Tata Memorial organises sports fest for kids with cancer | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Tata Memorial organises sports fest for kids with cancer

Apr 12, 2024 09:53 AM IST

Nandini Save of Duhita Foundation, said that they would choose children who had the potential to participate in district, state and national level sports

MUMBAI: On a sunny Thursday afternoon, the doctors’ dining room at Tata Memorial Hospital’s (TMH) Golden Jubilee building in Parel is buzzing with happy paediatric cancer survivors being coached in chess, table tennis, carrom and six other sports. They are among the 250-odd paediatric cancer survivors from the city’s eight hospitals who will participate in Nabhaangan 2024, the first sports fest for children with cancer organised by TMH this weekend at the Andheri Sports Complex.

Tata Memorial organises sports fest for kids with cancer
Tata Memorial organises sports fest for kids with cancer

“As a part of the paediatric oncology department’s After Completion of Therapy (ACT) clinic and survivorship program, we began encouraging cancer survivors to participate in sporting activities and would send them to the World Children’s Winners’ Games in Russia six years ago,” said Shalini Jatia, officer-in-charge of TMH’s ImPaCCT Foundation. “Since then, more than 60 children have got into sports, of which a handful have taken it up seriously.” After the Covid-19 pandemic put a stop to sending children abroad, TMC, along with NGO Duhita Foundation, conceptualised Nabhaangan so that instead of a handful of cancer survivors, more children could participate.

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“Nabhaangan is a Sanskrit word, which means the courtyard of the sky,” said Jatia. “We want our paediatric cancer survivors to rise up to the sky and shine bright. Ever since we announced the sports fest, the atmosphere in our department and among our patients has changed from treatment to excitement.” The 250 participants—paediatric cancer survivors, patients on maintenance chemotherapy and thalassemia patients post their transplant—will take part in rifle shooting, relay races, table tennis, swimming, chess and badminton.

Standing in one corner of the TMH dining room and watching her son being coached in table tennis, Mubasshra Khan is radiant. “I have never seen my son as happy and excited in the last ten months of his blood cancer treatment journey,” said the Ahmednagar resident, whose son is being treated at the civic-run LTMG Sion Hospital. “He will be undergoing chemotherapy on April 12 and his last chemotherapy a week later. He used to be very cranky and constantly pleading to go home. However, when I enrolled him for Nabhaangan and brought him to TMH for rehearsals, I saw him all excited. He wants to participate in every sport.”

Yatharth Pathak (12), a cancer survivor who said he would be participating in the 100-metre sprint, 400-metre relay, chess and football, is equally excited. “I am looking forward to participating and sure of winning too,” he said.

Dr Shripad Banavali, director of academics at TMC, said that cancer was a disease of immunity and one way to improve immunity was through physical activity and games. “At Tata Hospital, we aren’t just concentrating on the treatment aspect but helping patients to have a better life,” he said. Dr Banavali added that annually, TMH saw approximately 4,000 new paediatric patients. “With advancements in paediatric cancer treatment, the survival rate has reached an impressive 80 percent,” he said. “By introducing them to sporting activities, we are guiding the survivors towards the opportunity to lead a normal life.”

Nandini Save (49) of Duhita Foundation, which works with paediatric cancer patients and guides them with sports coaching, said that for the fest they would be choosing children who had the potential to further participate in district, state and national level sports. Save lost her 12-year-old daughter Duhita to cancer, and said it was during her daughter’s treatment that she saw how sports activities helped in cancer treatment.

“We lost her in 2014,” she said. “It was her dream to go to Russia and participate in the games. Since then, we have been guiding paediatric cancer patients in various sporting activities. In the last two days, we have brought in coaches to guide the participants. The children are here from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock. Sports and the fest will help boost their confidence.”

Jatia said that while they had restricted the number of participants to 250, next year they planned to hold the fest at the national level. “This will be a pilot run before a bigger tournament next year,” she said. “We will have participants from hospitals across the country, and it will truly be on the lines of the World Children’s Winners Games in Russia.”

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