A New Life, From The Chrysalis
The Butterfly Cancer Care Foundation focuses on bringing free cancer treatment to underprivileged childrenBy Rajalakshmy R
Legendary poet Rabindranath Tagore once said, “The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.” This, perhaps, resonates best with the way in which children approach life. Children are like butterflies who live in the moment and hence, enjoy their life to the fullest without having any regrets. But what if those butterflies are caught up in the web of cancer? Don’t they deserve a fair chance to fly and spread color? Undoubtedly, they do! That was why the Butterfly Cancer Care Foundation (BCCF) was formed in 2013.
Created exclusively to help pediatric cancer patients from poor families, BCCF has been able to extend its support to nearly 150 patients and dispense around INR 70 lakh to cancer-affected patients. It was the experiences of BCCF founder and treasurer Dr. Manzoor Koyakutty that led to the formation of the NGO. His heart went out to the many bewildered and helpless parents of cancer-affected children from poor families, who lacked knowledge about the disease as well as financial resources. BCCF consists of a group of individuals that include oncologists, doctors, and scientists, along with social workers and students; its primary motive is to provide financial, moral, clinical and logistical support to cancer-affected patients from poor families.
“Unlike other NGOs, which insist on submitting an application form and following a strict procedure and set of criteria for granting funds for treatment, we extend support to all the poor patients who approach us,” says Dr. Manzoor. Explaining why BCCF does not insist on a detailed background check, he says, “As far as oncology is concerned, time is very precious and we have the responsibility to take quick decisions and provide necessary support to the patient at the earliest, as in most cases, there might be an immediate need for the patient to undergo an MRI scan or injection or even a chemotherapy.” Dr. Manzoor says social media has a prominent role to play in complementing BCCF’s work as it acts as an interface that connects the NGO to the world.
“AS FAR AS ONCOLOGY IS CONCERNED, TIME IS VERY PRECIOUS AND WE HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY TO TAKE QUICK DECISIONS AND PROVIDE NECESSARY SUPPORT TO THE PATIENT AT THE EARLIEST.”Dr Manzoor Koyakutty, Founder, BCCF
In fact, BCCF relies upon its WhatsApp group, as a primary source to gather funds for the treatment in case of a smaller sum. In the case of larger amounts, the NGO’s official website is used for advertising. “The sponsors, especially NRIs, approach us within a time span of 24-48 hrs,” says Dr. Manzoor. “To date, we have functioned according to the demands and requirements of the patients who approach us,” says Dr. Girish C M, BCCF secretary. Starting off by providing financial assistance, and giving educational support to children through BERF (Butterfly Education and Research Fellowship) programme, the NGO moved on to rehabilitation and empowering women from poor, cancer-affected families. It inaugurated its new initiative called Butterfly Clinic last year, at Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram, and Kozhikode.
One of the key features of this free cancer screening clinic for children is that any poor family can walk-in directly to the clinic with their children, without worrying about the expenses for diagnosis or treatment, which will be completely taken care of by BCCF. “This initiative had been a great success due to our collaborative efforts with women-centric organizations such as the Kudumbasree, Janasree and ASHA services, which acted as an intermediate between us and people at the lower strata, by referring them to us,” says Dr. Manzoor. The NGO, in a joint initiative with the real estate-focused Confident Group, handed over 13 houses to the flood-affected families of Kerala in 2018.
The organization also releases a bi-yearly magazine titled Butterfly Health News; the magazine features a Myth Buster section, which addresses the scientific validity of health-related stories that are circulated through social media. BCCF’s dream project is to establish an onco-pharmacy that sells cancer treatment drugs at a highly subsidized rate. “I never had to worry about my son in any way as the expenses for his treatment were completely taken care of by Butterfly,” says Joby, whose son Noushin was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2013, and is fully cured now. Noushin is also one of the children who benefit from the BERF programme. “Surprisingly, children and youth are well equipped to face dark realities such as death, which is something, I feel, adults lack,” says Manzoor, explaining that children don’t have a complicated thought process and, hence, consider cancer as just any other disease with the only difference that it creates a bit more discomfort to them.
Dr. Manzoor and Dr. Girish highlight the need for wiping out existing social stigmas attached to the disease, and that it should be considered a social responsibility by every individual who should learn to tackle the disease in a professional manner by being with the patient and instilling confidence in them.
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