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We will smile again, say these kids suffering from cancer

Beginning from International Childhood Cancer Day, we spent a few days fulfilling the wishes of children suffering from cancer. They cemented our faith that after every dark night, comes a brighter day

more lifestyle Updated: Feb 26, 2019 18:11 IST
Shara Prayag and Prerna Gauba
Shara Prayag and Prerna Gauba
Hindustan Times
Champion Children,Jim Valvano,International Childhood Cancer Day
Kids playing at Hangout in Select Citywalk(Photo by Sarang Gupta/Hindustan Times)

Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul — Jim Valvano, American basketball coach who lost his life to metastatic adenocarcinoma closed his legendary speech with these words just two months before his death. These children who are bravely fighting cancer remind us of Valvano’s words. Despite quitting school, undergoing painful procedures, and staying in hospitals for months, their mind is fresh, heart robust and soul flawless. They cemented our faith that after every dark night, comes a brighter day. Beginning from International Childhood Cancer Day (February 15) , we spent a few days fulfilling their small wishes to help them forget their ordeal and escape hospital boredom. Cankids, an NGO that works for children suffering from cancer helped us reach out to them.

Fighting horrifying myths
These children are not only battling a highly misunderstood disease that has left their bodies weak, they are also battling the most shocking stigmas and taboos. Here are just some of the horrifying lies that parents of these children have been told by ‘well-meaning friends and relatives’ who know nothing about the disease. And yet, the parents refuse to believe them. Despite lack of knowledge, they didn’t lose faith and kept the fight going on to save their children. We asked Poonam Bagai, chairperson, Cankids, and Dr Archit Pandit, oncologist, Max Super Speciality Hospital to debunk the myths.

Myth: Cancer is infectious. Your child can’t play with other children.

Reality: No type of cancer is infectious. It cannot be transferred from one person to another. But the treatment of cancer compromises immunity. The child must remain in a hygienic, infection-free environment at home, school or neighbourhood.

Myth: Cancer is incurable. You are wasting time and money on your child.

Reality: Childhood cancers are curable. Cure rates can be as high as 95-99% for cancers such as retinoblastoma (eye cancer), Wilms (kidney), Hodkins lymphoma (lymph glands) and 80-95% for acute lymphocytic leukemia (blood cancer, the most common childhood cancer).

Myth: Cancer will weaken your child forever. No one will give them a job.

Reality: Cancer does not weaken your child forever. There are short term side effects of the treatment which do not persist. There may be late side effects, which doctors are working on to reduce. Your child will get a job and lead a meaningful life. No one can discriminate against a cancer survivor.

Myth: Cancer will change your child’s looks. They will never look the same again.

Reality: Cancer and its treatment may have side effects but they are never permanent. Organ preservation cancer surgery, laparoscopic and robotic cancer surgery prevents scars, reduces blood loss and morbidity and leads to early recovery.

Myth: Cancer is a result of jaadu tona. Medicines won’t heal.

Reality: We keep hearing that black magic causes cancer which is ridiculous. A large number of patients have been fully cured by medicines and surgeries.

Five-year-old Sandhya Bhaban threw a party for her friends at Hang Out, Select City Walk. The little girl just didn’t want the party to end ( (Photo by Sarang Gupta/Hindustan Times) )

Party kabhi khatm nahi hogi...

Five-year-old Sandhya Bhaban has retinoblastoma, an eye cancer that begins in the back of the eye (retina). The little girl from Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh is undergoing therapy at the RB centre, AIIMS. Sandhya’s one eye has been removed during the treatment and she has a few more chemotherapy sessions left. Her treatment was delayed by a year due to misdiagnosis. “Sandhya had constant pain in her eye, so when we took her to a local doctor, he said ‘motiya hai’ (It’s cataract). Uss time kharche ka problem thaa (We had money crunch then). So we couldn’t get her eye treated. After a few months, when her pain increased, we showed it to another doctor who told us it was cancer. Her treatment started but she lost one eye. Bahut late hogaya,” says her mother who doesn’t leave her daughter alone for even a second. When asked what she wanted, Sandhya promptly replied that she wanted to throw a party with her friends and favourite cartoon characters. Sahil Vij, owner, Hang Out at Select City Walk organised the party on her behalf. At the venue, the children played lots of games, made key chains with their names and finally sat down for lunch. Sandhya, a true party animal danced to her heart’s content. Unwilling to leave, the chirpy girl said, “Party kabhi khatm nahi hogi.”

We saw Anshuman laugh wholeheartedly for the first time as he played air hockey in the swanky office of the Internet search giant, Google, in Gurugram ( Photos : Prabhas Roy/ht )

Just google it

Eleven-year-old Anshuman is a bright 4th standard student from Hardoi, Uttar Pradesh. He loves gazing at the most famous cities in the world through Google, using his brother’s phone. Last October, Anshuman was cycling back to home after school when he suddenly felt excruciating pain in his left leg. He fainted and fell on the road. A passerby informed his elder brother Krishna who carried him home on his shoulders. By the night, his knee had swollen up abnormally and he was confined to his bed. Doctors in the village mistook his condition for fracture and inserted a rod in his leg which worsened his infection. He was taken to Lucknow and subsequently to AIIMS for treatment. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a cancer that produces immature bone. Experts are considering amputating his leg to stop cancer from spreading. When we met him, he told us he wondered how the Google office looked like. “Google se main puri duniya dekhta hoon. I want to see unka office kaisa dikhta hai,” he said. Anshuman’s eyes lit up as soon as he was wheeled into the swanky Google building in Gurugram. Googlers took him to see three prime floors of the office, their cafeteria and their recreation rooms. He laughed wholeheartedly for the first time as he played pool and air hockey, and watched songs from his favourite movie Baahubali on a huge screen. “Bahut maza aaya! I will come back here again,” he told everyone.

Ayush visited the National Association for the Blind. He has started his training at the school ( (Photo by Sarang Gupta/Hindustan Times) )

After darkness comes the light

Doctors told his family that he won’t make it. “Bachna namumkin hai. Aap paisa kharch mat karo. Par humne kaha, nahin, hum karenge Ayush ka elaaj (Doctors said he won’t survive, don’t waste your money on him. But we were hell bent to save our kid),” said Ayush Kumar’s mother Ranju Devi. The 14-year-old from Khagaria, Bihar is undergoing therapy for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer that begins in the white blood cells — lymphocytes, which are part of the body’s immune system.

During the treatment, Ayush suffered nerve damage and lost sight in one eye while the sight in the other eye is also diminishing. The boy wanted to visit and study at a school for the visually challenged. “I could see earlier but I can’t see well now. I studied till 6th standard. Due to my treatment, I had to quit,” he said with a lot of pain in his voice. We took Ayush on a tour to National Association for the Blind where he visited the classrooms and interacted with students. Ayush also met RM Sanjeevi, executive director, NAB and his team of teachers. After examination, Sanjeevi advised Kumar to learn Braille and computers and admitted him in the school. “I want to make a career. I will give it my best,” Ayush said with a lot of determination.

Abhishek Kumar got to do a video chat with his favourite actor, Tiger Shroff

This action hero won’t give up

Abhishek Kumar, an 8th standard student from Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, came to Delhi last month for his treatment. The boy was one of the best cricket players in his school. One day, he came back complaining of severe stomach ache along with fever and vomiting. Abhishek was diagnosed with ALL - Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that affects white blood cells. In lack of finances and information, his family came to Safdarjung, Delhi for his treatment. By his own admission, the 14-year-old happens to be a crazy fan of actor Tiger Shroff. “Maine unki saari filmein dekhi hain. Action scene mein top hain woh. Sab kehte hain, I look like him,” he told us. Abhishek wanted to talk to his favourite actor once. When we told him that we had arranged for a video call between him and Tiger Shroff, he could hardly believe it. Abhishek and his friends gathered at the Cankids Center, Okhla and eagerly waited for Tiger’s call. Every two minutes, the boy would ask: “Pakka phone aayega na?”. When Tiger called, Abhishek just could not stop grinning. “Aap sach much mujhse baat kar rahe ho,” is all he could manage to say. “Maine toh socha hi nahi thaa ki unka phone aayega”, he told us shyly.

First Published: Feb 26, 2019 18:11 IST