We won’t let you give up

Published on Feb 13, 2022 11:03 AM IST

We bring to you heartwarming initiatives that are putting smiles back on the faces of cancer patients

World Cancer Day
World Cancer Day
BySwati Chaturvedi and Ruchika Garg

We bring to you heartwarming initiatives that are putting smiles back on the faces of cancer patients. Check these individuals who are trying their best to make cancer patients feel happier.

Premi Mathew: Lending hair to a cause

The brain child of Premi Mathew, a cancer survivor, Hair for Hope India is a campaign to create awareness about hair donation. Started in 2013 in India in India, she says “Hair for Hope India was the first national campaign to create awareness about hair donation in a country steeped in tradition, where the length of hair is a measure of a woman’s beauty. Awareness was zero and all cultural values were against it. Our concept was simple, to ensure hair is converted into wigs and donated to chemo patients,” says Mathew.

Step by step assistance is provided free of cost to ensure that the hair really reaches the chemo patients. The hair donated is converted into wigs and given free of cost to cancer patients to give them to strength to fight the disease. “A lot of Indian women lose their confidence when they lose their hair and find it tough to face society with dignity. Today thousands of wigs have been donated as NGOs around the country joined the movement. Five ponytails make one wig. A unique aspect of the campaign is to provide a forum to connect five donors directly to a patient so that they know where is the hair going and can personally give the wig. It also averts the possibility of frauds misusing the cause,” she adds.

Lending hair to a cause
Lending hair to a cause

A recent development has been school boys donating hair to bring a smile to chemotherapy patients. “Hair needs to be 12 inches long. And school boys doing this is a huge act of compassion and sacrifice.”

On World Cancer Day, she urges women to self-examine themselves, “It’s very important for women to understand that breast self-examination can figure an early detection and can save a life.”

Helping cancer patients find calm amid the chaos
Helping cancer patients find calm amid the chaos

Luke Coutinho: Helping cancer patients find calm amid the chaos

Balanced and intelligent cellular nutrition, adequate movement, exercise, quality sleep, and emotional detox and wellness for cancer patients is of utmost importance. And that is what holistic nutritionist Luke Coutinho is focusing on through his programmes. He recognizes and respects all forms of medicine and feels patients can handle the side effects of cancer medications and therapies under the supervision of their own doctor and his integrative approach that revolves around deep cellular nutrition, movement, quality sleep, emotional wellness, choosing the right medical team, family, love and prayers. With a vision to build equity in cancer care and help as many people as possible with cancer, Luke has started a free program called Cancer Care - Aap Ke Liye for underprivileged, which is designed to provide help with information on nutrition, movement, sleep, emotional wellness and yoga that runs parallel with their treatment absolutely free of cost. “When I saw the tremendous suffering and hardships many of our cancer patients went through, I visualized that one day I would treat cancer patients in need free of cost. I had been speaking with my core team about executing this in the next few years. But a few days ago, I thought, why wait for five more years? In our interactions and experiences with cancer patients from low-income groups, we identified a big gap. While many of them would come to charitable trusts and hospitals to start chemotherapy, many of them dropped out of the system due to financial restraints, loss of hope, and the lack of right guidance beyond medicine. And so, our program will bridge this gap by identifying genuine cases in need of assistance and handhold them throughout their treatment, whether it is six months or a year,” says Coutinho.

Luke also conducts free webinars and masterclasses every month for individuals with cancer to motivate and inspire, break down technical know-how into edible bits, identify problem areas, and provide practical solutions. His sessions talk about immunity, emotional health, visualization, power of prayer, acceptance, letting go and forgiveness.

Turning scars into piece of art
Turning scars into piece of art

Sujatha Srihari: Turning scars into piece of art

For some chance meetings lead to a greater cause in life. When Sujatha Srihari, a tattoo artist was asked by a surgeon if she could do work on a patient with vitiligo, she agreed and that made her foray into medical tattoo. “I remember there was a patient who had just got a mastectomy procedure and a plastic surgeon was in the process of reconstructing her breast and nipple. But they couldn’t match the roughened pigmented skin surrounding the nipple. It is a cosmetic procedure and they make use of the process of skin grafting to shape it like a nipple. But in a certain case, the transplant wouldn’t stick, so I was asked if I could do a tattoo of an areola and I executed it.”

However, she feels there is a lack of awareness when it comes to reconstruction of breasts and her work with cancer survivors. “Indian sentiments are such that it becomes difficult to advertise for an areola tattoo. Not many women come for breast reconstruction so they never ever come to know of my work.”

Sujatha Srihari
Sujatha Srihari

“Have a few friends and relatives who have lived through it and lost a couple of them as well. So, my work is a personal ode to them. In the context of what I do they aspire confidence and courage in me.”

On this World Cancer Day, she hopes women will become willing and more open about reconstructive surgeries, “More people fight cancer and live to tell their story, compared to those who don’t. When you have won the war to live, live with confidence and courage. You deserve it.”

Aditi Joshi: Skincare to suit the needs of cancer patients

An online marketing place suited for the grooming needs of cancer patients was just the need of the hour. Aditi Joshi started a skin care range specifically for cancer patients and those who were going through therapy. The skin care range includes a lip balm with roman chamomile oil to keep the lips from drying due to harsh radiation from chemotherapy, a moisturizer with wheatgerm oil, and an alcohol-free cleansing spray (sanitizer) with neem oil as hygiene is a significant part of the treatment. “I founded C – positive four years ago, it started off as a very small project to build content and build awareness on people going through cancer treatment specifically and dos and don’ts while you are going through treatment. I put a lot of content with the help of medical professionals, patients to therapists, and it worked out really well. We eventually got into making products for people going through radiation and therapy, keeping in mind their symptoms. I felt like in our country specifically, we don’t really have products that people need who are going through treatment and they have to always look around as what to buy and where to get it from. Like for instance a sanitizer, for a cancer patient, you need to sanitize everything because hygiene is of utmost importance but you know alcoholic sanitizers really damage the skin for someone who is going through chemo and radiation, their skin is extremely sensitive so, I felt there was a need to make products for them. I came up with a moisturizer, a disinfectant, a surface cleaner and a lip balm. The main USP was to cater to the skin of people going through treatment and catering to their symptoms of the treatment.” All products are alcohol free and fragrance free because cancer patients get nauseated and so no essences in the product.

Skincare to suit the needs of cancer patients
Skincare to suit the needs of cancer patients

On World cancer day, she feels all of us should contribute in our small ways towards making the world better for patients, “This day is not just for awareness but for action, it’s important to know about cancer but it’s more important to be able to contribute towards it, and the best way is by being a strong pillar of support to anyone who might need one,” she signs off.

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