ms. Sonali Perera, volunteer management coordinator of Indira Cancer Trust sponsored the total production of the first 200 ELEs and handed over her donation to Indira Cancer Trust and afterwards to all dignitaries at the head table. ELE will be available for sale through suwaarana.org website and all proceeds from the sale of “ELE” will go towards Suwa Arana – A place for healing.

Speaking at the event, Dr. Nissanka Jayawardana, Consultant General Surgeon and Breast Cancer Surgeon (SLBCS), President elect, Sri Lanka Society of Breast Cancer Surgeons highlighted the importance of detecting breast cancer early. He stated that the patients who are seen by them are at late stage of breast cancer requiring extensive surgery and this can be averted by early treatment. National Hospital, Sri Lanka and the Colombo South Hospital have walk in breast clinics which can be accessed by anyone who detects a lump and all necessary investigations are carried out within few days of attending clinics and if necessary, referred for treatment immediately.  SLSBCS was set up solely with the intention of strengthening breast cancer services in Sri Lanka with plans to expand throughout the country.

Mrs. Anoja Karunarathne, President Sri Lanka Cancer Society speaking at the event highlighted the work of the Sri Lanka Cancer Society which promotes advocacy for many cancers but has a special interest in breast cancer.  An MoU was signed with Indira Cancer Trust for a joint programme for advocacy.

Finally, Chairperson and Trustee of Indira Cancer Trust, Dr. Lanka Jayasuriya Dissanayake acknowledged the partner organisations for their commitment to address two types of cancers in Sri Lanka namely paediatric and breast cancer and ensured continuous commitment from Indira Cancer Trust. Since its inception in 2016 it has grown into an organisation conducting over 20 programmes with a volunteer force of over 600, supporting patients with cancer and their families.

Suwa Arana – A Place for Healing will be a unique initiative that will promote the concept of healing in an environment of care, delivered by a team of dedicated professionals.

Dr. Dissanayake also highlighted the importance of self-examination for all women over the age of 20 years. The TLC (Touch Look Check) campaign highlights this need and encourages self-examination every month – seven days after the start of the menstruation. This message is to all women to look after themselves first so that they are in good health to support their families. A special appeal was also made to all males to make sure they look after the ladies in their lives by encouraging TLC.

Further information on any of the above can be obtained through Indira Cancer Trust Helpline 0112-363-211.