Thousands celebrate cancer caregivers at Relay for Life KL


More than a thousand people united against cancer at Kuala Lumpur’s largest cancer celebratory and remembrance evening.

Organised by the National Cancer Society of Malaysia, Relay for Life (RFL) Kuala Lumpur was held for the 12th time on 28 July at Petaling Jaya. Following the launch by Duli Yang Maha Mulia Tuanku Zara Salim, participants – patients, caregivers, family, friends, and local communities – took turns walking around a running track from 4pm to midnight.

The cancer awareness and fundraising event also featured the Luminaria remembrance ceremony, track challenges, on-stage fitness activities, and performances by survivors.

Chairperson of RFL KL Dato’ Zuraidah Atan says the theme this year is caregivers – the unsung heroes in a cancer journey. “These are the people who take care of their family members or friends tirelessly, ensure that the doctor’s advice is followed, and even advocate for better care, more funds, or more research on cancer,” she says.

However, the role of caregiving is also very stressful, and the needs of caregivers are often neglected, Dato’ Zuraidah says. Taking care of the practical needs such as transport, hospital visits, cooking and cleaning, and running other errands can be physically exhausting.

Many struggle to balance job responsibilities with their tasks while taking care of their parents or children, and some are even battling cancer themselves.

“They often fear – and feel responsible – for their loved ones’ health, but suppress these feelings because they feel they have to be a pillar of strength and hope,” she says. “They also neglect their own needs, which leads to frustration, and risk emotional as well as mental exhaustion.”

Apart from celebrating – and highlighting the importance of – caregivers at Relay for Life Kuala Lumpur, the National Cancer Society of Malaysia had also set up a toll-free cancer helpline to provide information as well as emotional support.

“When we set up the cancer toll-free helpline in 2016, we expected that most of the callers would be patients,” Dato’ Zuraidah says. “To our surprise, half of the callers are actually family members or friends, who ask many questions on behalf of the patient.

“We found that the well-being – whether physical or mental – of the patient really falls on the caregiver. We are currently strengthening our cancer support programmes, in the hope that our survivors can share the load by providing emotional and some practical help.

“Funds raised from Relay for Life will go towards these programmes – we have currently set up networks in Hospital Kuala Lumpur and Tung Shin Hospital.”

Funds will also go towards NCSM’s education and outreach activities, cancer and health screening services, as well as free accommodation for children with cancer.

NCSM is especially grateful to its sponsors and supporters Astro, Bridgestone Tyres, ROSEN Malaysia, Accenture, Idifynetz, Vitahealth, Brother International, Credit Guarantee Corporation, Magnum Cares, Shokobutsu, SHAPE Malaysia, Yakult, Popcart, Copper, and Parkson.