Cancer : Emperor of All Maladies

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Last evening our Rotary Club hosted a program for an organization that works for the benefits of Children with Cancer: CANKIDS (cankidsindia). The team was visiting Udaipur as a part of a Rally that started from Delhi to create awareness and to collect funds for the Children suffering from the deadly cancer.

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The team consisted of Cancer Survivors and their families; it was such an emotional moment when they spoke about their fight with the disease and the general apathy and lack of awareness about the disease. While they spoke couldn’t stop the tears flooding my eyes. Having seen some of my family members fight and succumb to this deadly disease, their experiences made me go back and relive those painful memories.

“A patient, long before he becomes the subject of medical scrutiny, is, at first, simply a storyteller, a narrator of suffering—” ― Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies.

One of the team members of the CANKID was a Girl Child Cancer Survivor who had to fight cancer twice once a kid and one more time as it had relapsed. It was truly moving when she narrated her amazing story about this battle with cancer and to be open about it.  What was surprising was still there is reluctance to spend on the treatment of a girl vis-a-vis a boy, even in this age and times, and trying to get the treatment done through alternates medical routes which in most cases is an exercise in futility.

Early on when I was just a toddler lost my aunt to this disease, frankly then I was too young to fully comprehend the magnitudes of the suffering and loss it causes. Ironically one of the very first film I saw in the theatre was Dard ka Rishta which was about Childhood Cancer. As a father now I cannot even begin to imagine the suffering and the pain a child with cancer and the family has to go to.

In some section of the society there is still attach stigma and shame to this disease and they don’t want to talk about it. The patient and his suffering is sometimes so well hidden from the society, but why?? Let us open up hearts and talk about it for then maybe we may be offer help and comfort to the patient and the care givers.

My grandmother was diagnosed with cancer and she was taken to Mumbai for treatment, we were never kept in the loop and was not informed about it, it was only when we read it in the newspaper and subsequently an acquaintance in a weak moment let out the information that we came to know about it, maybe we were not old enough to digest the news then, but  ‘JIYA” as we called our grandmother came back cured and disease free. She was a lady with grit and determination who could fend off anyone, cancer was too small to bog her down.

As Siddhartha Mukherjee in his award winning book: The Emperor of All Maladies says “Cancer is an expansionist disease; it invades through tissues, sets up colonies in hostile landscapes, seeking “sanctuary” in one organ and then immigrating to another. It lives desperately, inventively, fiercely, territorially, cannily, and defensively—at times, as if teaching us how to survive. To confront cancer is to encounter a parallel species, one perhaps more adapted to survival than even we are.”

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So let us join hands and support the initiative taken in by this wonderful organization that since its inceptions in 2004 has established 41 Cankids Support Units(CSUs) in pediatric cancer centers across 15 cities; 3 Home Away from Home (HAH); 1 Canshala Special school, 1 pediatric Palliative Care Center; 18 Core service Programs; 10 disease specific or treatment intervention projects, and countless more initiatives.

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