First Madurai Support Group meeting

The multitude of emotions on the faces of the little ones said it all.  They watched in amusement as we enacted the adventures of Maximo, even as Viji Amma’s soulful narration of the tiny bird’s story filled that colorful room in the Onco-pediatric ward of the Madurai Meenakshi mission hospital.

The little fighters at once related themselves to the courageous Maximo, their eyes gleaming with verve to stand tall and fight the Big Cs of their lives.  Dr. Krishna Kumar spoke to the audience that he knew ever so well, each of his words having such a hugging effect on the little fighters.  We all stood there, watching in humbled amazement.
It was the Saturday, a day before the big event – the Madurai FOM meet.  We, the Chennai FOM brigade, had arrived that morning, so that we could skim through the arrangements – the unseen arrangements that we had till then made over phone calls and e-mails since the beginning of March.  Beena had earlier contacted Dr. Krishna Kumar who readily agreed to not just grace the occasion, but also give all his support in making arrangements for the meet. Through the doctor came the contact of Mr. Senthil Nathan, who was our coordinator in Madurai, taking care of everything logistically – auditorium, food, hotel rooms and beyond.  We were in constant touch with Mr. Senthil giving our ever changing and ever growing requirements, which he gracefully accommodated.   We FOM friends were busy calling patients and inviting them for the meet.  Culling experiences we had from the big Chennai meet, we ensured there were enough notifications to patient families so that they could plan their travel, be there and get benefitted.
Back to Saturday – we met Mr. Senthil and his team, went through the plans and visited the IMA auditorium that the Doctor had arranged for us – everything seemed set for the meeting.  After giving some additional instructions/requests, we went straight to meet Viji Amma, Beena and Ann (from the Seattle Max office) who had reached Madurai around Noon. How many ever times it might happen, the joy of meeting the Max team “once again” is just inexplicable – priceless!
Sunday it was – we cut the sun’s snooze, reminding him to wake up a bit early, as we couldn’t wait to see our family gather.  The banners and material had arrived earlier than us to the venue, thanks again to Mr. Senthil’s team.  We got busy tying the banners, putting up the registration desk and setting up the laptop and projectors.  Beena gave the registration desk volunteers a crash course on how to organize things, and how to assist people when they come in.  Viji Amma was giving the PCR team a quick run-through of what to communicate.  The best thing was that we never missed those Kodak moments amidst all the activity.  People started flowing in from all adjoining areas of Madurai including Dindigal, Trichy and Coimbatore.  Dr. Krishna Kumar signed in early, curious about how the arrangements have been.
After a sumptuous breakfast, all attendees assembled in the hall, their faces writ with eagerness.  We projected a string of Max and FOM videos to keep everyone engaged for a bit before the programme starts.  Nag provided a brief context on why every one of them was there that day, and what they can expect out of the day’s proceedings.   Viji Amma gave a quick intro on TMF and FOM.  Dr. Krishna Kumar took over to give a welcome address.  What was astonishing was the ease with which he instantly connected with the audience that listened with great intent.  Dr. Arun came in shortly – the doctor who was in Chennai the evening before when Dr. Krishna Kumar called and invited him to join. Without thinking twice, Dr. Arun flew to Madurai on Sunday morning, and there he was with us! The doctors, Beena and Ann lit the Kuthuvilakku to initiate proceedings.  The Q&A sessions started soon after.  Of all FOM meetings I’ve attended so far, I must say, I haven’t seen such interaction between the doctors and the patients.  There was a quest for learning coupled with a comfort and closeness that each one shared with the doctors – questions around a wide variety of topics around CML, GIST, Glivec, lifestyle habits and so on.  The doctors took their time, answering questions to the utmost detail – a luxury that many of these patients aren’t privileged to, thanks to overcrowded hospitals.
Drama Therapy, it was post-lunch.  First of all, the attendance didn’t dip even a bit, and that was ample testimony to the inquisitiveness of the audience.  We organized ourselves into teams that would enact on stage, different scenes to depict the various hues of our fight against the deadly disease.  I must confess, it was imagination unleashed!  From pre-diagnosis and diagnosis to hitting the battleground and facing it, we saw it all.  The actors needed no rehearsal, as they were enacting not the script of a director, but reality – the reality of their experiences.  The emotions were intense – pain, desolation, laughter, valor, triumph – we witnessed it all.  There was a penetrating positivity in every atom of the auditorium – the positivity of hope, courage and victory!
Curtains down to a great event – it was over 5 in the evening.  The hugs said it all.  When such a meeting happens, there descends a peace and fulfillment that the team just wants to be soaked in forever.  As for FOM, everything fell in place with such preciseness. Like they say, “When you resolve to do something good, nature organizes itself to make it happen!”

report by Venky Srinivasan