• No.33,35th St., Opp JFA Showroom, Ashok Nagar,Chennai -600 083.
  • +91 9791048379, +91 9894089379
  • vasanthamemorial@gmail.com
Menu

Cancer Care

Taking care of the treatment of the poor and needy who are cancer affected is the first priority for us at the Trust. The Trust was jointly inaugurated by Shakti a 6 year who was affected by Acute Lymphoblastic leukemia, a blood cancer and he became the first beneficiary. Twenty more received assistance in the same year and then the trust shifted its base to Coimbatore. Among the first few who were supported at this city was Mr. Balan , a middle aged carpenter who had lymphoma and Ms. P with an ovarian cancer . In the year 2000 both these persons had completed 5 years after completion of treatment and they were boldly stamped cured!

There is life after cancer! We have said since the beginning but it was in year 2000 we felt it in real .It was moment of complete satisfaction that the support rendered by us actually restored life!  This feeling has kept us going and enabled us to reach out to 1702 patients in the last 23 years.

There are clear guidelines for the provision of support to the patients and generally we do not permit emotion to override rationality. Yes there are exceptions as it is to any rule but these exceptions are fortunately very few.  The more curable the cancer is the more support they get from us.  The two types of cancer which get precedence are Breast cancers and childhood leukemia. Even here Breast cancer up to stage II is eligible for full support, Stage III gets partial support and patients with Stage IV merely get token support. Children with Acute Lymphoblastic leukemia between 2 – 9 years with good prognosis can get complete support while others get less assistance.

 

The other eligibility criteria are Poor financial conditions, where we have a 3rd Party assessing their financial status & the support from the family members. Ancillary care which generally is provided by family members constitutes nearly 75 % of the care for the patient and if this is insufficient then the best of treatment cannot bring cure. Support from the family members is a big issue especially when the elderly are affected by cancer. The availability of support family also becomes a criteria.

Once the assessment is done then the patient is taken for support for treatment. This is given in 3 forms: Total, partial and token. Patients in total category get everything sponsored including lab tests and at times travel allowance and stay. Partial category gets most of the treatment free and token category patients get one or 2 cycles of chemotherapy. Support is always in kind and cash is generally not given. Surgery costs or Radiations costs are sent to the hospitals directly. Chemotherapeutic drugs are given directly to the patients. Finally reimbursements are never done.

In the last 23 years a total of 1702 cancer affected have been supported for their treatment. Of the 1702 cases sponsored the bulk is from the Mumbai chapter wherein 1446 patients have been given aid. In Trichy the number is 23 while the Chennai – Coimbatore sector rendered assistance to 233 patients Patients with Blood cancers have received the highest support. In this group 473 are cases with Acute lymphoblastic leukemia and predominantly they have been children. Lymphoma affected especially those with Hodgkin’s disease have received ready support. A type of Acute Myeloid leukemia called Promyelocytic leukemia received generous support as its cure rate is high and treatment is relatively less expensive with the usage of a drug, arsenic trioxide.

patient-support1patient-support-2patient-support-3

Breast cancer is the single largest type of cancer seen in India accounting for 10% of all cancers seen. This reflects in our assistance, 683 women with breast cancers have been supported. Children with soft tissue sarcoma patients with large intestinal cancers with good prognosis also got aid from us. Women with Cancers in Ovary, cervix and uterus cancers were also aided and some of these especially with ovarian cancers stand totally cured.

We have been able to offer assistance to patients thanks to generous donation by individuals and organizations. Small & large amounts were raised from donors & through fund raising events. But the existence was virtually from hand to mouth. In 2001 came the big difference that we were eagerly seeking for. Mr. G .K .Ramamurthy, through his GKR foundation began his assistance with Rs. 15 lakhs and pledged continued assistance for the treatment of patients. Then on life became a little easy and we courageously took up more & more patients for assistance.  Quantum wise this is the largest assistance received for patient care.

source-that-made-possibleIn the next few years we had the got from several other Trusts, small & big and from Corporates.  What we have done is designated them as specific funds for specific types of cancers and /or for specific category of sponsorships.  In addition founds were sourced from the common pool of funds of the Trust which essentially is the contributions of individuals and organizations and the funds raised through events. We are happy that all the funds thus raised has been applied judiciously and has given the much needed strength to the cancer affected to fight off his disease.

The type of sponsorship at Mumbai is mainly token.  The help desk at TATA Memorial hospital draws a large number of patients and it is difficult to say NO to so many. Secondly Patients receiving treatment at TATA memorial hospital receive grants from several NGOs. Sponsorship though token becomes adequate to patient!  On the other hand though the trust is able reach out to a large number but because the assistance is “one off” we lose track of the patient. The outcome in many of these patients remains unknown to us. We merely hope that our assistance has made a difference in the outcome.

mumbai-sectormumbai-sector-2

In the Chennai – Coimbatore sector the predominant form of assistance is in the partial or total category. And in most cases we are involved in the actual treatment of the patient and day to day care. This has given us the advantage to monitor the patients during the entire course and for varying length of period after the completion.  This has enabled us to do study of the support given and assess our work. A brief analysis as per the status of patient available to us as of September 2016 is given below.

         chennai2cbe

Of 233 aided we have lost follow up of 110 patients , which is an alarming 50% !.  Of the 110 in this category there is a sizeable chunk who we know are victors and are alive well and they have even attended our cancer victors day in the previous years. There is also a fraction that has completed treatment with us and then has chosen not to continue follow ups with us. Outside these two, there could be patients who have continued treatment elsewhere or have died. Thus this group can have many possibilities of which a sizeable fraction could be alive and well.59 of supported have died . Some have died because of disease coming back after some time ( relapse) or uncontrolled disease and others due to inter current illness or old age.

chennai-coimbatore-sectorWhat we are happy is 44 are actually cancer victors! Of these 16 ladies have won over Breast cancer, 13 children are cured of acute lymphoblastic leukemia & 8 persons have got rid of Lymphoma (5 with Hodgkin’ s  disease ) . One among them is Ms. Vinciya , who at diagnosis was a 15 year old. This year she stood proud on the stage with her 10 month old son and related her tale of triumph. She had become a victor in the year 2010 , a couple of years later she fell in love as any other young girl , disclosed her cancer victor status to her mate and her in laws and then got married .  A cancer affected from a poor family had got cured and her life progressed as it would do for any other girl of her age.  This one girl is enough for us at the trust to feel that we have done something worthwhile!

Conclusion

We from the trust are happy though the actual numbers are small but they are significant lot! And if one includes those on follow up and on treatment the number increases by another twenty. In a country where the cure rate of cancer is 2% we are able to make it to nearly 30% and this gives happiness but not contentment.  We will strive for more ….

A dream is the bearer of a new possibility, the enlarged horizon, and the great hope – Howard Thurman

It was a dream to apply acquired knowledge & experience of the 15 years and build a hospital of our own and provide treatment , care & learning in the manner we sought.  The possibility came up in the year 2008 and we acquired a small building with 1800 sq ft area in Ashok Nagar , Chennai. Though it was a small place the acquisitions and the transformation of it into a hospital that treats cancer affected was an expensive proposition. We pushed ourselves and took up this 1.2 crore project in May 2008 .   The entire circle known to us got activated and raised funds and in a span of 110 days the hospital came into being and in 30 months time & with help of 898 donors the entire cost of the project was realized and the bank loan repaid.

               vasantha-memorial-chennai         vasantha-memorial-chennai-2

The Vasantha Memorial Cancer Centre was opened on 27th Aug 08 .It is a clinic cum chemotherapy centre that focuses on providing quality day care for patients. It contains consulting rooms, an air-conditioned day care ward which is equipped like an intensive care unit complete with infusion pumps, monitors & resuscitation equipment, a procedure room, a laboratory , a conference hall and a terrace garden.  Well trained personnel assist the doctors here to provide quality care.

In the last 8 years this charitable hospital has registered 1189 new cases with an overall turnover of 7000 plus. . Patients with all sorts of cancer are seen here but are predominantly of blood & breast.  Drugs are given at a minimum subsidy of 20% and this gets increased to 100% for poor patients.  Nearly 1100 courses of chemotherapy have been administered here. In addition to treatment patients are also given counseling and rehabilitation facilities

The Centre also conducts regular workshops to disseminate information about cancer to common man. More importantly there are workshops to train lay people as Cancer educators. A number of women have been trained here to become breast cancer educators and they handle our Pudhuvasantham and other breast cancer awareness programs. In addition Screening camps are held periodically and the centre has also sponsored 800 mammograms.

The centre is small and its turnover also small, but it is happy that patients treated here are transforming to the status of Cancer victor one by one. Small and impoverished countries like Jamaica or Uzbekistan excelled in their harvest of medals in the last concluded Olympics. So are we at the Vasantha memorial cancer centre, small in size but rich in success.

In the 10 years since the Mumbai chapter began its operations the chapter had become very busy and it was difficult to function out of the Trustee’s flat.  Secondly cancer screening camps were receiving good patronage and there was pressure to conduct camps very frequently. A couple of organization gave room space to the Trust but it was inadequate and was not always available at trust’s disposal. The need being so high an earnest hunt was taken up and it zeroed to a flat in Kannamwar Nagar in Vikhroli (east) a suburb in North Mumbai.

mumbaiActivities:

The 900 sq. ft 2 bedroom hall Kitchen was acquired and it was transformed to our needs. The two bedrooms became clinics and one of it also doubled as an office; the kitchen became administration area and hall functioned as a waiting hall and conference hall according to the need. The facility was inaugurated on 4th Dec 2011 on the 18th Anniversary of the Trust and became abuzz with activity immediately.

*  Functioning as office & administration zone for the activities of Mumbai chapter

* Receiving patients seeking help, counseling for patients and  their attenders

* Pap Smear camps every Wednesday and sometimes also on Fridays from 2 – 4 pm. Gynaecologist /s  screen 15 – 25 women each session. Prior to the screening the gathered women are addressed by an educator on cancers in women

* Oral Cancer Screening on Sundays From 10 am – 12 noon. Dental surgeon examine 10 – 40 men in each session Cancer In women talks to women groups

* Breast cancer workshops for training interested women as educators.

vasantha-memorial-mumbai-2

Cancer victors come here twice a week and engage themselves in handicrafts, stitching, embroidery etc and make products which are then used for fund raising. Besides these there are a stream of visitors who belong to various categories like Donors, volunteers, educators and the like. The Centre is full of activity all the 7 days of week and finds time & space always inadequate when compared to the energy the management here has and the potential that the chapter holds. Expansion is needed and should come in the future.

The trust’s association with the Tata Memorial Hospital started more than a decade ago when volunteers used to visit the hospital and talk to the medical social workers (msw) with a view to help the patients. The trust started aiding the patients through msw but could not meet the patients, which was in contravention of its stated objective of direct involvement in the treatment of the patient. This practice went on for some time until a help desk was set up in 2009 on the first floor of the Golden Jubilee block (GJB).  For effective monitoring of the activities at the help desk, a full time attendant was appointed to assess patient’s needs initially and increased to two later on. The activities at the Tata Hospital include:-

activities-at-tata-memorialRendering financial assistance to patients referred by doctors at the Breast OPD and also from the msw. The identified patient’s documents are checked and then taken up for sponsorship. They are also given a talk on personal hygiene when the cheques are given to them. Till date 1253 patients have been given assistance.

Volunteers visit the chemotherapy wards on the 5th & 12th floors of the annexed building to talk to the patients on personal hygiene, which aids in preventing infections during chemotherapy. 3052 patients have been spoken to about personal hygiene till date.

Beginning May 2013 on Saturdays, lady volunteers educate post operative breast cancer patients on suture & drain care besides teaching them physiotherapy exercises. 1498 patients have been counseled till date.

During Monsoon season, patients are given raincoats and umbrellas. Notebooks are also given in June to the children.

Every September on Rose day we bring celebrities and volunteers accompany them to the female & children’s ward to distribute gifts & roses. A gesture to make them feel that they are not alone in their battle against cancer, we are there with them.

Joy of Giving week in October, the trust raise funds for patient care and has a variety entertainment programs for the patients with their attendants. This is done around Diwali & the patients are also given sparklers, lamps, gifts and a dinner along with wishes for a Happy Diwali.

On Children’s day, 14t November, gifts & chocolates are distributed in the children’s ward.

Every December about 50 cancer affected mostly children are taken for the Harbour cruise during the Navy week. Since many of them are not from Mumbai they are thrilled at seeing the Gateway of India, Taj and the ships, submarines etc.

Christmas Party is organized at the centre and about 25 patients are invited. The centre is decorated with lights, balloons & also a Christmas tree. Magic show and dances are organized and later gifts and snacks are given to the patients.

To mark the International Women’s Day, flowers, fruits & gifts are distributed at the female ward.

The trust started its activities first at KEM hospital in 1999 under the guidance of Dr.Farah Jijina, the then head of hematology. It started meeting the patients in the ward and imparting hygiene lessons to them besides counseling. The trust aids poor patients with blood cancers and the volunteers get the status update of the patients from the doctors during their visit to the hospital.. Dr. Chandrakala heads this department now and she refers patients for sponsorship.

The trust also started another activity at this hospital of giving ration under the Mother  & Child project. Rice, dal & Atta are given to the patients every week. Till date 2147 packets of ration have been distributed. The volunteers visit on Wednesdays and speak to the patients on personal hygiene. 822 patients and their attendants have been educated on personal hygiene. The children are also engaged in painting, crafts & other creative work.

In December, the patients are taken for harbor cruise. For the cancer victors day celebration the sponsored patients are invited for the program. Raincoats are given to them during Monsoon and they too attend the Joy of Giving program. Our volunteers distribute gifts in the ward during Diwali & Christmas. The sponsored patients also visit our centre at Vikhroli.

activity-at-kme-hospital      kem-hospital

vasanthum-illumThe Vasantha Memorial cancer Centre at Chennai attracts patients from all over Tamil Nadu and amongst these are children affected by Acute Lymphoblastic leukemia , a type of blood cancer  The children  need intensive treatment for the 6 months and at the same time do not require hospitalization. They need a home away from home which provides most importantly hygienic home cooked food. Outstation patient rented out apartments but faced great hardships which included reluctance by the owners to let it out cancer affected.

Mr. Jagadeesan & his wife Rajeshwari  from Kovaipudur ,Coimbatore learnt about the trust when they had attended one of our Fund raising concerts and were also receiving our monthly magazine. They were quite impressed with us and expressed their desire to do something for us in the year 2010. On top of our minds was the need for a home for outstation home and they readily consented to contribute for it and they did it in its entirety.

A 700sqft flat about half a km from the centre in Dr. Subbrayan Nagar , Kodambakkam , Chennai , was found suitable. The flat was modified to have a common living room and 2 bedrooms with 2 kitchens.  This flat was furnished fully which included cooking gas, refrigerator & washing machine.  Two families of patients can stay here comfortably.

The 40 lakh was facility was opened on 28th Aug 2011 by the Jagadesan couple was dedicated to the memory of Mr. Jagadeesan’s parents, Maragatham & Rama Shastry. A number of patients have happily enjoyed the facility since its inauguration which comes free of cost to them.

victors

There is life after cancer “and world gets it known most emphatically on the “Cancer Victors’ day “.A cancer affected is pronounced as a cancer victor , who is cured of cancer , 4 – 5 years depending on the type of cancer , after he / she has completed treatment. World over they are called cancer survivors but the Tamil translation of the term and the suggestion from our patron , Mr. G. K. Ramamurthy , has prompted us to change it to cancer victors and it seems to be appropriate. Since 2014 it is called Cancer Victors’ day and is celebrated in the second weekend of February as is the norm in India.

The celebration of this day has a great importance for the cancer victors, cancer affected & all those involved in the care & emancipation of cancer affected. For the victors it is a moment of joy. For those on treatment it generates hope. For the Care givers it is a moment of realization of their worthiness and a dose of motivation to do more. And for the rest of the world it is a categorical understanding that there is life after cancer. Must say that it is an ‘experience “ to see the victors assembled on stage that day & they lighting a lamp to signify their rebirth. It is like seeing the sun rise in horizon …

In the year 2000 we had two of our supported patients pronounced cured and the following year we began this event simultaneously in Coimbatore & Mumbai. In Coimbatore it gathered 24 victors and a simple event was held followed by a lunch and the victors went back home with gift hamper which contained a couple of fruits. In Mumbai it was even smaller, with a dozen victors assembling at the Trustee’s residence having a high tea. From there it has now grown to a mega & gala event gathering victors by the hundreds, packing the atmosphere with joy, filling stomachs to the brim and loading the victors with gifts.

We see that the event is graced by a number of prominent personalities who are achievers in their field & celebrities. These persons have come by the dozen and spent quality time with the victors. Beginning in 2014, the cancer victors are segregated in groups and one special guest spends an exclusive half hour with this group. This achiever to achiever interaction has boosted morale on either side.

Several reputed cultural groups from each of the city where the event is celebrated, famous artistes and students from colleges give performances that day free of cost. Some stellar performances of dances both classical & contemporary, orchestra, and mimicry have left the gathering exhilarated.

And the last but not the least is the victors speaking out their tale of triumph. Each story leaves one with a feeling of admiration. A celebrated Tamil writer expressed her desire a book on victor stories and 2 dozen stories were sent to her. She remarked that barring one or two there was no drama and readers would find it uninteresting to read such a book and withdrew from the proposal. But be it a cancer patient or a cancer care provider ask him or her , all they want is a fairy tale with a happy ending . Every moment till one is stamped cured is a moment of suspense and thrill of getting over that suspense is an ecstasy unparalleled. Drama or none, victory is what that matters and it needs a cheer. .

Saying it with rose implies saying it from the heart and on Rose day for cancer , it is said from the heart that we care for you. In India 22nd September is designated as Rose day. We from the Trust celebrate this day with great zeal. In Mumbai Roses are distributed at TATA memorial hospital especially in the children’s ward. Our Volunteers accompanied by Celebrities distribute roses & gifts to patients here. A few times entertainment programs like orchestra, mimicry & puppet show has also been organized. Similarly Roses & gifts are distributed in the Hematology ward at KEM Hospital.

At the Chennai & Coimbatore sector patients attending the outpatient clinic and those in the Hospital are given roses and gifts. At times patient to patient interactive sessions have also been held. A couple of times Roses have been distributed to inpatients at Royapettah general Hospital & Madras Medical College

rose1

Excursions etc

At periodic intervals patients undergoing treatment at TATA Memorial Hospital & KEM hospital are taken out for excursions by the Mumbai Chapter. Of these the Harbour cruise during the Navy week in November is an annual feature since last 12 years. In addition children affected by cancer have been taken to movie shows & water parks .

Hospice

We do not take care of terminally ill cancer patients but channelize our assistance through established hospices at Chennai, Mumbai & Coimbatore. Donations are periodically made for this purpose

 

Rehabilitation Of cancer victors

Our aim is get cancer affected cured of their disease and help to them to be as normal as possible and useful in the community. This is difficult for a good number of patients supported for treatment by us. The young ones need assistance for education, young & old need jobs and the old need help for basic sustenance. We from the trust have tried in providing these to some extent School &semester fees have been paid, technical education was sponsored in polytechnics and a few have been recommended for jobs. A couple of victors have been assisted for their marriages. Several handicrafts jobs have been created by us for the cancer victors and women have embroidered kerchiefs, made bags, pouches , dolls etc from their homes or at our centre. Most importantly more than 20 elderly men & women have been given monthly pensions for years together.

rehabilitation-of-cancer-victorsrehabilitation-of-cancer-victors1

The management of cancer affected involves many more aspects other than the actual treatment. We from the trust have tried to provide all round care & aided them to become useful & normal citizens. The assembly of victors on cancer victors day, the receipt of a wedding invitation or receiving simply a box of sweets on passing exams or on graduation or on getting employment makes us feel having been useful; a little has definitely been done ….