By A Staff Reporter, Kathmandu, Sept 19: In a
developing country like Nepal, where resources are scarce and mental health
awareness remains a challenge, one woman's determination to make a difference
has sparked a remarkable journey of hope and change.
Meet Terisa Tamang, the founder of Dhairya Cancer Foundation, whose passion for supporting cancer patients and addressing mental health stigma has transformed lives and perceptions across Nepal.
It all started when Terisa was just 17 years old. A national news broadcast introduced her to the tragic story of a teenage boy battling kidney cancer, who, in desperation, took his own life. Deeply moved by this heart-wrenching event, Terisa was inspired to do something to help cancer patients facing not only physical struggles but also mental health challenges.
In Nepal, the lack of specialized counseling centers and proper services for cancer patients presented a daunting obstacle. However, an eye-opening trip to the United Kingdom changed Terisa's perspective. Witnessing how UK hospitals prioritized cancer patients' mental health, she returned to Nepal with a newfound determination to establish the Dhairya Cancer Foundation.
But it wasn't an easy journey. Terisa faced numerous challenges, including difficulty explaining the importance of emotional support to health workers and educated individuals who dismissed the significance of psychosocial assistance. Some even questioned why anyone would spend money on counseling when they could save it for medical treatment.
Despite the discouragement and pressure to go abroad for further studies, Terisa remained steadfast in her commitment to create a positive impact within Nepal. She knew that the perception of counseling needed to change, especially among cancer patients who feared societal judgment and ostracization. The prevailing belief that counseling was solely for "crazy" or "mad" individuals had to be challenged, and Terisa was determined to do just that.
One critical aspect that Terisa identified during her psychosocial support sessions was the glaring disparity in how female cancer patients were affected compared to their male counterparts. Women, often the heartbeats of households, found themselves battling not only the physical pain of cancer but also societal expectations. Ignored by family members, burdened by household responsibilities even when unwell, and grappling with emotional neglect from husbands, these women faced an uphill struggle that impacted their mental well-being significantly.
Through the Dhairya Cancer Foundation, Terisa and her team have worked tirelessly to provide a safe space for these women. The foundation's initiatives, such as art therapy for cancer-afflicted children collaborating with Kanti Childrens’ Hospital, peer support programs, and a unique knitting socks campaign representing different types of cancer, have empowered and uplifted nearly 30,000 individuals. The colors and symbolism of the socks speak volumes—lavender for all types of cancer, pink for breast cancer, golden for childhood cancer, and more, each thread woven with hope and awareness.
Terisa's vision for the future is ambitious yet rooted in compassion. She plans to expand mental health programs across Nepal and establish specific counseling centers tailored to the needs of cancer patients and their families. With unwavering determination, she seeks to empower every individual affected by cancer, offering them hope, endurance, and vital mental health support.
In the face of adversity, Terisa's resilience and commitment shine through. Her unwavering dedication to her homeland and its people have made a profound impact, breaking down mental health barriers and encouraging society to recognize the importance of emotional well-being.
Terisa Tamang's story is a testament to the transformative power of one individual's passion and determination. In a nation where mental health awareness is crucial, her efforts have lit a beacon of hope, illuminating the path towards a brighter and more compassionate future for all of Nepal.