Mom To The Rescue
Monica Vohra, the mother of a cancer survivor child, has helped thousands of underprivileged children struggling with leukemia through her NGO, Leukemia Crusaders. Using her ordeal as a stepping stone, she has been a guardian angel to innumerable children and their families grappling with the dreaded disease
In July 2011, 5-year old Aaryan was diagnosed with leukemia. It was devastating news for his parents, Monica and Arvind Vohra, accompanied by overwhelming uncertainty and fear. However, after visiting several doctors, they realized that the disease was curable and it gave them hope and courage. “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have,” says Monica Vohra. “I think in the case of children all parents would go to any extent possible to save them. In my case also as a mother, my only motive was to get my son out of this battle and that’s what gave me the strength.” The trauma and suffering that the family dealt with while struggling with childhood cancer laid the foundation of the Leukaemia Crusaders. In 2013, they established an NGO to help the underprivileged children suffering from leukemia. In India, three to five percent of total cancer cases are attributed to childhood cancer of which leukemia is the most prevalent.
Around 40-50 percent of total childhood cancer incidences were leukemia in India in the period of 2014-2015, according to a report, Incidence of childhood leukemia and lymphoma in India, published last year. The good news is that childhood cancer responds well to chemotherapy and around 98 percent of children with leukemia go into remission within weeks after the treatment begins. Of those, around 90 percent can be totally cured. And yet the cure rate of childhood cancer remains awfully low in the country.
A couple of reasons are lack of access to cancer care due to financial restraints and lack of awareness that it is curable. This is where Leukemia Crusaders step in. It provides speedy financial aid to underprivileged families for the treatment of their children affected with leukemia. It has extended support to more than 1300 children in 40 hospitals located in 17 states across the country since it was established.” We provide financial aid and support to underprivileged children battling Leukemia because we believe every child should get a chance,” says Arvind R Vohra, founder, and Trustee, Leukemia Crusaders. The NGO provides bridge funds for the treatment of children until some alternate fund sources can be arranged so that the treatment gets started as soon as possible after the diagnosis. The funds are transferred within 48-hours of application approval. This has proved helpful in reducing the treatment abandonment in children affected with leukemia.
“Leukemia Crusaders is so prompt in action that my dropout rate has gone down by 40 percent,” says Dr. Gaurav Kharya from Artemis Hospital, Gurugram. The organization also keeps a track of the status of the children throughout the treatment to reduce abandonment. These steps have improved the survival rate in the children that the NGO has reached out to. “We collaborate with doctors/hospitals providing the best treatment all over India so maximum children fighting Leukemia have best of treatments nearer to them,” says Monica, Managing Trustee of Leukemia Crusaders. “We also collaborate with other support groups to create an ecosystem for the families fighting Leukemia.”
Regarding their process, she adds, “We associate with the hospitals and the cases of the underprivileged children are recommended by the treating doctor. The funds are always transferred to the hospital account where the child is being treated.”
Dr. Venkatraman from Cancer Institute, Adyar, Chennai shares, “Most of the patients treated at our hospital are from the poor socio-economic strata of the society and cannot afford the costly cancer treatment. Funding from Leukemia Crusaders has been a big boon for these patients as they do not abandon treatment due to lack of funds. The lives of many children have been saved due to the help extended by Leukemia Crusaders. They are professional and respond promptly to all queries. The funds are also released on time after completion of the application process. They have given new hope for leukemia treatment in India. They have ensured that the poorest of the poorest kid has a chance to see the future and not die without receiving any treatment.”
The organization also creates awareness about the curability of childhood cancers and their common symptoms through several awareness programs. It plans to extend its reach throughout the country in the coming years by collaborating with the best centers in the states where it is not present yet and to partner with more support groups in the field of childhood cancer to create a wider support ecosystem at the hospitals.
“When a child is affected by cancer, the entire family is affected. Being a parent of a cancer survivor, I can identify with the pain and struggle that the families of the children undergo,” says Monica.“The hope and smiles of the children and their parents keep us going.
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