Cancer Care All-Rounder
Founded 50 years ago, the Cancer Patients Aid Association believes in the ‘total management’ philosophy when it comes to treating the diseaseBy Rajalakshmy R
It was in 1969 that Y K Sapru sowed the seed for the Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA); back then, he extended a helping hand to a little girl, Jaya Jabbar, who was suffering from leukemia. It was then that he realized that the treatment of cancer required much more than money, food and medicines; cancer comes with added complications like fear, trauma, social rejection, and more. The NGO he founded 50 years ago has had a beautiful journey so far, winning over hearts and helping spread cheer to a whole lot of people. Viewing the disease in a multidimensional manner, CPAA was formed with the mission to approach the treatment of cancer holistically, with what founder chairman and CEO Sapru refers to as the total management philosophy. CPAA collaborates with medical oncologists, physicians, and hospitals to complement and boost their functioning without compromising on the quality of treatment and services provided.
Even though its prime motive is to meet the needs of financially backward cancer patients, CPAA is now trying to widen their support to patients from all walks of life in every possible way. “We ensure that patients receive whatever they require to avoid abandonment of treatment—food supplements, transportation assistance, prostheses, blood requirements, accommodation assistance, education for patient or siblings, as well as emotional, psychological and spiritual counseling,” explains Anita Peter, executive director and board member of CPAA, when asked about the range of services they provide, apart from financial assistance. The NGO raises funds from corporates, individuals, the government, and celebrities through various fundraisers. Some of the new initiatives that CPAA has planned to put into action include a cervical cancer vaccination drive, apps for counseling cancer patients and the Giving Smiles programme for cancer affected children. Instead of narrowing their services by being a stand-alone with other NGOs, and has thus been able to bring about a landmark change by legal intervention on government policies for cancer awareness and prevention which led to the implementation of COPTA (Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act); this would have otherwise remained as just a law on paper, says Anita.
“CPAA has been family for me since the time my sister was diagnosed with retinoblastoma,” says Abhishek Gupta, who has two family members who suffered from retinoblastoma, younger sister Akanksha Gupta and mother Anita Gupta. Akanksha, who was diagnosed with cancer in 1998 when she was only seven months of age, was cured completely by 2001; her mother was diagnosed in 1975 and was also cured by 2001. Abhishek says CPAA helped his family by extending financial as well as moral support in fighting cancer without losing hope. He also highlighted their commitment to providing service on time. ”CPAA provides immediate funds, without neglecting us by giving excuses,” he says. “I would request all needy patients to approach NGOs such as CPAA which has been a support system to my family since my sister was diagnosed with cancer. CPAA still remains my first choice to approach when in need of any kind of help in this regard.” With the idea of total management, comes the need for increasing options for palliative care. Anita explains that there are two obstacles that obstruct the proper execution of palliative care options and keep them from providing expected results.
“Indian culture demands that families take care of nearing-death cases at home,” she says. “Homes may crowd and ill-designed for the patient’s comfort, and this often works to the detriment of other family members. In spite of the availability of excellent hospices, patients do not get the benefit of appropriate care to ensure a painless death with the dignity that they deserve. Lack of pain medication, especially morphine, remains a problem not yet dealt with.” Striking down the misconception that a cancer-affected patient has less chances of survival, she says, “It is very important to be vigilant, be aware and check yourself for suspicious symptoms. Most cancers can be cured if detected early and many cancers can be treated even at later stages. Today, there are more promising treatment options that promise cure. If it is incurable, the patient can still be treated to maintain the disease as a chronic illness.”
“IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO BE VIGILANT, BE AWARE AND CHECK YOURSELF FOR SUSPICIOUS SYMPTOMS. MOST CANCERS CAN BE CURED IF DETECTED EARLY AND MANY CANCERS CAN BE TREATED EVEN AT LATER STAGES. TODAY THERE ARE PROMISING TREATMENT OPTIONS THAT PROMISE CURE. IF IT IS INCURABLE, THE PATIENT STILL CAN BE TREATED TO MAINTAIN THE DISEASE AS A CHRONIC ILLNESS.”Anita Peter
Executive Director and Board Member, CPAA
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