Palliative care: Helping bring meaning back to lives of cancer patients
New Delhi: Rajinder Singh, 17, was last year detected with acute lymphocytic leukemia, a type of blood cancer at its terminal stage. On the advice of oncologists at AIIMS he started undergoing sessions of chemotherapy, which brought changes in his eating habits and also in his physical appearance.
The high level of medication pushed him to the brink of desolation and kept him in a state of depression since then. Doctors told his adoptive parents of his limited chances of survival. Dejected Rajinder stopped meeting his friends and remained isolated. His parents too stopped his schooling, thinking it a waste of money.
It was in last March that CanSupport, a pioneer in providing palliative care to cancer patients, during its weekly visit to AIIMS, advised Rajinder's parents to send him to one of its sessions.
These sessions helped restore Singh's confidence levels, adding new zest in his battle against the disease.
Gaurav, Manju and Minto are some of the other patients who have regained their confidence levels and are living life to its fullest after the palliative care provided by CanSupport and similar institutes all over the country.
Support for family members, counselling sessions for patients and various kinds of therapy, besides proper medicines, form the backbone of special palliative care being provided to terminally sick cancer patients in the capital.
India has around three million cancer patients and one million new patients are added every year. One million cancer patients die every year, mainly due to lack of palliative care from the medical community and their families, oncologists said.
Many people who have terminal stage cancer are left to fend for themselves in their most vulnerable and painful hour.
"Proper palliative care can improve the quality of life of cancer patients even when the doctors predict limited survival," Ravinder Mohan, a doctor with CanSupport, said.
Many such institutes have come up in metropolitan cities to provide palliative care for cancer patients.
CanSupport has been providing supportive care to both children and adults in the national capital for the past 12 years.
"Discussing the prognosis of the disease can help the patients and their loved ones cope and make decisions," Ravinder Mohan said.
"In our country, unfortunately, people suffering from cancer are often unaware of their exact condition or die without even receiving a diagnosist," he said.
CanSupport coordinator Anjali Singh said that cancer patients during the chemotherapy treatment - going in and out of hospital, feeling weak physically and changes in appearance after losing hair - remain cut off from the main strata of society.
"We bring children undergoing cancer treatment here and conduct various kinds of activities and conduct therapies during our sessions," Anjali Singh said.
"Sessions called 'day hours' on Monday and Friday both for the child cancer patients and the adults are conducted, where there are volunteers who themselves are cancer survivors", Anjali Singh said.
She said that meditation and special counselling sessions for patients are being conducted to provide mental support and thereby create an atmosphere for them where they do not feel isolated and easily mix with other children their age suffering from the same disease.
Expensive medicines are provided free of cost to children and adults.
"As only a limited number of patients can be brought for the counselling sessions to the institute, a team comprising doctors, nurses and counsellors visit the homes of some cancer patients to provide them palliative care on a daily basis," she said.
The patients are also put through laughter therapy, clown therapy, music therapy, drawing therapy and much more.
Counselling over phone is also provided to patients on days the sessions are not conducted or the children are not able to come to the institute because of treatment at the hospitals.
To support the cause, CanSupport organizes a walkathon every year in the national capital, where people meet and share their experiences.
"Working for cancer patients in this way is like providing food for the soul," Ratna Jajoria, a senior CanSupport official, said.
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