Friends of Max’s Patient Advocate of the Month for April 2022 is Avinash Devadanam, our City Chapter Leader from Bengaluru.
Avinash was born in Bengaluru but his family soon shifted to the Middle East, where he spent his formative years and received his primary education. He moved back to Chennai, India, six years later where he completed his high school education and went on to earn a Masters’ degree in Economics.
In 2004, Avinash was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML). He was only 28 years old at the time. A fellow patient introduced him to Viji Venkatesh, who invited him to attend a support group meeting at a park in Chennai. That was Avinash’s first interaction with the Friends of Max.
Avinash credits his long association with FOM to his rapport with Viji. He says, “Viji was a big support and a source of encouragement for me. I was determined to fight this disease and help other people with the same diagnosis. I felt it was my duty to do something for this community.”
Since then, he has made it a point to attend every patient support group meeting organized by FOM and The Max Foundation in Bengaluru. He helps FOM by calling up patients residing in the region and inviting them to attend these meetings. Avinash is always open to counselling newly diagnosed patients and is one of FOM’s most active volunteers. He is also a firm believer in the Chai for Cancer initiative and participates by contributing financially and attending all the Addas organized in Bengaluru. Avinash has also participated in the FOM Leadership Summit organized in Pune in 2018.
When asked if he has any special memories with FOM, he recalls the Chai for Cancer Adda at Food Street, Bengaluru in 2014. He says, “We had set up a stall there but were struggling to get people to visit our counter. I took the initiative to go out and talk to a lot of people after which a lot of donations came pouring in. My fellow FOM members appreciated my efforts and told me that I really made a difference. That made me feel good.” Avinash hopes to host his own Adda on a grand scale someday soon.
About living with CML for so long, Avinash shares, “As a person who has lived with this disease for 18 years, I am one of the senior members of the CML community. When I was diagnosed in 2004, a fellow patient, Binu, was there to guide and support me. He had already been living with this disease for 17 years at the time and that itself was a huge inspiration for me. Today, I have been living with this disease for the last 18 years and am one of the senior members of the CML community and that is very special to me. I find it my duty to do something good for my fellow CMLers.”
In 2004, Avinash played a well-received role in India’s first digitally shot film, “Vaanam Vasappadum”, directed by P.C. Sreeram. Unfortunately, it was the same year that he was diagnosed with CML and could not take his acting career forward. But he still remains an admirer of the arts.
He also enjoys various sports and outdoor activities. “Glivec is indeed a magic bullet. My stamina and energy levels are a lot higher than the average Joe. For my age, I still indulge in a lot of sport and outdoor activities and can outrun a lot of people in my age group.”
When asked if he has a message to share with the fellow patients and caregivers reading this article, Avinash says, “The Magic bullet has transformed my life and that of thousands of others for the better. But in order for the medicine to work its best, it is necessary to keep a positive and cheerful frame of mind. It is also important to be physically active and take care of your diet, because a healthy body is a healthy mind. Above all this is a faith in not just your own abilities and strength but in the divine power which directs and guides you – irrespective of your religious inclination. If we can combine our faith with our abilities, no physical or mental barrier can stop us. CML is only another obstacle in life, not the end. It can actually prove to be a stepping stone to better things in life as it has in my case and that of many other survivors.”