Monday, February 12, 2018

Letter to Supriya Sule on the Breast Cancer (Awareness and Free Treatment) Bill, 2017

I read with much interest, The Breast Cancer (Awareness and Free Treatment) Bill, 2017, that you introduced in the Winter Session. While your able assistants may have provided you with perfect statistics on the disease, the Bill has many lacunae. I am therefore writing to point them out to you.
Firstly, I am with you on the awareness aspect of the Bill, not the free treatment. That’s because making this treatment free, will only make it frivolous among the medical fraternity, especially at government hospitals. These patients will not be looked at seriously, because “Woh toh free patient hai”.
Secondly, while cancer is a major threat to thousands of Indians, it is not fair to tax the government solely for one form of it.
More importantly, there already are many schemes, both by the government and non-governmental organisations, to help cancer patients financially. These include the Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Jan Arogya Yojana (Maharashtra); two schemes by the Union Ministry of Family Health and Welfare for poor patients (for those below the poverty line), and every chief minister’s fund. Many hospitals provide free treatment to cancer patients.
The need of the hour is to ensure that these existing schemes reach the poor. For many, the word cancer is enough to lose hope. Poor people, many who are also uneducated, need to be told about these existing schemes. They need to be counselled regarding finances and treatment. Teams of counsellors need to be created for this. You should look at this instead of seeking provision for free treatment.

Monday, January 8, 2018

More than words

I got some disturbing news this morning. One of our neighbours has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

My first reaction was why her? Here’s a woman with two sweet kids, a loving husband, great in-laws and a good career. She’s also someone who regularly exercises. She’s got everything going for her. But if there’s one thing I’ve derived from reading about cancer all these years, is that it can happen to anybody. There are no guarantees that a woman who married on time (ideally her 20s), had kids before age 30, and exercises regularly, will not get it, just as someone who hasn’t done all this won’t get it.

The next reaction was, I want to hug her. Because words cannot express everything.

When tai (my sister) died, I remember I was fed up of words. As a journalist and writer, having held the greatest value for them until then, for the first time, I didn’t want them. I wanted people who came home for condolence to stop talking. To stop mouthing their crappy, shitty words that truly didn’t mean much then, but which they said because that’s what we do in a society when we go to meet people we know, who have lost someone. I wanted them to stop talking because most of them were saying the same things we kept hearing over and over, from different people. I just wanted them to stop talking.

All I wanted, was a hug.

And then a neighbour, about 20-years-old then I think, came over and hugged me and my father. He didn’t say anything. He just gave each of us a hug. Perhaps because he had lost his father to cancer too, he understood? “Better?” he asked after hugging me. For a moment, it was.

Over the years since we lost tai, I have gone through the gamut of emotions. From feeling guilty about living, of breathing, and pushing those who loved me and those whom I loved away, I have done many things. I know I will never heal. But I think I am in a much better place since then. I am a work in progress.
Today’s news stirred up many emotions and memories. I also remembered the hug. I want to tell my neighbour that this is a battle she will win. That we're all there for her.  I don’t know when I will muster the courage to give her a hug. But I want to. Because sometimes you need more than words.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Team sport

Cancer fighting is definitely a team sport.
                                     - Jacki Donaldson

Don't let your team member down.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

50 for Aradhana

Aradhana (Athavale) Chitnis

Dear Stranger,

I need your help to mark a birthday. No, it’s not like one with the big party, cake and fun. In a way it is a celebration as it is my sister’s birthday. But she is no longer with us. Hence, I want your help to mark it. 
For this, I want you to convince the woman you are most close to, it may be your sister, or wife, mother, cousin or a friend, to get an examination for breast cancer. She should go for a physical examination by a doctor and get a sono mammogram. The idea is that by my sister’s 50th birthday on September 5, I want at least 50 women screened for breast cancer, and with good (negative) test results. You also have to write to me your relation to the woman and why you convinced her to go for it, and the results. Please also send me a picture (of yourself if you have gone for the examination) of the person you convinced and yourself, and where you hail from.
There’s nothing in it for me but the satisfaction that 50 women got themselves screened. And they thought about my sister, Aradhana. There’s only relief in it for you when your loved one gets negative results. But if at all it is positive, she stands a good chance at survival. Staying a step ahead of breast cancer is still the only way to survive it.
Why would you do this? Because I may not know you, but I do know the pain of losing my sister, and I don’t want you to go through it. Every person is loved and his or her absence makes a world of difference to someone. Don’t let that someone be you. It’s a small medical examination, but it will save more people than one. Most of all, it will save you.



This campaign is over. But you can write to me.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

He's just a pesky cub reporter

This morning I learnt that one of my former bosses has breast cancer.

She was one of my first bosses when I started out in journalism. In fact, RB is the best boss I have had in my career. She is someone I admire a lot professionally. She has also been a superior who was honest and never played politics with me – something that I cannot say for some of the other bosses I have had.

I was just starting out in journalism and there were times when I didn’t know how to go about a subject. She often guided me then. I was in awe. I always tried hard not to give her a reason to chide me. I was successful sometimes, sometimes I was not. But I enjoyed working with her. I admired how she would work hard with her team and also be a friend to them.

It was difficult to believe she has breast cancer. But I can say from what I know of her, she’s going to rid herself of it asap.
Treat it like one of those pesky cub reporters RB, the one that thinks he’s going to be the next executive editor! Put him in his place! Tell him you don’t know who you’re dealing with. He’ll behave like he’s going to teach you a thing or two, but you know better. He’ll want to make you do things his way, but show him you’ll only do what you want to.

Don’t think much of him. But take the chance to often laugh at him.

Don’t listen to him. But talk to yourself.

Most of all, keep this in mind, that he’s picked up a formidable opponent.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Thank you Jacki

After I interviewed Jacki Donaldson, she put up the interview on her blog. Here is the link to it