A cancer survivor’s tribute to Kolkata brave-hearts

New Delhi, July 7 (IANS) Continuity in treatment and the help offered by NGO-run homes for free stay during medication of children fighting cancer are the focus of a documentary film made by a cancer survivor here to spread awareness.

Kapil Chawla, who successfully fought off cancer a few years ago, has filmed the facilities at a Kolkata-based free-stay home run by Cankids … Kidscan NGO, for the ailing kids to encourage the patients from rural areas not to quit and leave in the middle of their treatment.

“Many poor children need to stay close to hospitals for weeks to undergo regular treatment. However, lack of facilities, most of the times, forces them to survive on pavements till the chemotherapy is over,” Chawla told IANS, explaining why he picked the subject for his film.

Supported by Cankids, Chawla went to Kolkata to study the impact of a newly-launched facility named “SNEHONEER”, a Home Away From Home (HAH), in the Hussainpur area that offers not only a roof over the heads of the children with cancer and their parents but also a holistic environment which promises clean and hygienic surroundings during their long drill of daily visits to hospitals.

Rations are provided and raised through local donations. There are school activities in the HAH which also has multi-functional areas for entertainment, parent forums, celebrations and therapeutic activities.

“I was surprised to see so many children hailing from the rural West Bengal and other states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and even from neighboring countries like Bangladesh and Nepal, feeling vulnerable in a big city like Kolkata,” said Chawla.

“The film captures the story of thousands of those who should be in the schools studying and playing with their peers but unfortunately have to go through a tough drill like chemotherapy,” he said.

Sraboni Dutta, 5, and Tamana Khatoon, 6, are two girls who with their families moved to Kolkata for cancer treatment and used the free-home facility.

“We do not have to live on the pavement any more,” Buli Dutta, 34, Sraboni’s mother, told IANS, sharing her experience about the Cankids free-stay home.

Bashir Ahmed, a blood cancer patient, too has moved into the free centre.

“We used to stay on the street and had little money. The home gave us a reason to hold on and fight back and today my family has a hope that my daughter will get well,” Bashir’s mother told IANS.

Chawla said: “These are poor children who are fighting cancer from a very small age. They come from different places with their parents with the hope of getting cured.”

A programme assistant from the NGO said the government-run hospitals like the Medical College and Hospital and the Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital (NRSMCH) do their bit to provide the young cancer patients with the best of treatment which goes on for as long as three years but there are limitations.

Cankids regional director and board member Mohit Aggarwal told IANS: “The HAH plays a role in preventing the poor kids and their families from leaving their treatment midway.”

Head of department at NRSMCH Prantar Chakarabarty told IANS: “Unfortunately we can’t do anything for the way they have to live.”

“We need the child to live in a close proximity to the hospital so that in case of urgency no time is wasted and the child can get right treatment at the right time. And this is the story with most of the hospitals in Kolkata treating pediatric cancer,” he added.

Chawla’s film also touches upon the issue of the initial resistance from locals by the free-stay home.

Poonam Bagai , Chairman Cankids and colon cancer survivor, told IANS: “It took a long time to convince the area residents that there was no danger to them or their families from the sick children living in the HAH.”

She said the free-stay home is a step in the direction of making the country reach the 90-95 percent curable rate of childhood cancer.

CanKids KidsCan, a registered charitable national society, focusses on providing the best possible treatment and care to children by bringing them closer to medical professionals for access to advanced treatment.

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