CanSupport, a wonderful initiative aiming to enable people with advanced cancer and their families in making informed choices and decisions, has received an overwhelming response for providing appropriate physical, emotional, social and spiritual support to cancer patients and their families. Harmala Gupta, the lady behind the mission, joins us to talk about this dedicated NGO.
It must have been the tender personal experience of Ms. Harmala Gupta, a survivor of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which motivated her to start an NGO dedicated to take care of Cancer patients in 1999. She, along with a group of like-minded volunteers, started providing much-needed information, support and meaningful care to people with advanced cancer.
The organization, CanSupport, has done a great job in the last 14 years and what keeps the team motivated is the visible change they see on the ground, the positive feedback and support they get from the users of their services, and the encouragement they receive from peers both in India and abroad.
After my personal experience with cancer, I started a support group for cancer survivors and their caregivers in Delhi. It came out of the realization that all cancer patients need information and emotional support. As part of our activities we began to visit the cancer hospital at AIIMS. Over a period of time, I felt that the majority of patients who came for treatment had advanced disease and that once their cancers recurred and their cancer treatments stopped they had nowhere to go for ongoing care and support. My concern also was that not only would they fall prey to unscrupulous people offering them cures at a price they could ill afford, but that they would die, miserably, in pain. This is how the idea of starting an organization like CanSupport, that would guide people as well as provide active medical, nursing and counselling care at home to ensure continued quality of life, emerged.
As expected, CanSupport has received an overwhelming positive response for the services offered and the care they provide. A lot of patients have expressed their gratitude to the organization for providing them with trained professionals who also visit them at home and do their best to keep them comfortable right till the end of life and prepare them and their families for what lies ahead.
We are often told by families that the day our teams visit, the patient is up early, eager to interact with the team members who they now regard as friends and confidants. The fact that the service is free, that medicines and medical equipment is given to those who can not purchase them, that rations and start-up funds are available to the indigent, and that our teams are in touch with patients 24×7, are all reasons why cancer patients and their families value our services. The funds to finance our services come from a variety of sources: individuals, foundations and trusts, and fundraising events like our annual ‘Walk for Life’ held on the first Sunday in February.
For the knowledge of our readers, CanSupport organizes an annual walk-a-thon called ‘Walk for Life’ in New Delhi. This year, Smt. Gursharan Kaur, wife of the Hon’ble Prime Minister flagged off the ‘Walk for Life’ at India Gate on February 3, 2013. She has been the chief patron of ‘Walk For Life’ and has been leading from the front ever since this walk was conceptualized. This year, there were more than 10,000 participants including corporate houses, supporters, members of the diplomatic corps and even a few cancer-survivors.
Another distinguishing service of CanSupport is the Helpline service that operates from Monday to Friday, from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm.
As cancer still carries a stigma in this country, people often are unwilling to have a face-to-face interaction. A confidential helpline enables them to ask for help without feeling threatened. The helpline also overcomes the barrier of distance. People no matter where they are located can phone in and ask for information, advice or just share their feelings. The helpline maintains a directory of services and local organizations for callers who may want financial assistance for drugs, wigs and prostheses, blood donors, etc. The helpline also serves as a referral to our services: home care, day care and support group meetings. The fact that the helpline is run by well-informed, mature and trained staff is an additional asset.
CanSupport has been doing a wonderful job and the need for their home care services is growing not only in Delhi and its neighbouring areas, but all over the region. Consequently, their future plans include expanding their footprint not only in Delhi but in contiguous states as well. This will be done through collaborations with government and private agencies, with CanSupport providing training and monitoring the growth and development of these initiatives. Besides raising more teams, they are also feeling the need to start an in-patient facility as well as OPDs, with day care activities and counseling, for Delhi and the NCR.
A number of families who have used our home care services now routinely refer patients to us which we consider a real vote of support. What also motivates us is the recognition that this work has aided our personal growth: we are more caring and considerate and thereby less likely to complain, judge others or find fault. But above all, we have discovered that happiness lies in sharing your time, effort and compassionate nature with another human being.
What a heart-warming thought this is! We urge our readers to come forward and lend a helping hand towards this poor and suffering section, while saluting the spirited teamwork of CanSupport.
The helpline number of CanSupport is: +91-11-26711212.