A caring hand in cancer fight

NGO Can Kids is winning hearts  by providing counselling and care to  kids battling cancer as  well as their parents 

Published: 24th November 2019 10:41 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th November 2019 10:41 AM   |  A+A-

Children afflicted with cancer are encouraged to pursue painting and other creative pursuits at the Can Kids set-up at AIIMS.

Children afflicted with cancer are encouraged to pursue painting and other creative pursuits at the Can Kids set-up at AIIMS. (Photo | Shekhar Yadav, EPS)

NEW DELHI:  All of four years, Dev was engrossed in lending colours with his crayons to the huts sketched on a white drawing sheet, as his mother Annu Devi fed him mouthfuls in between telling him a story.Next to Dev, sat three-year-old Aditya Verma, helping him pick the right colours and guiding him along as he went about giving shape and form to his imagination.

The setting, as one may have mistakenly assumed, wasn’t a daycare centre but the Institute Rotary Cancer Hospital (IRCH) building, or the Cancer building as it’s commonly called, on the campus of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

“He (Dev) won’t settle down and be at peace till he has a crayon in his hand. He won’t eat either. He is attracted to colours and loves to paint. If this was only about his chemotherapy sessions, he wouldn’t be here. However, it’s because there are more children his age, around him engaged in painting and similar activities that he likes coming here.

"The ambience here makes him feel good,” Annu told this newspaper.On a mattress spread out on the floor sit several other children, along with their parents. Though a spirited bunch, the children are all stricken with cancer and what brings them together is their doggedness and determination to fight the killer disease.

And, what brings them under one roof is Can Kids, an NGO working for children battling cancer. Offering paediatric and holistic care, it holds sessions where children, largely belonging to economically weaker sections, are given care, guidance and even monetary assistance in their fight against the disease. They are regular visitors to AIIMS for cancer treatment.

Little Dev is diagnosed with Orbital rhabdomyosarcoma or RMS, which is an aggressive and highly malignant form of cancer that develops from skeletal (striated) muscle cells that have failed to fully differentiate. It is generally considered to be a childhood disease, as a vast majority of those battling or falling prey to this condition is below the age of 18.

Aditya, who is battling blood cancer, visits the country’s premier hospitals regularly for his chemotherapy sessions.

“My son finds it easier to deal with the pain that he has to go through while undergoing chemotherapy when he is here. Even I feel better exchanging words with mothers who are in the same boat as me. We narrate each other’s stories of hardship and motivate ourselves to keep going,” Usha Verma, Aditya’s mother, said.

“I come all the way from Bulandshahr. I have been coming to AIIMS since the time Dev, my second son, was diagnosed with cancer. After his check-up one day, I saw a lot of people gathering at this spot. Curiosity drew me there and, over time, I found a new family. Many distressed mothers like me not only found a caring hand here but also help,” Annu said.

Apart from encouraging children to take up creative pursuits, the NGO also provides counselling to their parents on how to deal with the killer disease.

"For the counselling sessions, they have volunteers, comprising mothers whose wards fought and won the cancer battle.“Who can be a better guide than a mother who saw his child overcome cancer? My son was diagnosed at an early age. We fought the battle together and won.

Now, he is working and happily married. We realised offering mental and emotional support would help such children and their parents. The disease is curable. All one needs is courage,” Abha Singh, a volunteer, said.

The NGO was started by Poonam Bagai and Sonal Sharma. While the former is a cancer survivor, the latter’s daughter was diagnosed with blood cancer and was treated at AIIMS back in 1998.

Recalling her daughter’s battle with cancer, Sharma said, “It was here that I, after consulting my husband, decided to do something for families which can’t afford cancer treatment. I joined the Indian Cancer Society.

"It was in 2004 that the NGO was born.”

“We provide the best possible treatment, care and support to cancer-stricken children and their families from the time of diagnosis, through treatment and into survivorship, or relapse, palliation and bereavement,” Bagai said.

Footprints in 17 states and counting

Can Kids follow a model of support — YANA (You Are Not Alone). Having started its journey at AIIMS, Delhi, the NGO has marked its footprints in 17 states and 24 cities.

Aiming for holistic care of children afflicted with cancer across states, Can Kids currently has 1,192 members.

Apart from encouraging children to take up creative pursuits, the NGO also provides counselling to their parents on how to deal with the killer disease.

For the counselling sessions, they have volunteers, comprising mothers whose wards fought and won the battle against cancer.  

It partners other organisations and state governments in providing support to distressed families.

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