Monday, February 06, 2012

When reel becomes real [36/365]

AIDS, cancer, heart disease, mental illness and diabetes are those kind of diseases that we think we will never get.
'It is because of their lifestyle and life decisions or because of all his/her past sins'.

The experience of seeing my Dad struggle with cancer is perhaps one of two or three events that changed my life. He was a strong person. And perhaps the toughest part could have been his intimate knowledge of how lethal his cancer was.

When news of Yuvraj suffering from a malignant tumor in his lungs hit the newsstands, I had a familiar feeling of gloom. I am no fan of any of the Indian cricketers. But somehow, I remembered his TV commercial for an Life Insurance company.
Like an ominous sign to the future, the cricketer was emphasizing on how the cart is only as good as its bull.
While millions of the most eligible cricket bachelor's fans would be praying and hosting pujas to appease the gods of health and death, I'm quite sure he would come out of this a stronger and tougher individual. No one survives cancer unchanged. True both literally and figuratively.
But this also proves to us that life has amazing equalizers that can humble us and force us to stop and smell the roses.
Last year, I tried raising money for cervical cancer. Though I had a target of $500, I could raise only about $150. This especially when one in five women in India are susceptible to the disease. A visit to an oncology hospital is a witness to the suffering and the hopelessness that needs no language. Physical pain is temporary, but the mental agony of knowing that you are on a countdown can be excruciating. All the money in the world cannot steal that pain away.

So what happens to those who are beyond the care of medical science and have just a few months/weeks/days left to live or die. What happens when that person has no more money for expensive palliative care? That's where organizations like 'Karunashreya' come as beacon of hope.
In the few months that I have been associated with NGOs like Unnati and Karunashreya, I've seen how indomitable human spirit and optimism can be infectious. Like a lit lamp on a tall stand, it radiates hope and mitigates pain and stigma.
I've seen the incredible work that Karunashreya does amongst the critical ill cancer patients. They are not bothered about who wins the elections or if the roads are fixed. In a blink match with death, philosophy takes a back seat. Its survival. Its time to forgive and be forgiven.

Cancer has its famous champions. But they are either few and far between. But every single survivor can help take the sting and stigma out of cancer. We need awareness and acceptance. Will India's latest poster boy for cancer help do that?

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