Cancer survivors hold out hope as they do their bit to raise awareness about the dreaded disease

It has been a scourge of humankind since ages. Even the cure in many cases proves elusive. Therefore if one were to survive this bane, they would have a befitting reason to rejoice. The second Saturday of every February is celebrated as Cancer Survivor's day globally. To commemorate the event around 200 cancer survivors (both adult and children) came together at Dilli Haat to raise awareness through a variety of entertainment programmes under the auspices of Cancer Sahyog, a support group under The Indian Cancer Society.

Cancer Sahyog is primarily a voluntary organisation consisting of cancer survivors and other volunteers who provide emotional and limited material support to cancer patients across the city, focusing mainly on the patients from the economically weaker sections. Speaking on the occasion, Rupinder Kaur, the organisation's Vice President said, “The volunteers of Cancer Sahyog regularly visit and counsel patients at different hospitals across the city. The patients whom we meet are really nervous and in much need of some emotional care and we do our best to provide that.” She added, “Many of our volunteersthemselves being cancer survivors can understand their state of mind having undergone a similar trauma themselves.” Some of the hospitals covered by Cancer Sahyog include- All India Institute of Medial Sciences (AIIMS), Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute (RGCI), Batra Hospital, Artemis Hospital, Medanta Medicity and Army R&R Hospital. This is besides the nominally priced detection centre run by them on Babur Road. “Sometimes we receive donations from corporate houses in cash and kind which helps us in giving juice, biscuits, water bottles and medicines free of cost to these patients,” responded Kaur when asked about the operational part of this voluntary and autonomous initiative.

“One of the most painful aspects of this disease is the fate which befalls upon the woman of the house, if the man falls ill no pains would be spared for his treatment, but if the same happens to a woman she would be dumped and left in the lurch to fend for herself. The money factor takes precedence, the man is the breadwinner in most cases, whereas when it comes to the woman a choice has to be made between the upkeep of children and imminent financial hardship the costly treatment causes.”

Through the afternoon various members of Cancer Sahyog presented speeches, songs and dances. Also a teenage band from a city school called Kids Can Konnect performed at the event. Throughout the harmful effects of tobacco and alcohol were discussed. But the most moving of it all were the gritty stories of some of the survivors like Usha Ohri. Ohri's husband died in a car accident when her child was merely two years old, few years later she was diagnosed with blood cancer. Working as the front office manager in a Chandigarh hotel, she had to leave her job and undergo rounds of treatment in the face of severe financial hardship and inimical relatives, who had even declined to take care of her child.

“My friends were my pillar of strength and hope through my days of struggle,” she spoke in a tear-choked voice, “They took care of my child and me, emotionally and financially when the doctor had given me less than six months time to live.I had said to myself that I would not give up, I had to live, I had to live for my child and for all my friends who had put so much faith in me and loved me so much.” With her resilience and optimism Ohri triumphed over death, which seemed imminent when a relapse occurred and she had to undergo a bone marrow transplant in the U.S.

Explaining it in the context of gender bias, Kaur remarked, “One of the most painful aspects of this disease is the fate which befalls upon the woman of the house, if the man falls ill no pains would be spared for his treatment, but if the same happens to a woman she would be dumped and left in the lurch to fend for herself. The money factor takes precedence, the man is the breadwinner in most cases, whereas when it comes to the woman a choice has to be made between the upkeep of children and imminent financial hardship the costly treatment causes.”