14th October 2012
The true spirit and enthusiasm of cancer survivors and caregivers was witnessed by me in the luscious Lodhi Gardens, the venue of the Stomp Out Cancer Campaign in Delhi. At 7:40am as we entered from Gate No. 1, we saw a cheerful smiling lady ready to shower her love and blessings to one and all. She symbolized a mother who wants to give a caring hug and love to all her children.
This year’s theme of Global Cancer Awareness Campaign is “Stomp Out Cancer” and what better way to start it with the “Awareness Session” in Delhi. Prevention is the first step towards stomping out cancer and this can only happen if the awareness for cancer is there amongst everyone from children to adults. Amma (as we all call Viji Venkatesh) talked about the life of Max and in his honor we are conducting this awareness campaign and through this encouraging good nutrition and exercise habits in our local communities.
The awareness session was attended by both of us from MAX, , FOM Delhi-chapter team leaders, friends and families. The initial introductions and greetings were turned into talks and laughter. Few passersby were also attracted towards our get-together. A visitor from Chandigarh came forward and shared the experience of his brother who is not able to quit tobacco. This made way for the discussion about the proven research and side effects of tobacco chewing. Smokeless tobacco is a huge problem in India and needs to be tackled at war-footing as people from all ages get exposed to it because of easy availability and lack of awareness. Internet plays an important role in spreading awareness and making new friends. We got a new friend of Max through Twitter whom Amma invited to this meeting.
Every friend shared their story with all of us. Everybody was in awe that how brilliantly they have handled the CML or GIST and leading a successful and fruitful life. One of them shared with us that he has CML since 1994 and is on Glivec since then. He is living and leading a healthy life style while doing his daily chores. One of them mentioned that after he had been on the medicine for CML for a decade now his life has become more disciplined in the eating and drinking habits. He does regular exercise. As Amma added, that he has also been a very compliant survivor in taking his medicines as well- this is so crucial to keeping the cancers in remission. There was a couple whose 15 year-old has been on Glivec and living a healthy life. He was detected of CML at the age of eight. We thank Novartis for helping us.
On a lighter note the other major issue, was the demand for a party which two group leaders did not give as they got recently married and one has also been blessed with a child. Each one sported the My PCR button and spoke in support of the PCR campaign. We distributed the PCR FAQ booklets. This again increases awareness about the disease which is so important.
Dr. Lalit Kumar from AIIMS then talked about the importance of awareness of cancer in his soft voice. He informed that the lifestyle is going from bad to worse of our Indian population. The exercise is not at all a priority among most of us and on top of it the eating habits are bad. Just the two interventions- diet and exercise which are in our control can prevent so many cancers. He informed that Colon cancer has come at the 10th position among the top 10 cancer’s in India which proves the importance of unhealthy living. The major concern among many patients was the alarming rate the cancer was growing in rural as well as urban population. This may be attributed to the pollution and the unhealthy lifestyle (diet rich in saturated fats, no exercise, use of tobacco, alcohol, not breast-feeding, putting on weight etc.) to a great extent. In rural areas, the unregulated use of pesticides and fertilizers is also contributing to it. The one and only solution to it is making everyone aware of the risks of this disease and education and awareness camps like today is the tool for it.
There was an interactive session with the survivors and the first one was the significance of PCR test and how periodically it has to be conducted. Dr. Lalit Kumar informed that PCR is a test to monitor Leukemia levels in CML patients. The PCR test can detect the alteration in DNA caused by the translocation of chromosomes 9 and 22. He said there is no research as yet to give the time difference for one and the next PCR test but it should not be very close and 6 months can be a comfortable period.
The excitement for the upcoming 25th November FOM Meet in Delhi could be seen in each member and they were planning for it as well. It was decided that a list of patients will be given to the team leaders to call the patients for the meeting by us. The posters have been circulated by the team leaders to Rajiv Gandhi Cancer hospital and AIIMS. Samosas and rounds of tea were enjoyed by all in the beautiful green gardens and a backdrop of Bada Gumbaad tomb.
The experience was wonderful for me and I am already looking forward for the 25th November FOM Meeting. This enthusiasm and will power shall surely overcome the pain and fear of cancer.