Ishika Jha from Jamshedpur was only an infant when she lost her mother. Before she was three, she developed stubborn aches and pains. Local doctors after preliminary treatment found her platelet count low and advised her father Ravikumar to take her to Tata hospital at Jamshedpur. A bone marrow test confirmed the suspicion and little Ishika was diagnosed with B-Cell ALL (blood cancer). She received some medication there but her platelet count continued to be low. Hence the doctors advised Ravikumar to take her for further treatment to Delhi, Mumbai or Vellore, of which he chose Mumbai, for no particular reason. It turned out to be a good decision.
Ravikumar and his mother brought the child to Mumbai and went directly to Tata Memorial Hospital.
They learned that for her treatment they would have to stay in Mumbai for a few months. They stayed with a relative in Mira Road for two months and then got admission to St. Judes and moved in. The father had to go away for work, hence his parents volunteered to stay with the grandchild and take care of her. They stayed at our Parel centre for 9 months during which Ishika received treatment which was successful and she was placed on maintenance.
Her grandparents have diligently brought her to Mumbai to complete all 8 rounds of maintenance for her.
Five year old Ishika is now off medicines, except for a dose of calcium. It is a joy to see her romping around in the centre with the other kids!
Sakshi More, a young widow with two children from Ratnagiri came to St. Judes with her 2 ½ year old son Chirag, the younger of the two children, diagnosed with blood cancer.
Due to ill health her mother in law was unable to stay with her at the centre. Her father, a resident of Mumbai, helped her with hospital visits and the running around. When Chirag contracted chicken pox she left the centre to stay with her sister in Worli and came back.
"I was worried because Chirag lost no hair," she says. "People here said loss of hair is the sign that the treatment is taking effect. I was greatly relieved when Chirag lost a tuft of hair behind his right ear,"she laughs. He is indeed responding well to the treatment and will be placed on maintenance shortly.
Asked whether as a single parent she faced difficulties looking after Chirag at the centre, she replied that the support she received from parents of other children was exemplary. "The fathers purchased vegetables for me too while buying them for their families and mothers gladly cooked for me when Chirag was being cranky and sick. Today he is active, his weight has grown from 9 kg to 11 ½ kg, he is happy to attend all the activities happening in the community area, although he still needs me to be around him. And most importantly, he not only eats on his own, but also asks for a second helping. What more can a mother ask for?"
Sakshi had forgotten how to smile. But today her youthful face is lit up with the knowledge that when she goes home with a healthy, happy Chirag after being away for almost a year, she is leaving behind many, many friends and well wishers at St. Judes.
In India, it isn’t uncommon for girl children to receive less – less education, less food, and even less medical treatment. That’s why Sattiraju, father of three year old Aleyka, stands out as a hero. The family comes from a small village in Andhra Pradesh and stayed at our Hyderabad centre during Aleyka’s treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
Often we see that the mothers are more involved with their child, but Sattiraju was an equal partner, and doted on little Aleyka. When Alekya lost her hair, he shaved his own head to support her. He constantly found small ways to entertain her and distract her during the discomfort of her treatment. He was a great help around our centre too, tending to odd jobs and helping wherever he could. Aleyka’s treatment is complete and she is back at home, and will visit us periodically for follow-up medical evaluations.
Ten year old Harry Kumar and his family first stayed with us in 2015 when Harry was diagnosed with leukaemia. Harry’s parents have four other children and come from Uttar Pradesh where his father works as a painter. Harry underwent treatment and responded well so he and his parents went back home.
Unfortunately in 2017, Harry had a relapse and initially his parents had a difficult time coping with the fact that their child’s cancer has returned. However, they gathered their courage and were determined to continue the battle so they returned to Mumbai where the doctors said a bone marrow transplant would be the best way to help Harry. This procedure requires a great deal of pre and post care and it would mean Harry would have to stay in Mumbai for two years. Harry’s siblings came to Mumbai to be tested as potential marrow donors and when it was time for them to leave, Harry’s mother was very emotional as she knew she wouldn’t see her children for a couple of years. The siblings told their mother not to worry and to focus her energy on Harry.
Harry’s treatment is on-going and initial signs are encouraging. While all of our parents show courage on a daily basis, we are amazed by people like Rakesh and Sarojadevi, who not only support their child but support other families at the centre. They have been role models of perseverance and bravery - encouraging those parents who are tempted to give up.
Our children, though undergoing treatment for cancer, are just children at the end of the day, and that is what we want them to be! Jeet Ghosh, a cherubic eleven year old from Siliguri in North Bengal stayed at our Kolkata centre while undergoing treatment.
Jeet is a vibrant and intelligent boy who is as naughty as 11 year old boys can be. When he came to the centre, he was known to tease and bully other children and even their parents! His mother Bithi tried to be firm but even she found it tough to control him. Things finally got out of hand when one night Jeet quietly slipped out of his room and entered the kitchen where he opened the store and took out vegetables and started flinging them at the parents who were sleeping in their units!
The centre staff realized a new approach was needed and they decided to make Jeet responsible for some basic chores and activities in the centre. He was asked to make sure the play area was clean, to ensure electricity and water weren’t wasted and to try and spend time with the younger children, playing games with them. Jeet took his new role seriously and did a wonderful job of whatever was asked of him. He just needed some structure to keep his bright mind occupied. Today he is back home, enjoying school and his cricket coaching but he visits us from time to time when he has a check-up. During his last trip, in a few hours he managed to rearrange the bookshelf of the Angelique library, take stock of what was growing in the kitchen garden, and advise some parents about hand washing hygiene!