A family recalls how a mobile cancer screening van parked at a school saved two lives
Two members in the family fought cancer and are now leading a normal life, thanks to a 16-year-old’s gentle nudge that got the elders at home to undergo a cancer screening camp at her school.
The diagnosis happened around Deepavali time in 2014. The management of Jaigopal Garodia Hindu Vidyalaya Secondary School had organised a breast cancer screening camp for its teachers and support staff on the campus. A mobile cancer screening clinic of Penn Nalam, a unit of Sri Dhanvantri Trust, had wheeled in. The mobile clinic was parked in the school and the team had told the students to ask their elders at home to avail this facility.
“My daughter, who was in class XII, asked me to attend the camp without knowing that I was experiencing some abnormality in my breast,” says S. Nalini.
In her late 30s then, Nalini decided to attend the camp and also take her mother and sister-in-law along with her.
“The basic tests were done and we were told if we did not get a call after Deepavali then everything was fine,” says Nalini, who left with her fingers crossed.
As luck would have it, Nalini was called to the Penn Nalam office and explained about the diagnosis and further treatment.
“It came as a shock; the doctors had diagonised stage 3 cancer for me and also for my mom who was in her 60s,” says Nalini. The family was devastated but was determined to give the two of them hope and all the moral support they would need through every stage of the treatment.
Nalini’s treatment put her daughter under immense stress.
“I still remember that on March 31 I had a surgery and my daughter had to take her mathematics Board examination,” she says.
Her father’s advice was: “No one should point out that you got less marks because of your mother’s treatment.”
The treatment at a private hospital included radiation and chemotherapy that went on for more than a year.
Nalini says cancer has given her strength to believe in herself.
“The support and encouragement I got from my family helped me emotionally and physically,” she says.
She is now one of Penn Nalam’s fiercest campaigners, telling people how she fought the disease and instilling a sense of hope in those treading the same path. She creates awareness about the necessity of regular screenings.
“I do not shy away from telling my story whenever I am invited by Penn Nalam and I go for screening every year,” she says.
At an event organised at the Income Tax office, Nalini shared the stage with actor and cancer survivor Gautami.
Her advice to women: “If you are close to 40 and above make sure you look out for the warning signs. Early detection and diagnosis is the only way to fight cancer and that is how I am alive.”
Radhika Santhanakrishnan, founder Penn Nalam, says survivors like Nalini are brand ambassadors for us. They help us reach out to our target group faster.
Cancer care for men
This June, Aan Nalam, a unit of Penn Nalam Hospital, was opened to focus on diseases pertaining to oncology common among men. “Lions Club of Madras North has given us a building at Nerkundram, where we offer cancer screening and other treatments at a subsidised rate,” says Radhika Santhanakrishnan, founder Penn Nalam.
Radhika says that both Penn Nalam and Aan Nalam devotes nearly 30% of its clinical time for cancer awareness programmes.
Poor awareness about the disease and the absence of screening programmes are a few reasons why cancer is diagonised at a very advanced stage.
“At an anganwadi in Thiruvottiyur, we were invited to screen all the ayyas and the tests were sponsored by a foreign donor,” says Radhika.
Its mobile unit, started in 2013, offers subsidised screening in and around Chennai and other parts of the State.
“If we have at least 60 sign-ups in an area we are ready to take our mobile unit to the place. Post-screening, we also do a follow-up so that they can repeat the test if they are showing any signs and symptoms,” says Arockia Mary, who is part of the mobile screening team.
Communities and corporates that want to avail the services of its mobile screening bus at their colony/gated community/office premises can call the 9677046863/ 9840416775/965933156.
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