The C-word: Cancer. It’s not an easy thing to live with — for those who are diagnosed with it or those who are have to see their loved ones cope with it. Treatment options, of course, have improved and the prognosis for most cancers is pretty good; but still, the shock of finding out about cancer, making adjustments in lifestyle, changing up the diet, figuring out what exercise works, and of course, the treatment itself are all hard on the system.
Taking care of yourself, or of someone with the diagnosis, is often compounded by a sense of isolation. And one of the best ways to deal with all these feelings and changes is with a support group.
In Pune, a charitable organization not only offers diagnosis and treatment to underprivileged women who have or might have breast cancer, it also provides them the means to deal with this calamity through counseling and a support group.
The diagnosis can cause huge upheavals; patients report feeling numb, alone, sad, angry, and very lost. “Why me?” is a question they often ask. And it has a ripple effect: friends and family, too, experience a welter of emotions. Added to the psychological burden is the issue of financial consideration.
And this is why in 1999, lawyer-turned cancer-counselor, Laleh Busheri and renowned oncologist Dr. C. B. Koppiker, teamed up to start Prashanti Cancer Care Mission. Since 1999, the organization has looked after women with breast, ovarian and cervical cancers for free, says Busheri.
The clinic welcomes all women for a check up. “And we’ve grown to have five buses that are fully equipped with machines for mammography, colposcopy, biopsy to detect women’s cancers.” These buses go into the field to check on women who may not have access to a hospital or a doctor. “We are completely equipped with state of the art diagnostics for breast and ovarian cancer. All donated, all supported by well wishers and through fundraisers.”
The organization takes care of the surgeries and radiation and underwrites any hospital fees. And then, they go the extra mile. Not only is every patient sent for counseling along with their caregivers (their parent, husband, or child), they’re also introduced to a network of cancer survivors and patients in their geographical area. The results are astounding.
Since 2009, Prashanti Cancer Care Mission has run what they call the Pink Ribbon Club (the pink ribbon is the universal symbol of breast cancer awareness). “We realized that all the patients needed support. The moment a new patient comes in, we connect them with other patients in the area and those women just take over,” says Busheri. The clinic sees women across the spectrum of age and occupation. Some are young, in their early 20s, others older; “We have everybody, from a bar girl to vegetable vendor, the wife of a mochi (cobbler) to someone who washes utensils in people’s homes as well as housewives and students. Each woman has a different concern, a different issue.”
For some it’s about self care, says Busheri. Some worry about when their hair will fall out if they do chemotherapy. Others worry about telling their children.
The group is instantly available to counsel, give advice, share experiences and generally help out. They’ve seen the members of the support group take turns cheering each other up, planning outings, arranging a car for hospital visits — and, yes organizing fun activities.
The Pink Ribbon Club also organizes monthly group activities. Sometimes they take over an entire movie theatre thanks to the generosity of the owners and catch a film; other times it’s art therapy and yoga or pedicures.
The folks at the Pink Ribbon Club believe it’s absolutely crucial to deal with cancer holistically. And the support group is key. “The effects are phenomenal,” says Busheri. “A patients who is upset calms down. Psychological support is as critical as medical support.”
A positive outlook is supposedly the key to a healthy body. As the Pink Ribbon Group at Prashanti has seen, a support group can turn a life around. Busheri says there are hundreds of success stories every year. One woman, she recalls, lost her job because of her diagnosis. She is now thriving and has found work. Another one not only beat her cancer, but went back to school and is now a counselor. Several years ago, they treated a 26-year-old who was pregnant. They helped her deliver her baby, fight the cancer and now the child is in school while the mother’s cancer is in remission.
“We never send anybody back,” says Busheri.
Prashanti Care Mission is always looking for volunteers and donors. They also conduct courses on caring for cancer patients, organize on-ground activities and maintain a year-round food bank.
Online: To learn more or to contribute in any way, visit http://www.prashanticancercare.org.
Contact: You can reach them by phone at +91-20-25656110 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit: Flat No. 1 & 2, Kapil Vastu, (Near Ratna Memorial Hospital), Senapati Bapat Road, Pune 411 016, Maharashtra
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