Downtown

‘Together, we can overcome’

Dr. Lakshmi Vijayakumar, a psychiatrist and founder of Sneha (a helpline for suicide prevention), spoke about bereavement and gave a few tips on overcoming grief, at the bereavement support meet.  

As Hollywood actress Jennifer Aniston once said, “Cancer affects all of us, whether you’re a daughter, mother, sister, friend, co-worker, doctor or patient.”

Take for example, Ramesh*, who lost his wife Komal* to cancer last year. Her death devastated both Ramesh and their 16-year-old daughter Anjali*, who was close to her mother. The father and daughter never bonded with each other emotionally, which posed a whole new challenge for Ramesh. Anjali had gone into a shell; lack of communication strained the relationship. Both needed help to cope with the loss.

Finally, it took a bereavement support meet, organised by the NGO Cancare Foundation, to help the father and the daughter understand each other and bond emotionally. Stories and experiences shared by relatives of several cancer patients enabled the duo to later talk to each other about their common loss.

Ranga Kumar, a social worker and one of the trustees of Cancare Foundation, and other volunteers helped in the healing process.

“We advised him to take his teenage daughter to a beauty salon or get back from work a little early and spend quality time with her,” she recounts.

The first edition of the Bereavement Support Meet, held two months ago, brought together 20 families that were collectively battling pain and grief resulting from the loss of their loved ones.

Help for caregivers

During and after the treatment (or even after death of the loved one), the life of a cancer caregiver is painful, points out Ranga.

The people who come for the meet have lost somebody they cared for. As they are battling similar problems, there is empathy, she says.

As the meet progressed, a wave of emotions swept through the small room in a city hotel where it was organised. Some cried, and others verbalised their pain. A few spoke about how to overcome their grief.

“They shared a light moment with each other and made friends as well,” she adds.

Now that the first edition of the Bereavement Support Meet has generated positive results, the trust is planning to organise such meets every two months.

“We have a database of cancer survivors and caregivers. We hope the meet will help them improve the quality of their lives,” smiles Ranga, who has served as a counsellor for cancer patients for over 34 years.

Empathetic hearing

Ranga, who had joined the Cancer Institute, Adyar, as a volunteer to help patients in various ways, stresses that talking and listening to the close ones of the patient plays a crucial role. She substantiates her point with an anecdote from her life.

“My son was five years old when I joined the Cancer Institute. I wanted to do something with my life. I started helping people fill up forms and get their biopsy done. Some even stopped to talk and share their anxieties with me. I soon noticed every staff was too busy to spare some time to sit and talk to these patients and their families. Soon, I set up a table at the reception and put a board that read: ‘May I Help You?’ Slowly, people started coming and talking to me. Then, a friend from the United States introduced me to the concept of ‘support system’ — a term unheard of in India 30 years ago. With the help of two cancer survivors, I set up a support group called Sanctuary at the institute. And, I was surprised to see the number of people who came to us for a word of encouragement and hope.”

(*names changed on request)

Five years ago, four oncologists, a social worker, a cancer survivor and a cancer caregiver realised the need to reach out to people suffering from cancer, at their homes. With this objective in mind, they started Cancare Foundation, which today provides free treatment and palliative care to cancer patients, at home.

Under this initiative, trained nurses administer medicines and treatment, and offer palliative care as well at home. Later, realising these patients cannot be confined at home till the treatment terminates, the team rented 10 rooms at Rama Rao Polyclinic. Here, cancer patients, irrespective of their financial background or caste, are given free treatment.

“We will look after the patient till his/her death, free of cost.”

They also send their nurses for special training at a Palliative Care Unit in Trivandrum, under the tutelage of Dr. Rajagopal, who is one of the doyens of palliative care in the country.

To get in touch with Cancare Foundation, call 044-26411859, 9841094282

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 10:43:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/%E2%80%98Together-we-can-overcome%E2%80%99/article16078782.ece

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