Chattai therapy: Making cancer bearable for kids

New Delhi, Jan 27 (IANS) On a sunny, winter morning, a group of about two dozen children, between the ages of three and 12, clap and recite poems along with an instructor in a courtyard outside the out-patients-department at the AIIMS, one of Asia's largest research and referral hospitals. It's that brief, transient tranquility in a day fraught with pain and uncertainty.

As they get busy, they momentarily forget that their parents have queued up outside a counter at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (it treats about 10,000 patients every day) to take them through the traumatic and, often, painful drill of cancer detection and treatment.

For most of the young cancer patients, a bulk of whom are from other states, the congregation on the chattai, or simple reed mats, and related activities are the only pleasant memories they carry home after a painful day at the hospital.

"I enjoy the fun activity here," Mohammed Rehan, 3, a resident of Alamganj in Bihar's capital Patna, who has blood cancer, said.

The young patient acknowledges the gains from the chattai "clinic". Behind it is the complex exercise of relaxation and group therapies, along with motivational and self-esteem modules, prepared by volunteers and the education team of NGO Cankids Kidscan.

Saloni, 6, suffering from throat cancer, is also a regular at the chattai meetings during visits to the hospital from her house in Delhi's Shalimar Bagh neighbourhood.

"Papa takes me to doctor inside when my turn comes; till then I spend time here," Saloni, whose father is a driver, said.

The two bravehearts fighting cancer are not alone. There are many others like them who attend about seven weekly chattai sessions catering to 300 children outside several cancer OPDs at AIIMS.

Poonam Bagai, chairperson of Cankids, told IANS: "Our chattai sessions are in the open intentionally, as we want to create awareness and invite public inquiries."

"One aspect of the exercise is to distract the child from the sometimes painful treatment drill and impart some craft and learning skills," she said.

"A child breathes easy when he is away from the ward where he is forced to see other cancer patients in suffering," said the head of Cankids, herself a cancer survivor.

The NGO engages teachers to impart informal education and skills during the children's period of treatment. This, in particular, helps reintegration into schooling and society generally, once treatment is completed.

The NGO offers emotional support to patients' parents and extends financial assistance for their treatment.

As Manoj Kumar Gujela, Cankids' senior programme officer, put it: "No child should suffer for want of treatment because of lack of finance."

Bagai, the brain behind the arrangement with the AIIMS' authorities for helping cancer-afflicted kids, said similar arrangements were being put in place in 29 cancer centres across the country.

According to a 2009 article in Indian Journal of Cancer, childhood cancer contributes to less than five percent of the total cancer burden in India, with approximately 45,000 children diagnosed with cancer every year. In developed countries, 80 to 95 percent of children with cancer are cured.

Many of the volunteers are themselves survivors or parents of kids who overcame the disease or lost the battle against it while being supported by the NGO. They are a part of the NGO's Parent Support Group (PSG) and are empowered to become skilled advocates and navigators - who help patients during their hospital visits, Bagai said.

Sandhya Prashar, mother of Vedant, 15, who survived stomach cancer four years ago, still remembers the help she received from Cankids during her family's ordeal.

"Now we take the patient's family members through the complicated procedures of obtaining treatment at the hospital and save them from getting lost in a maze," Prashar told IANS.

Kapil Chawla, 29, who fought cancer in the neck over a decade ago, now serves the organisation as a regular volunteer. He like many other teenagers and young adult survivors have formed KidsCan Konnect - a group of childhood cancer ambassadors.

"I joined them as I realise the importance of the effort that goes into making the kids comfortable," said the resident of east Delhi, who prepares modules for spreading awareness among patients and society.

(Rahul Chhabra can be contacted at rahul.c@ians.in)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Chennai have been able to purchase batting replacements for the loss of Michael Hussey and spin reinforcements in the form of Samuel Badree. They appear… More »

Evenly matched Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

Evenly matched Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

A quality that defines Rajasthan and Hyderabad is consistency. Rajasthan was one among two teams to enjoy complete dominance at home last season. Hyderabad… More »

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

The BCCI will hold an emergent working committee meeting on April 20 to discuss the future course of action with regard to the Supreme Court hearing concerning… More »

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

"Integrity is non-negotiable..." says the BCCI's interim chief ahead of Season 7 of the tainted league. More »

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

The 38-year-old South African veteran turned it on for Kolkata Knight RIders in the opening match of IPL-7. More »

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

The court emphasised that the tainted administrator can no longer work for the BCCI. More »

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

New-look RCB will play their first game of IPL-7 on Thursday. More »

Shane Watson issues moral warning

Shane Watson issues moral warning

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

IPL: News Line

IPL: News Line

A round-up of all the news from this season of the IPL. More »

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

Nepal players call off boycott

Nepal players call off boycott

Thaw in relations after formation of an advisory committee that would work in tandem with the Cricket Association of Nepal. More »

There's a lot going on: Fleming

There's a lot going on: Fleming

He experienced anxious moments in the lead-up to the tournament as the courts decided on whether to suspend the franchise, he said, but stressed that the… More »

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Former Pakistan cricket captain Rashid Latif said Tuesday he turned down the job of national chief selector because he could not work with ex-players tainted… More »

We are not over-confident: Bailey

We are not over-confident: Bailey

Indian Premier League — George Bailey-led Kings XI Punjab will face Chennai Super Kings on Friday. More »

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Their main concern, once again, is the fast bowling More »

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

MoU between BCCI & its units to avoid double taxation delayed after a few decline to share details. More »

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

New Zealand selectors included two new caps in a 15-man Test squad named Tuesday to tour the West Indies, with injury-hit spinner Dan Vettori's future… More »

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The Preview — Defending champions Mumbai Indians take on Kolkata Knight Riders More »

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

He was aggrieved by the allegations against him during the hearing. More »

India: cricket's Brazil

India: cricket's Brazil

They are tough to beat with a big talent base exposed to good facilities. (CYCSPL) More »

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Franchises are doing their bit to refurbish the image of the tainted league. More »