My experience with Cope with Cancer, at Tata Memorial Hospital.
The sheer number of people, patients and family members present at Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai make the magnitude of the concerns in the cancer care sector in India very clear, very quickly. The atmosphere is grave and sobering. As far as the eye can see, there are patients everywhere. There are children and parents in every corridor in the hospital. Tired family members sit against walls, trying to get a tiny bit of sleep whenever they can. No matter what day it is, there isn’t one empty space in or around the hospital buildings.
This is why volunteers and extra help at the hospital are always welcome. Cope with Cancer volunteers are commonly known as Madat Trust volunteers at Tata Memorial. Volunteers primarily spend their time at help desks in either the Golden Jubilee building (GJB), which is what I did, or the Homi Bhabha block of the hospital.
At GJB, I had a set routine of tasks to do in the day. I would help direct patients to different departments in the hospital, help them fill up forms and also answer general questions. On the surface, it seemed pretty direct to me. But I quickly realised, every experience is incredibly different. Through all these tasks, I interacted with people who had come down from various corners of the country. Unnamed cancer patients became real individuals and I got to know them and their stories. Sometimes, I would end up speaking to family members who were anguished and frustrated, and they let me see the psychological effects of what is considered to be a physical disease. I would also help serve lunch to the patients and on most days we would serve at least a 100-odd people. Through all my tasks as a volunteer, I tried my best to help people smile. Some days, this would be achieved by merely helping scared people get onto the escalator! People are so grateful for the tiniest bit of help and the feeling really can’t be described. It’s just very humbling to be there.
Getting to observe senior Madat Trust volunteers is also a learning experience in itself. Not only do these volunteers give a lot of their own time, but the whole experience can be very emotionally draining. Yet, they handle it with kindness and empathy. Madat Trust volunteers are always ready to put their best foot forward and go the extra mile to help out patients and their families. Recognising that the diagnosis and treatment period is naturally very tough on the people involved, volunteers spend as much time needed with families, helping them out with their queries, establishing rapport and bringing smiles to their faces.
The short time that I spent at Tata Memorial with Cope with Cancer & Madat Trust was really eye-opening and led to a lot of personal growth. Everyone wants to make a positive change in the world. But I think that experiences like these give you the opportunity to really start making a difference, from the ground up, with one person at a time.
Cancer care is an area is that is grossly insufficiently served and I believe, more than ever, that there’s so much left to do. It’s very heartening to see that Cope with Cancer and Madat Trust are not only making treatment more accessible to patients, but also ensuring the patients are supported at the ground level through personal rapport. I can’t commend them and the volunteers enough.
To everyone reading this, I’d urge you to get in touch and try volunteering at least once. At the end of the day, as you exit the hospital, you’ll realize that you feel a sense of fulfillment.
– Aakanksha Lahoti