THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Like many bloggers, the virtual space was a refuge for Arifa. She put down her thoughts, penned her poems, shared interest in films and interacted with similar minds through social networking. But unlike many bloggers, this Senior Oncologist at Pariyaram Medical College did not log in to the e-world to pass time. Instead, Dr Arifa K C formed a network of bloggers and netizens which was ready to spare a few pennies every month for the treatment of cancer patients who came from poor families.
A small thought, but that has changed her life and the lives of many poor patients who come to her, though in a small way. It was the sight of a 18-year-old girl suffering from ovarian cancer which prompted Arifa to seek financial help from her online friends for the first time. The girl, from a fishermen family, was studying for plus-two and had lots of zeal left for life. In small changes, the doctor collected money for the girl’s treatment from her online group.
‘’Social networking showed me the goodness left in humankind. There were many people willing to part with a small amount every month, which went into the treatment of a patient who came to me at Pariyaram. It wasn’t a big amount, but it was definitely a big help to most of them. There were many patients who could not raise even Rs 500,’’ Dr Arifa says.
Many years into her profession, Arifa knew what every patient longed for. Emotional, creative and of course financial support. Most of the patients who came to her were from poor families, many of whom never came back once diagnosed with cancer. Arifa, who also has a background in palliative care, could easily relate to the trauma many went through.
‘’I only bridged the two - a group who needed help and a group who were willing to spare money. I never let the patients know who are helping them and I never post details of my patients online,’’ she says.
Dr Arifa’s husband, Mubarack Sahi, is the head of Community Medicine at Pariyaram. They have two children, a boy and a girl.
According to Arifa, cancer is not a disease that affects your neighbours only and doesn’t reach you. That is long passe, cancer reaches every family sooner or later. It’s curable when detected at the early stage and that’s why Arifa and a couple of similar-minded people have been engaged in giving training to women to detect possible cancerous lumps in their bodies, especially to detect breast cancer. At a ‘grantha sala’ (local library) in Kolappuram in Kannur, she gives women tips to detect lumps and on healthy life and diet.
‘’It is late detection which claims many lives in cancer. The women are engaged in NREGA work. They gather at the library after work for the health sessions,’’ she says. It is a comprehensive health village programme run by the hospital, Arifa says.
Arifa was in the city, all the way from Kannur, to attend a discussion on moral policing held at Thiruvananthapuram Medical College as part of an event when we caught up with her. Her poems could be read at <http://whitecolourdiary.blogspot.in/>