Chandan Kumar was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in 2005 when he was a teen. ALL is the most common childhood cancer. However, he was kept in the dark about this till he turned 25. “I accidently overheard the doctor discuss the disease with my father. But I was not scared, as childhood cancer is curable,” says Chandan.
September is observed as Childhood Cancer Awareness month across the world. As per National Cancer Registry records, India accounts for 20 per cent (50,000 cases) of the total new childhood cancer cases diagnosed worldwide each year. A disturbing reality is that only around one in 10 of such cases receive complete therapy. However, not many are aware that childhood cancer is curable if diagnosed and treated early.
Today, Chandan is hale and hearty, and is a communications executive with CanKids KidsCan, a charitable national cancer society. The ardent debater, who has represented India in Cape Town and Ireland as a cancer survivor, is now preparing for the sixth edition of CanKids Go Gold campaign to be held in Punjab from September 24 to 28. It will be a 1,400 km long car rally covering 18 districts in the state in four days. It'll be led by eight childhood cancer survivors, and will be flagged off from Select City Mall in Saket, Delhi, on September 24. En route, the campaigners will try to collect three lakh signatures to appeal the Prime Minister to make paediatric cancer a child health priority in India.
The campaigners will also hold awareness programmes at the state’s nodal hospitals such
as PGI in Chandigarh, CMC in Ludhiana,Advance Cancer Centre in Bhatinda, CMC in Patiala, etc. It would be an exciting galore of activities, from street plays, flash mobs to insights from cancer survivors and parents.
Touting this to be one of its kind advocacy campaign in the world, Poonam Bagai, former civil servant who launched CanKids in Delhi in 2004, says, “This year, Punjab is set to raise the ‘Gold Ribbon’ as the universal symbol of hope, health, awareness and solidarity with cancer kids. “While spending time with paediatric cancer patients at AIIMS, I found that occurrence of cancer in adults is different from that in kids. Almost 75 per cent cases in children are curable if treated at the correct time."
Kapil Chawla, Hodgkin’s survivor and CanKids advocacy officer, says, “The initiative is a cohesive effort to engage the Punjab government and civil society to open cancer awareness units for patients in the state’s nodal hospitals.”
Dr Amita Mahajan, senior consultant at Apollo’s paediatric oncology division has been associated with CanKids for 13 years. “The campaign it organises is unique as it involves bureaucrats, doctors, patient advocacy groups and cancer survivors to make major headway in making optimal care accessible to every child afflicted with this deadly disease,” she says.
CanKids has 46 centres in 14 states, and supports 18,500 families. Since November 2012, the NGO has been imparting education in hospitals through three cancer speciality homes and a CanKids CanShala for children.CanKids has previouslyheld similar rallies in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and
• A child is diagnosed with cancer very three minutes somewhere in the world
• According to the Indian Council for Medical Research, childhood cancer constitutes 5.5% of total cancer cases in India
• Cure rates for common childhood cancers, such as lymphoma and leukaemia, are over 80% in the developed world, while in India, they have remained abysmally low at around 30%