Spreading cheer for bravehearts fighting cancer

New Delhi, Oct 12 (IANS): The festival of lights this year will be special for Pankaj Yadav and many of his extended family of cancer patients and survivors.

The cancer survivor, a student of the Indian Institute of Technology (BHU)-Varanasi, who lost an eye to cancer 13 years ago, will join dozens of children fighting cancer and volunteers from NGO Cankids...Kidscan Konnect at a Diwali Utsav here to spread the message of early detection and cure of the disease.

"It's not just a question of showing solidarity with patients and survivors but an attempt to show them that we care for them and want them to move on in life like all normal people," Yadav, a resident of Haryana whose father is a constable in the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force, told IANS.

Ritu Bhalla, 22, a two-time blood cancer survivor and Girl Child Cancer Ambassador for India, is gearing up to share anecdotes from her recent visit to the Congress of Childhood Cancer in Hong Kong with all her friends and co-survivors at the Diwali mela, scheduled for Oct 20 at F-28 Bund Road NH-8, Samalkha, Dwarka.

"I have brought some beautiful gifts and decorative lights from Hong Kong for my friends," said Bhalla, who leads the teenage and young adult childhood cancer group of Cankids...Kidscan Konnect.

Sonal Sharma, whose daughter in Delhi successfully fought off cancer, is also looking forward to the special Diwali event.

"We want to share and spread the festive mood with the bravehearts. Our daughter has overcome the trauma but for those still battling the odds, the Diwali mela will be an occasion to forget all the worries," said the east Delhi resident.

"I have got lots of chocolates and sweets for everybody," said Sharma who accompanied Bhalla to Hong Kong.

Aman Saxena, who is fighting a nose and throat cancer relapse, is gearing to shake a leg to peppy songs of icon and singer Kailash Kher.

"I want to tell everyone at the Diwali mela that Kher had come and met me in Delhi on my request," said the second year BA student from Delhi's Shaheed Bhagat Singh College whose fading voice due to cancer has prevented him from singing.

Saxena may also involve his Jasba Theatre group to present an entertaining performance at the special Diwali mela.

Kapil Chawla, awareness advocacy officer of Cankids, said: "When you are battling a disease like cancer it is important to celebrate life."

"Those who have overcome the deadly disease will try to bring cheer, with lights and sweets, to the lives of those who are still fighting it," Chawla told IANS.

The NGO also plans to hold an exhibition-cum-sale of paintings and hand-made Diwali cards and souvenirs at the mela.

Poonam Bagai, a cancer survivor and chairperson of Cankids...Kidscan, said: "The event will bring together people from a cross section of society and help spread awareness about cancer in children."

"Every year we celebrate Diwali with as many as 1,000 children with cancer and thier families - lighting diyas, doing the Ganesh-Lakshmi puja, giving the children special gifts they have asked Lord Gansesha for, selling their wish cards to friends, family and in the community," she said.

"For some years, we celebrated with Delhi Public School, Gurgaon, but for the last two years Helpline pharmacy owner and head of Surekha Charitable Trust Vishnu Surekha has generously hosted our event," she said.

"We also celebrated Durga Puja in three cancer hospitals in Kolkata. For us Durga Puja and Diwali are truly community festivals, " said Bagai.

"In our country more than 40-50 percent of all cancers in children are getting cured due to increased awareness. We are gradually catching up with the developed nations, where survival rates are as high as 95 percent," she said, highlighting the importance of spreading awareness.


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