Monday, March 10, 2008

Cancer in Children

Recently, I was watching a reality TV show on Star Plus : "Amul Voice of India - Chote Ustad" which showcases the singing talent of children. This was an episode where Salman Khan was the celebrity guest and the show was good fun with the sportive Salman pulling off his T-Shirt to display his well toned and muscled body, on request from kids on the sets. He was very sweet with the kids, encouraging and applauding their talents. He danced with them when they requested him and did not put on any starry airs. And then with all the fun and masti came a poignant moment when the organizers of the show had arranged for some children afflicted with cancer to meet with their super hero on the sets. I was choked with emotion watching those tender, enthusiastic, smiling and excited kids undergoing treatment at the TATA Memorial Hospital , Mumbai .

I remembered encountering a six year old girl afflicted with bone cancer and her parents at the Army Command Hospital, Kolkota in December 2007, when I accompanied my mom for her Chemotherapy session. My mom introduced me to her little friend who was lying on the adjacent bed and undergoing the same treatment. This little girl, a year younger to my daughter, with a bald head has a fetish for the "Saas Bahu Hindi Serials" and was watching one, on the TV set displayed in the hospital room. She loves sweets, fried fish and likes to apply mehndi on her hands. But she told me her mother wouldn't allow her to do so for fear of infection while undergoing the chemo sessions. My mom and this kid had a code word for the medicines dangling by their bedsides. The white coloured one is called Rasgoolla ( Bengali Sweet) or Putharekulu ( Andhra Sweet)" . The orange Coloured one is called Jalebi ( North Indian Sweet). It was amazing to see them humouring themselves.

My mom introduced me to the kid's mother and we started conversing in Telugu. The family is from Andhra Pradesh and they speak Telugu. Her husband is an Indian Army personnel. I asked her when the kid was diagnosed of this dreaded disease and what had happened. And this was what she told me:

" It happened a year and half back . My husband was posted in a highly sensitive area and therefore I was staying with my two kids, a daughter and a son ( two years younger than the daughter). One day my daughter came home from school , hurt on the shoulder by hitting the bench in the classroom. The area on the shoulder was looking black and blue and the child was running slight temperature. So I took her to the doctor and with the medicines, the wound appeared healed and the fever subsided. But again after ten days , the fever and pain were back and with subsequent visit to the doctor and medicines, it would normalise. This cycle went on for two months. Then I got panicky and informed my husband, who rushed down and we went to Naval Command Hospital , Vishakhapatnam. The doctors recommended a series of tests and they diagnosed "Bone Cancer". We were informed that the situation was grin and that they will have to remove the shoulder scalp which was infected. My child underwent the surgery and the follow up treatment. Later the cancer spread to other part of the body and she had to undergo another surgery which the doctors told was life threatening . But my child survived and was advised treatment at Army Command Hospital, Kolkota. My husband also got compassionate posting at Barrackpore and now our lives are commuting between home and hospital."

The lady appeared composed and cheerful all through my brief stay at the hospital. She gave me some shopping tips and insight about markets in Kolkota. Her husband came in and she introduced me to him. My mom told me that he also is a very helpful person and a caring dad. I inquired about her 4 year old son and she told me her in-laws were taking care of him at their home town in Andhra Pradesh. The little boy having seen his sister suffer in pain is exceptionally understanding and never cribs. This little girl is eager to meet her brother and play with him. She desperately wants to go to school and lead a normal life. And as I write this, I am again choked with emotion and tears trickle out from my eyes ( I consider myself to be very tough and I don't cry easily). This was exactly what happened when I was conversing with this courageous mother. Thankfully, my brother, a Pediatrician at the hospital walked in and I excused myself and spent some time in his cabin.

Meeting such women, makes me feel that every day is " Women's Day" . I pray for the recovery of this beautiful little child and children like her. When I see children suffering from such dreaded diseases , I wonder if God really exists. Maybe ...


Srikanth S Perinkulam said...

Hospitals are one of those places which bring out the humane feelings. Not just for your own family members but for patients you get to see there.

Having literally stayed in a hospital for almost a year and a half when my Mom was down with Brain tumor has definitely changed the way I look at life.Those tormenting moments are something you get to look back to and gain support when you're mentally down!!

I lost faith in that so called supernatural presence the day my mom expired after the two year struggle battling with life every other day! Personal volitions, But that makes ton of a difference!

Hope the kid gets well soon and leads a stupendous normal life!

Anonymous said...

A very touching account,indeed, of the kid"s suffering. It is only the
parents anxiety many a time that children may not be able to face the
truth,but children being true to themselves than we adults,have often
proven that they can face the world better.Let us wish the kid all the

Kumble Chandrakanth