Volume - 5 : Issue - 2

Published : April - June 2006

Group : Personalities


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“Let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but have the determination to make the right things happen.”

Dr. Suresh Advani, Director  Cancer Department, Jaslok Hospital and Chairman  Cancer Department, Raheja Hospital, has lived by the principle which is to-day the motto of his pet project HELPING HAND, a NGO headed by Dr. Suresh Advani and wife Geeta S. Advani for the care and support of cancer patients and their families.

Born in Karachi, Sindh on 1st August 1947, he is proverbially the Leo  unafraid of facing and surmounting any impediment that nature or life may care to confront him with.

Within few days of his birth the family migrated to India as a consequence of Partition and after a short stint at Deolali touched based at Bombay. As if the turbulence at birth was not enough  there was more in store by way of trial by fire - the misfortune of being afflicted with polio at the age of 8; to temper and steel the child to develop fortitude and determination not easily encountered.

And the resolve of the Leo is not something that can be easily undermined and inspite of the handicap Dr. S. H. Advani went on to complete his school education from a Sindhi Medium School in Ghatkopar, Bombay; on to graduation from Somaiya College, Bombay; on to professional qualification from Grand Medical College, attached to the well-known J. J. Hospital, Bombay. Thereafter to London and Seattle in the USA to pursue his preferred specialized study in the field of blood cancer and bone-marrow transplant.

At home his initial stint began with the Tata Memorial Hospital and since 1974 he has been involved with Medical Oncology/Hematology along with strong interaction with other clinical branches and basic scientists.

He has been a pioneer in establishing Bone Marrow Transplantation set up in India. He has been involed with about 500 National and International Publications. He has played an important role in establishing D. M. Medical Oncology (Mumbai University) at Tata Memorial Hospital. He is also a recognized M. Sc. and Ph.D. Guide in Applied Biology.

He has been the Chief Investigator for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Project supported by National Cancer Institute, Washington and Chronic Lymphatic Leukemia Project supported by Department of Science and Technology. Recently he has embarked upon the project of writing syllabus along with teaching manual for D M Medical Oncology Course in association with Indian Medical and Pediatric Oncology Association.

“Four decades of work with cancer patients and their families have thrown up issues which need to be addressed as a priority.

Helping Hand is an earnest attempt to reach out to every person, and every patient and to tackle these issues head-on.”

Padamshree Dr. S. H. Advani and his wife Mrs. Geeta S. Advani realized the need for an organization like Helping Hand which would provide Holistic Cancer Care. Eminent Oncologists, Oncology Social workers, patients and their families and volunteers from all walks of life have joined in this mission and made Helping Hand a reality.

Helping Hand operates from Jaslok Hospital and Research Center with a group of volunteers who go into the wards each day and look after the psycho-social needs of the patients. They are provided with all kinds of information and the volunteers also play an important role in breaking a number of myths and fears attached to this illness. Most of the volunteers are cancer survivors themselves or have had their near and dear ones encounter this disease. This experience along with volunteer training sessions provided each month, enables them to tackle almost every query that patients and their relatives put forth.

Ms. Sunila Bajaj, 53, shares her unique experience from being a cancer patient to becoming a volunteer in Helping Hand, from requiring help to being the one to inspire others. On 1st August 2005 when she first found out she had cancer  it was a heartbreaking moment for her and her family. Her husband, two young daughters and she huddled close to draw strength from each other and all wondered why such a thing had happened to them. Having no experience about cancer in their family, at that time, they only thought of cancer as a scary, killer dieses. However, information is power and as Mrs. Bajaj learnt more and more about her disease, heard survivors' experiences and read Jascap booklets provided by Helping Hand her outlook changed. After completing her entire treatment when she went for a check up  she was all clear and in fact her health showed an improvement from what it was even before cancer. She decided to volunteer for Helping Hand and has benefited tremendously through the volunteer training classes they hold and also from the feeling of being able to help so many others. Patients can not believe that the healthy looking lady standing before them was in their place only months ago!

Another initiative taken by Helping Hand is the Youth Club. It is one of the most participative, energy filled and enthusiasm evoking clubs as it includes the youth between the 15-25 years age group. These are the crucial years in the life of every individual as this is where one lays the foundation of his or her future. For youngsters who have this disease a number of motivational and leadership seminars are conducted to help them groom their personality and not get bogged down by their disease.

here is absolutely no feeling comparable to that of seeing a child patient's face light up with a bright smile. Through the several injections and pain the volunteers try to make their treatment as pleasant as possible with movie screenings, picnics, Christmas and birthday parties and celebrating various festivals like Holi, Diwali etc. for kids between 5 and 15 years. Ironically, for several of these kids there is no certainty of the future. Moreover, treatment of cancer is extremely expensive and since most of these kids come from lower economic backgrounds, today is all they will have unless they find donors who sponsor their treatment and gift them a tomorrow.

Dada Dadi club is yet another unique initiative of Helping Hand that brings together senior patients together so they can share their cancer experiences and other emotional issues with people their own age. However one notices patients of all age have learnt immensely from their courage, their will to fight this disease, and most importantly, their desire to live life and live it like they are still teenagers!

Today Helping Hand has a past, which speaks of inspiring stories, miraculous recoveries and lots of help being rendered to cancer patients. But that's not all. Helping Hand has a vision, which will revolutionize diagnosis of breast cancer in India forever, and another project which will ensure that every child suffering from ALL (Acute Lymphoma Leukemia) is given treatment.

Among the long term projects of Helping Hand, is the Mobile Mammography Project, which aims to significantly reduce the rising incidence of breast cancer in India. The core concept of the project is establishing a mobile clinic which will include state-of-art facilities for diagnosing breast cancer. It is a program aimed to provide mammography facilities at the doorstep of every woman. Every lady above the age of 40 years must undergo a mammography once a year  as recommended by the American Cancer Society. In India, the lack of awareness, lack of funds as well as the time consuming process are the reasons associated with the rising rate of this disease. Breast cancer when diagnosed at an early stage is completely curable. Helping Hand aims to reach out to at least a 100 women per visit of the mobile clinic, which will operate 30 days a month at 30 different centers across Mumbai. The centers will include institutions like schools, colleges, organizations, companies etc. where the women will be pre-registered by the volunteers. A mammography will be done at subsidized rate/free and the report will be delivered at the residences. Incase of a diagnosis, the patient will be guided through each step of treatment.

A very special and important dream of Helping Hand is to provide financial security to a child suffering from ALL (Acute Lymphoma Leukemia). ALL, it has been observed, has a high recovery rate and almost 90 percent of children are able to live an absolutely normal life once they have been given the right treatment and have overcome the disease. Helping Hand wants to gift each child back their dreams, their hopes, their health and most importantly, their future.

“The difference between a Helping Hand and an outstretched hand is only a twist of the wrist.' Twist yours and join hands with us. Together we can hold thousands of hands and lead them towards a beautiful tomorrow.”

Some activities undertaken by Helping Hand :

        Pehchaan-Khud Se, Auron Se was an attempt at uniting women undergoing treatment of breast cancer so that they realize that they are not alone. Apart from this the objective was also to address the various issues they face, for the purpose of which renowned experts in the field of cosmetology, fitness, sexuality and emotional health were invited. The groups comprising over 200 included patients form various hospitals across Mumbai, as well as representatives from various NGOs working in cancer.

        Pain management and palliative care End-Of-Life medical and psychological care to patients and their families. This service is completely free of cost and is provided to patients at their homes.

        Training of Students Social Workers and Volunteers to develop Oncology professionals and Social Workers who can use their knowledge and skills to alleviate the lives of patients and make great strides in the treatment of cancer.

        Awareness Camps are organized to stress the importance of early detection in cancer and also sensitize the common man to this disease. Awareness is the most effective weapon in this fight against cancer.

        Documentary A short film-called Living with Chemotherapy, to demystify cancer and its treatment and give a message of hope to the millions of patients who are fighting this illness each day. Among the many hurdles faced by a cancer patient in our country, is the limited information available and the resultant myths and fears surrounding the disease. Treatment for cancer has come a long way. Hundreds of patients have successfully completed their treatment and are today back to living normal healthy lives. The aim of this film is to guide a newly detected patient with all information related to treatment throught patient case studies, and guidance from a very qualified team of medical oncologists from Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai

Global Cancer Burden
Yearly Burden in 2000

6 million cases. 1.2 million in developed countries. 4.7 million in developing countries, will increase from 10 to 24 million over the next 50 years.

Cancer incidence in India is steadily rising. The endeavour of Helping Hand is to strive for new solutions that improve the lives of cancer patients, not only by the development of new and effective medication but also by……

SOCIETAL  • Awareness                     
• Counseling and Guidance

                   • Early detection                         
• Financial Assistance

                             • Health education   

FAMILY                                                                • Home care unit

          • Medical and Social Research
• Pain Management

                                      • Patient Support Groups                       

INDIVIDUAL         • Publications                    
• Rehabilitation


Awareness ….       Breaking the myths & fears attached to the illness
Counseling and Guidance….Reaching out to the psycho-social needs of patients
Early detection…. Motivating patients to come in for early detection & facilitating the process
Financial Assistance….   Enabling patients to bear the treatment expenses
Health education….        Equipping patients & their families with much-needed information regarding the disease & its management
Home care Unit…. To reach out to the needs of patients at their doorsteps
Medical Research….        a constant endeavor to develop new & effective medication
Pain Management….        Psychological & medical care for patients with advanced disease
Patient Support Groups….        A platform for patients to share & address common concerns
Publications…..     Information booklets, research papers, articles
Rehabilitation….   Equipping patients for a life after treatment
Social Research….          To assess & address psychological & socio-economic needs of patients