“That’s the most interesting thing of all. The balance depends on the mans frame of mind! Understand? Which means that if he’s cheerful and firm in spirit, there will be more sodium in the barrier, and no sickness none whatever, will bring him to his death. But as soon as he loses heart, the potassium gains the upper hand and he might as well order himself a coffin…So I wouldn’t be surprised…if they discovered some sort of cesium salt…one that spread out in the organism if there was a clear conscience and didn’t if there wasn’t. And it will depend on that cesium salt whether the cells of the tumour will grow or whether the tumour will clear up.”
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Cancer Ward
In Feb 2001, I got a call informing my father was admitted to a hospital in Vancouver B.C. and by the time I got there he was in an unconscious state after contracting a severe bout of pneumonia. Three days later he passed away. In those three days, I discovered a wonderful book on his bookshelf “Peace, Love & Healing” authored by Dr Bernie Siegel M.D. an accomplished cancer surgeon. The book was a gift to my father by a friend whose entire family had perished in the Air India bomb blast and crash that took place in Irish air space back in 1985.
My interest in cancer was by sheer chance of reading Dr Siegel’s book. What I learnt from Dr Siegel was completely unorthodox; that disease had a positive dimension and that it served as a reset button. Although he dwelt a lot on his experience as a cancer surgeon, he shared extensive insights showing that regardless of whether a person has cancer or arthritis or AIDS, the healing mechanisms are the same for all diseases and for all patients. Dr Siegel made me aware of the distinction between cure and healing and to be clear he was not advocating turning one’s back on modern medicine but instead using it in conjunction with alternatives for self-healing.
A decade later, in 2011, I happened to meet and spend a day with Vandana Gupta, founder of V Care Foundation . It so happened, my employer IBM was celebrating its centenary year and our then Chairman Sam Palmisano urged every IBMer to take a day off on IBM pay to undertake a day of service. IBM gave its employees a choice of several NGOs and I was drawn to V Care Foundation, a cancer care outfit, thanks to the interest that Dr Siegel’s book had aroused in cancer as well as what was common between cancer and other diseases. What was meant to be an 8-hour commitment eventually led to a larger and longer-term commitment. I was drawn to the work carried out by Vandana and her team of dedicated volunteers which made me keep coming back to V Care to volunteer.
Vandana Gupta is an Ashoka Fellow and a person who, by Dr Siegel’s yardstick, is an Exceptional Cancer Survivor. Some 25 years ago, at the age of 40, Vandana was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. As an exceptional person with a steely resolve to live she floated the idea of setting up an NGO to help other cancer patients cope. What does Vandana Gupta stand for? In her own words “I care most about cancer patients and want to make sure that we are there for every patient when they are diagnosed through treatment and beyond. I care because my belief is that life with cancer is still life and all of us together should be able to help live it”.
From Chaos to Control
Over the years, Vandana and her team of volunteers have made a mark in cancer care. This covers the spectrum starting from awareness to counseling; financial assistance for treatment and cures to emotional support for healing. Volunteers, many of whom are cancer survivors are caregivers and are the backbone of the foundation. The foundation supports whole range of programs that include providing medicines and finance; guidance on accommodation-for victims arriving from upcountry- and help in employment and livelihood for survivors. “Going forward”’ says Vandana, “we will continue to provide accessible range of personalized support for anyone affected by cancer and to continue to improve the reach of cancer services within the community. We would like to improve our geographical access get more funds for sustainable future for services, promote and increase awareness of our services through social media, website and printed publication. Research and advocacy will be the new area to enter into. Our staff and volunteers will be encouraged to receive relevant knowledge and learn more. We would like to build partnerships with public, private voluntary and community organizations to provide coordinated services to our beneficiaries in an effective and timely manner”.
V Care is one of only two NGOs to be chosen to participate in the National Cancer Grid and Vandana is now looking at growing V Care’s footprint in India. Unlike the growth of the cancer cell, V Care’s future growth is something to look forward to.
Shakti Saran is a former IBMer who volunteers for V Care Foundation