The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
"I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer ... and I wanted to be able to share my fears and my emotions with other patients," said the woman as she let her tears fall, speaking to a room full of 50 others.
Applause filled the room as the 40-year-old Jakartan finished her tender but charged presentation to a group of cancer patients gathered at Dharmais Cancer Hospital.
Yati had just described how the cancer cells from her tumor had begun invading her entire right breast and part of her lymph gland.
She was among the many cancer patients, survivors and affected families who attended the Tuesday discussion about the much-needed support required for cancer patients at the specialized hospital in West Jakarta.
The discussion was organized by the Cancer Information and Support Center (CISC), one of the few support groups for cancer patients in Jakarta, in cooperation with the hospital.
The support center advocates sharing with and listening to fellow cancer patients and survivors and aims to provide reliable information to new comers and their families.
As Yati completed her story, one woman in the audience, who had been listening intently and was obviously moved, stood up to tell her chapter -- which was one of recovery.
"I am only 27, and I am here to recover," she said, adding she too had joined the circle for support.
"I have stage-four colon cancer.
"And I think we all must start from within ourselves.
"We must have a strong will to survive," she said.
Founder of the group, Yuniko Deviana, 45, a survivor of breast cancer started up meetings in April 2003, when she was undergoing chemotherapy.
"When I first learned that I had breast cancer, I didn't know what I was facing," Yuniko said.
"I lost my appetite for months and thought that I was going to die any time," she said.
Yuniko said her sister-in-law introduced her to a long-time breast-cancer survivor. And it was during those first conversations that Yuniko said she regained some confidence and found the strength to carry on.
"The group is here to provide realistic support to make sure that we don't shut out any access to happiness the patients may have," she said.
As the author of a newly-published book called I Have Cancer, It Doesn't Have Me, Yuniko said, "We have to be optimistic and realistic".
"Cancer is one of the most deadliest diseases in the world, and it is very common for us to attend a series of funerals in one week.
"We are all here to lead our lives in a better way, in ever single phase of the disease," she said.
A recent study conducted by a medical research team from Stanford University and led by David Spiegel showed that patients who participated in support groups did not necessarily extend their life expectancy, but that the quality of their lives was improved.
Hospital spokesman Dr. Bambang Purwanto said most of the patients being treated at Dharmais Cancer Hospital had been diagnosed with cervical and breast cancer.
Research conducted by the Asia Link Female Cancer Program in August 2006 showed that for every 100,000 Indonesians, there are 100 cervical cancer patients.
The World Health Organization reported this year around 7.6 million people died of various kinds of cancer in 2005, and at least 8.4 million more would die within the next 10 years if the disease weren't treated effectively. (lva)