At 25 years we are happy that we have been called for to help in the fight against cancer by 2360 individuals. That we have successfully taken them to victory hundreds of times makes us feel really privileged.
The patient support program began with Sakthi a 6 yrs old boy with Acute lymphoblastic leukemia who incidentally inaugurated our trust on 4th Dec 1993 at a tiny ceremony at my residence . He didn’t make it to victory and the next 20 odd also did not do so .Most of them had come in quite advanced stages and our assistance could help them very little.
The shift to Coimbatore also got cases to us early in diagnosis. Balan a carpenter with a highly curable cancer, Hodgkin’s disease was the first beneficiary who raced past the victory line. The second one was Ms. P , a case with cancer of the ovary . Supporting her was quite a challenge. We had just taken roots in Coimbatore and had very little funds. Usually unless we have funds for the entire course of treatment we did not venture in taking up a patient. This was a young girl of 12 and she had elder sister also succumbing to the same disease. We had to somehow salvage the only surviving kid in the family. An appeal was put up to one and all and people started contributing. But the donations only came as 50s or 100s and each cycle cost 15000 plus. The number of hands I begged was countless nevertheless we managed to raise funds in time for each her course. In 2000 when we stamped her cured after 4 years of follow up our joy was limitless.
In the initial years of the trust to raise funds at par with need for support of patient care was very tough but that it did not deter us taking up deserving patients for fully sponsored treatment . For 2 of our boys a newspaper appeal helped and our first Fund raising concert gave us a small buffer and this was strengthened further by fund left by Mr. Jayaraman, founder trustee and emboldened us to take up the treatment of children like suganthi .
While we were steadily taking patients and managing funds for their treatment a group of so called ‘elite “ Coimbatoreans floated a rumor that we actually do not have patients being supported but we are raising funds in “pseudo “ names for my personal financial benefit. In a measure to quell this rumour , we got our supported patients to come on stage in the fund raising concert held in November 2000. And for the next couple of years we did the same at our concerts and we are thankful that our beneficiary patients consented for this appearance. Even this did not deter few of the same , a person took up a door to door campaign to malign us. A particular person called up every name in the person’s phone book to tar to our image . Fortunately the more the negative campaign, more came the funds andmore number of patients sought our help.
The year 2001 brought a radical change to our patient support program. The Mumbai chapter was opened on 4th Dec 1999 and the 1st fund raising concert was held in Jan 2001. At the concert a new and huge hand of support came in the guise of Mr.G.K.Ramamurthy , founder GKR Foundation. He began with a solid contribution of Rs. 15 lakhs and promised a never ending support towards treatment of patients. He has been true to his word and till date nearly 200 patients have been taken up for complete sponsorship of treatment with his contribution. We are indeed grateful to him for making our lives so easy.
He was also a lucky charm and with him a host of others joined in the sponsorships. We crossed the 100 mark in terms of patient support in the year 2001 and in 2004 went past 200 mark. The hundreds after that came in quick succession and the Mumbai chapter has been contributing to this shift of pace.
In 2008 we had another boost to our patient support. We opened our own charitable hospital in Chennai and now we could give patients the best possible mode, without any compromise and in really small budgets. Around 1540 patients have received chemotherapies here and from the year 2014 one after the other they are emerging as cancer victors. This is really satisfying and we hope that from a day care facility we will grow to a full-fledged cancer centre with all facilities under one roof. .
Our support of patient does not end with treatment or its sponsorship but beyond that to counseling , providing ancillary care during treatment and finally rehabilitating them as useful citizens in the community. The details of each of these is given in further sections.
Finally it is the victory that counts for all care providers. For this we have considered only patients who have been supported either totally or partially . And we have further narrowed it to the data from Chennai – Coimbatore sector A total of 186 patients have been supported in this manner in this sector, Of these 45 personshave emerged as victors which is close to 25 % ! 21 of these are on treatment still and 16 of them have completed treatment are on follow up.We hope that a sizeable number of this 37 will also emerge victorious & bring to us the standard 40 % cure rate !
Victory or otherwise we from the trust are happy that we have had the opportunity to play a little role in the actual treatment of few cancer affected. The success in a fraction of them has made us feel worthy and motivated us to push ourselves more in the area.
Vasantha Memorial Cancer Centre
Ashok Nagar , Chennai
The ambitious project of Vasantha memorial trust , a 1.2 crore rupees charitable cancer hospital Vasantha Memorial Cancer centre – stood alive with the aid provided by 898 donors and was inaugurated on 27th Aug 2008 at Ashok Nagar Chennai. Charities & philanthropist further contributed to develop an ICU like facility at the day care ward, equipped the laboratory to the required level, sponsored the treatment of cancer affected and even supported the staff salaries .The local media was generous and word of mouth had created an impact. Patients started to seek in help and soon chemotherapies began. In the initial months many of them wanted a second opinion, some came to explore and some thought it was a palliative care home. The turning point was in Jan 2009 when a newly diagnosed case child with blood cancer and a lady with Breast cancer were started with treatment. Then on it was steady progress and both the poor and middle class people with various cancers & blood diseases started coming here for definitive treatment.
Another landmark year was 2014. This year persons who were hitherto patients with us emerged as Cancer victors and stood with happiness & pride at the Cancer victors day celebrations. It was a great moment for us! The success of treatment at our centre was now proven! In the coming years the numbers have swelled and victors emerged from here are a sizeable chunk at this function today.
Till date this hospital has seen a turnover of 10,000 patients and the new cases taken up of treatment is 1540.
What makes us happy is that every patient who has sought our help has been taken care of well. The treatment is at par with any other cancer centre in the world. The staff here is highly trained. 80% of patients get free treatment. The rest get a host of concessions, 20% off on medicines, highly discounted surgeries & radiotherapy.
The Nalam aayiram scheme gives one month’s treatment of patients affected by Chronic Myeloid leukemia , a blood cancer at Rs.1000/ per month irrespective of financial status .Thousand plus FREE mammograms have been made available to deserving women . Free Pap Smear camps have been held periodically. And several other essential tests for the treatment of cancers, including PET scan have been provided with heavy discounts or free Looking back at our work over the decade, this small centre has made a change to a small number of people but the difference it has made to their lives is very big. .In the decade that comes next we hope to be much stronger, make bigger differences, rope in more people both lay and medical and strive to make tomorrow cancer free.
Vasantha Memorial Cancer Centre, Mumbai
In the 10 years since the Mumbai chapter began its operations the chapter had become very busy and it was difficult to function out of the Trustee’s flat. Secondly cancer screening camps were receiving good patronage and a space was required for this. On 4th Dec 2011 the trust opened its own office at a 2 bedroom flat at Kannamwar nagar in Vikhroli .The place also functioned as clinic and was to become a rehabilitation centre in the future.
It is a hub of activity from the day of its inauguration. The centre receives patients seeking aid or counseling, till date 929 patients have visited the centre. Apart from patients, visitors include donors, local people involved in Seva Mandals and people from Institutions seeking to organize screening camps or cancer awareness talks etc. Weekly Pap smear camps held on Wednesdays & Fridays gathers a a large number of women and so far 2953 women have been screened here.
With the commencement of the Vasanth Mitra program, the Mumbai centre has seen a huge surge in footfall. Started in Aug 2018, this is a support group for Breast cancer survivors – 275 women visited the centre in the course of 7 such meetings held between 21st Nov 17 to 3rd Nov 18. The program has been quite a success as seen by the increased attendance in successive meets. The last meeting in Nov 2018 saw a huge attendance of 82 women, due to which we had to hire a bigger hall nearby!
This year, we added one more activity at the Mumbai centre viz., rehabilitation activity for women under the rehabilitation scheme for cancer survivors. Cancer survivors regularly come to the centre to stitch bags, pouches etc .
Other activities at the centre include training workshops; Diwali & Christmas parties for cancer patients, workshop for breast cancer educators, regular volunteer meetings etc..
Volunteers also come regularly to the centre to coordinate the various activities and also to maintain and update registers, data-entry, preparation of reports etc.
The centre has received very good patronage, is active all 365 days and it hopes grow bigger and involve morein the fight against cancer.
The trust has been associated with Tata Memorial Hospital for more than a decade and this has brought a very fruitful and satisfying experience for us. With the opening of help desk in 2009 at the Golden jubilee block, it has become easy for patients to access aid from us. It functions from Mondays to Fridays from 9.00am to 5.00 pm and is manned by volunteers & staff.. Mr. Viswanathan, our volunteer is a regular at Tata Hospital for many years now & from this year we have another volunteer Mr. Sitaraman, They are ably assisted our staff , Ms.Prabhavati Mhatre & Ms.Namita Ghadi . On special occasions & for patient counseling they are also joined by volunteers, Latha, Aarti, Valli & Shanta.
At the desk patient appeals are received and thereafter their prognosis is discussed with the doctor concerned and visit is also made to the accounts department to check the balance of funds in the patients’ account. The patients here receive assistance from a number of NGOs and this pooled into their account at the hospital. Deserving patients are then given aid. Coordination of patient related activities in the hospital and mobilizing patients for outdoor programs are also taken care by the people manning the stall. A synopsis our activities here are as follows :
Total number of patients sponsored till date is 1906. Many of the patients were taken up for sponsorship more than once 4839 patients and their attendants were counseled in the wards on personal hygiene during chemotherapy.
Hundreds of children were distributed Raincoats, notebooks & pencils .
1150 painted diyas were distributed to the children on the occasion of Diwali.
1615 breast operative patients were counseled on drain care & suture care.
Gifts were distributed in the female ward on the occasion of Women’s day.
Christmas parties & Diwali parties are organized on a regular basis
Rose day is also celebrated here every year.
The trust opened its Mumbai chapter on 4th Dec 1999 at the premises of the Hematology dept at KEM hospital then headed by Dr. Farah Jijina . It commenced work by sponsoring the chemotherapy of deserving patients in the ward and soon took up more patient related activities Personal Hygiene counseling was first such step and 1000plus patients have been educated so far.
The trust also started another activity at this hospital of giving ration under the Mother & Child project. Rice, dal & Atta are given to the patients every week on Wednesdays. Mrs. Kamala Rajaram & Mr. Rajaram. Mrs. Vimala Rao & Mr. Venkatesh are regular donors for this project. Our volunteers also chip in on their birthdays & anniversaries. . Till date 2864 packets of ration have been distributed.
Volunteers Latha, Valli & Shanta engage the children in painting, crafts & other creative work. . Once a month the children are involved in a small DIY craft activity with colorful craft papers and simple techniques of folding and sticking. In about an hour the children make birds, animals, mini notebooks etc. These add vibrancy to newly opened colorful day care centre.
In December, the patients are taken for harbor cruise. For the cancer victors day celebration the sponsored patients are invited for the program. Raincoats are given to them during Monsoon and they too attend the Joy of Giving program. Our volunteers distribute gifts in the ward during Diwali & Christmas. The sponsored patients also visit our centre at Vikhroli periodically.
The activities of the Trust attracted the interest of Dr.Amin research scientist at TATA Memorial hospital , Actrec, Khargar & Dr Geethanjali Amin, visiting Gynaecologist at our Wednesday Well Women Clinic furthered it. On Thursday , 23rd Feb 2017 , the help desk was opened here and functions on
Tuesdays & Thursdays from 9 am – 1 pm.
Volunteers Mrs Dini Surendran, Mrs Pravin Khatri and Mr Khatri ,Mrs Debjani take turns in manning the help desk and also counsel patients in the wards on personal hygiene aspects.967 patients have been reached out o far. The volunteers in liaison with Mrs Bhagyashree Tillu, Medico Social Worker, ACTREC also conduct various craft activities for children at their St Jude’s children home and a few activities, games, karaoke singing etc for adults too at the Vasundhara centre. Volunteers Latha, Valli, Vibha, Shantha also join in to conduct these activities.
On special occasion like Independence day, women’s day etc special programs like Magic show, cultural programs with distributions of gifts is done. Finally sponsorship of patients’ treatment is also done though in lesser in numbers when compared to Tata Memorial,Parel.
At Sion Hospital : On 27.3.2000, cancer help desk was opened at the Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Medical College & Hospital, Sion to take care of poor patients with cancers of breast and blood.. The trust also donated 2 TVs for the Pediatric ward. Then on every Friday the trust volunteer visited the Pediatric OPD no.7 to reach out to the ALL patients. Lack of patronage caused its closure very soon…
Cancer Victors Day is ‘Diwali “to us at the trust. The triumph over Ravana, an evil force caused a festivity and so does the victory over a dreaded disease. The reason and origin of this festival of lights is several thousand years old but it never lost its charm or the quantum of joy it gathers. And over the years it has become larger in every aspect. Much like it is our cancer victors’ day program. , it began in the year 2001 in Coimbatore and went on to become bigger & bigger event that was hosted from 3 cities and is celebrated with greater zest with every passing
year & ushers in larger loads of happiness .
Yes it is happiness! The affected is happy to have conquered the disease, family & friends are happy that their loved one has retained life and it is sans cancer & the care providers are happy that their efforts have borne fruits. And that world is happy that is there is life after cancer. The fact that cancer can be triumphed over is best learnt on this day & that there are so many to cheer this victory is also evident on this day .
It was celebrated this year on 10t Feb at Mumbai & 11th Feb at Chennai. Preparations began 3 months before. Victors were contacted and were urged to come for the program. There is a strong stigma attached with disease and lots of people though cured of cancer are reluctant to attend this event. This is especially among the well educated and the well placed! Great efforts are taken to protect the privacy of the attendees and yet many are shy to be seen here. Anyways this year we had a very good response in both places Chennai gathering 132 & Mumbai 200 plus.
Like always this year too it was a grand celebration. Amidst cultural programs we had victors relating their tale of triumph and participate in group discussions with our special guests and also sing a few songs.. The highlight as always was the lighting of lamp ceremony, which symbolizes their rebirth after cancer. In Chennai to the special composed song sung by Ms.Bombay Jayashri, victors lined up the stage with their lit lamps. It took 300 second for the victors to do so and in that short span of time every soul in the hall was swamped a with range of emotions & flashbacks and left every eye moistened and every face sport a smile .
This year in Chennai, 12 prominent personalities from different walks of life graced the occasion and congratulated the victors and the trust for leading them to this state. In Mumbai the 4 guests who attended were associated the trust for several years and they were happy that their support had brought so much joy and worthiness. . Reputed cultural organizations, individual artistes and college students gave a variety of entertainment programs and enthralled the victors at both places.
This year we had a large number of donors supporting this program. And our “one Rose , 3 cheers “ campaign which enables people to send a rose to victors at Rs.100 /-had 500 plus takers ! This enabled us to give a grand lunch to our victors and present them a splendid gift hamper. Finally the goodbyes begin and so does the longing, the longing for the event next year and plans begin immediately.
Vasantha Mitra Support Group for Breast cancer survivors & patients – monthly get-togethers
The support group, inaugurated on 22 August 2017, has been a run-away success. While in the initial months, the trust volunteers would call up survivors to attend the meeting, over the passing months, women began to look forward to these monthly get-togethers and began to call us to enquire about the next meeting date and pass on the information to their fellow participants!
The Vasantha Mitra sessions are very much interactive. The participants have innumerable queries/doubts to ask to the experts be it doctors or psychologist or nutritionist. They had wanted to raise such queries at the outpatient clinics but couldn’t do it because the care providers were busy and now they had an opportunity to do so. Yoga & meditation sessions gave them a feel good factor. The Incense stick workshop gave them an occupational option.
One of the sessions transformed to a picnic when they were taken to Krishna resorts at Dahisar and they spent the day in fun frolic and sisterhood. On International women’ day the group was invited by Godrej & Boyce Mfg ltd., wherein a clinical psychologist interacted with them.
Christmas parties for cancer affected have been a regular feature at the Mumbai centre. Christmas means ringing in the New Year with goodies, Xmas tree and Santa Claus. And all these elements were there at the specially lit center from Tata Memorial Hospital arrived this year. Magic show, storytelling & a bunch of games enter tained the gathered.
Amongst all the merriment they were served a variety of
snacks & drinks and they returned to the hospital with a big gift hamper, which incidentally was sponsored by Ms.Sudha Shenoy and her sisters. All our staff & volunteers are enthusiastic about patient related activities and this party brought it in a little extra measure.
A home for outstation patients was donated by Mr.Jagadeesan & his wife Mrs.Rajeshwari from Kovaipudur,Coimbatore to our Chennai chapter in the year 2011. The fully furnished flat housed several patients during their chemotherapy at Chennai and they found it very In the last couple of years the number of patients coming from outstation has decreased substantially.
In view of this , the facility has been closed in January this year. The proceeds will now be utilized for the development of a rehabilitation centre at Mumbai. The trust thanks the Jagadeesans for their
huge & spontaneous donation.
To return the cancer victor back in the community as a useful & worthy citizen has been our aim since inception. The young ones have been provided assistance in education, employment & even in matrimonial expenses. The elderly have been provided monthly pensions for a very long time. Handicraft jobs have been created by us for and women embroidered kerchiefs , made bags ,pouches, dolls etc and they were provided remuneration.
In February 2018 we launched a special project in Mumbai and gave it a big thrust. Corporate sponsorships were sought and some organizations and individuals also pitched in help. The ban on plastics bags in Mumbai also came as a blessing. We started making cloth bags in full swing and they came in different sizes, colors, specifications.
During our interaction with cancer victors, we found that quite a few were interested in stitching and offered to come to the centre twice or thrice a week to learn and work. We started with three sewing machines and volunteers joined in organizing things like procuring material, maintaining registers and in finding buyers for the products. Mr.Radhakrishnan, long time well wisher of our Trust made the initial contribution for this program. When Ms. Ziaa Lalkaka from HDFC visited the centre and saw the survivors stitching, she was impressed and decided to allocate funds.
Bags became made in dozens in a day and visitors who came to the centre started picking up these and the slowly the news spread and the pickup became faster. At all our awareness programs we had a small table space for these bags and they were eagerly bought. At the stall put up recently during the Durga puja Mahotsav as many as 250 bags were sold. Organizations & corporate have also started placing orders with us. The program received further impetus when 2 more machines were donated by Lions Club of Bombay
Airport & Vardhaman Sthanakwasi Jain Sangh .
The progress of this program has really made us & the victors very happy. Vaishali Parab , a cancer affected who was supported by us during treatment and has been stamped cured in 2016 visits the centre thrice a week to stitch bags. The program has given her a vocation and the finance to be independent and also support the family. The congenial atmosphere at the centre makes her do more than what she can . Two years ago she did not know how to operate a sewing machine and today she is making bags by the dozens.
When ideas take form and it gets implemented it gets all the concerned happy. We are happy this program has met success in such a short time and cherish that it gains momentum .