A 17-year-old engineering student from a small-town Satna, in Madhya Pradesh, Shubham was preparing for the Indian Army. He would hit the gym four times a week and was physically fit. So, in October 2014, when he suddenly began losing weight and falling sick regularly, his family had every reason to panic. Things became worse when his vision started failing him as well and that’s when the family admitted him in the local civic hospital, which confirmed that he was suffering from blood cancer. For a family whose monthly income is Rs 5,000 per month, life changed overnight; a treatment worth Rs six lakh was far from reality. However, they mustered up the courage and hope and came to Mumbai – the city of dreams. Here, during one of the hospital visits, they came in touch with the Gunvanti J. Kapoor Medical Relief Charitable Foundation (GJK Foundation), which helped Shubham’s family with the requisite paperwork and put him in touch with various trusts that could help them with the finances.
Today, Shubham has completed four chemotherapy sessions and is nearing the completion of his treatment. He says,
My dream is to join the Indian Army and I won’t let cancer defeat me. I need to fight the enemies one day; so I need to fight cancer first.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is one of India’s major public health concerns, with about 2.5 million existing cancer patients and adding one million new cases every year. The lack of timely intervention may have the chance of the disease rising fivefold by 2025. Thankfully, there are organisations such as GJK Foundation, which have cancer as one of their core focus areas and have started multiple projects with an intent to strengthen opportunities and improve the overall quality of life of communities.
Started in 2000, GJK Foundation was set up by a son in memory of his mother, Gunvanti J. Kapoor, who is fondly remembered as someone who always helped others by going out of her way. Until 2010, GJK Foundation was only into funding for tuberculosis, cancer and education. But, later the programme was refined to be more focused towards cancer. Bhavisha Sanadhya, Executive Director of GJK Foundation says,
The Foundation walks every patient through the trauma of treatment and the burden of coping with the disease through a series of interventions.
Thus, in 2013, GJK Foundation started the Patient Guidance Programme, which empowers cancer patients by explaining treatment procedures, liaising with social work departments to avail facilities, assist with finance and accommodation by building a network of different trust and organisations working in the cancer space, and organising group support meetings to provide psychosocial support and motivational counselling. The Foundation has successfully implemented the programme in five hospitals in Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana. Some of the successful interventions under the programme are –
- Chemotherapy education – By incorporating a holistic approach, Bhavisha says, “Along with accurate information regarding the disease and treatment procedures, we also demystify the domineering fear surrounding chemotherapy, provide diet counselling and guidance on maintaining proper hygiene as well as necessary post-chemotherapy care.”
- Financial guidance and accommodation – Although there are numerous trusts and government schemes that provide financial support to cancer patients, the procedures, forms and documentation required is often time-consuming and difficult to comprehend that a majority of the patients forcibly abandon their quest for financial help. GJK Foundation hand-holds such patients through the entire process by acting as a mediator between patients and financial support institutions. As for the accommodation, Bhavisha says, “Given that people from all parts of the country come to Mumbai to seek treatment, those who can’t afford basic necessities end up sleeping on the streets.” To tackle this, GJK has partnered with the Indian Cancer Society to provide accommodation facilities to outstation patients.
- Emotional support – The Foundation also provides regular and intensive individual and group counselling sessions for both patients and families to encourage them to undergo regular treatment and complete it.
Since November 2013, GJK Foundation has worked very closely with Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, among others across various verticals such as adult hemanto-lymphoid unit, breast oncology unit, gastro-intestinal unit, and urology unit. Today, GJK Foundation has served the diverse needs of over 16,000 patients in all five hospitals it has partnered with. It has also facilitated 432 group chemo-education sessions for both patients and families along with nearly 60 patient support group meetings. And still, there is so much more to tackle. Bhavisha says,
The biggest challenge when outstation patients come to Mumbai is meeting their basic necessities such as utensils, toiletries, digital thermometers and glucometers, wheelchairs and folding walkers, all of which are needed in big numbers.
If you would like contribute towards a worthy cause by providing essentials to outstation cancer patients, you can donate here.
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