BRAVEHEART: Nirbhay enjoys a game of cards with his mother Kirti Someshwar on the eve of Child Cancer Day
Ketan Tanna | TNN
Mumbai: Two years ago, Kirti Someshwar, a middle-class Gujarati housewife from Dombivli, was stunned when doctors said that her nineyear-old son Nirbhay had abdomen cancer.
â€œWhat should we do, we asked ourselves? Do we fight back or give up? Itâ€™s tough to hope, to plan when there are no answers. But we had no alternative but to fight,â€™â€™ says 41-year-old Kirti on the eve of Child Cancer Day.
Thanks to her tenacity and the innate strength to deal with life, Nirbhay not only fought back the deadly disease but has grown up into a lively 11-yearold who handles his cancer with a matter-of-fact attitude.
For two years, the Someshwars underwent the trauma of seeing young Nirbhay go through the torturous treatment. In fact, Nirbhay even started differentiating between pain-killing injections and those meant to induce sleep that the nurse regularly gave him. â€œOnce my body was in pain and I could not sleep. When my parents told the onduty nurse, she said she would give me an injection. When she was about to give it, I realised that the injection was the same one which she gave me sometimes so that I could sleep. So I stopped her and said that the injection just gave sleep but I could not sleep because of the pain and that it would not work. Then she gave me a different injection (painkiller),â€™â€™ says Nirbhay, as he prances around at the Make A Wish Foundation office.
Fortunately, Nirbhay could battle cancer because his parents took him early to Mahimâ€™s Raheja Hospital. The entire family took turns to nurse him back to health. Children usually are in a more advanced stage of the disease when they are first diagnosed in India.
Most cancers in adults result because of smoking, unhealthy diet, occupational hazards or prolonged exposure to the agents causing the disease. The causes of most childhood cancers are not yet known.
In India, every year there are nearly 40,000 new cases of childhood cancer detected. Nearly 70-80% children die due to lack of information and awareness, inadequate treatment facilities and the prohibitively expensive cost of treatment. â€œYet, if detected early, 70-80% of childhood cancer is curable. This is primarily because more advanced treatments are available and children seem to respond better to the treatment,â€™â€™ says Poonam Bagai, president, Cankids…Kidscan, a New Delhi-based NGO that helps children afflicted with cancer
According to Bagai, what one needs to understand is that children can fight cancer provided it is detected early. Eleven-year-old Vikas Tiwari, son of an illiterate farmer in Bihar, was diagnosed with leukemia three years ago. His parents, despite the resource crunch, took him to AIIMS in New Delhi and his condition was detected at an early stage. Even though people in his village tried to discourage him, the father refused to give up. â€œThe child has now fully recovered and is a source of inspiration,â€™â€™ says Bagai.
Often, parents of kids suffering from cancer face cash crunch as the treatment for the disease is expensive. In Mumbai, there are many NGOs and hospitals that help cancer victims. These include the Indian Cancer Association, V Care and Cancer Patients Aid Association to name a few. The Prime Ministerâ€™s Relief Fund and the Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi too help economically needy patients.
SYMPTOMS OF THE Â Â Â DISEASE IN TOTS
Continued and unexplained weight loss
Headaches, often with early morning vomiting
Increased swelling or persistent pain in bones, joints, back or legs
Lump or mass, especially in the abdomen, neck, chest, pelvis or armpits
Development of excessive bruising, bleeding or rash
A whitish colour behind the pupil
Nausea which persists or vomiting without nausea
Constantly tired or noticeable paleness
Eye or vision changes which occur suddenly and persist
Recurrent or persistent fevers of unknown originÂ