"What is Rashtrapati Bhavan," asks Dharmesh, a blood cancer patient. Even as Mehroz, his teacher, prepares to explain, the eight-year-old shoots off another question. "Who lives there? Will he help fix my cancer," he asks, furiously colouring his ‘I deserve a beautiful environment too’ poster.
Dharmesh, along with over 500 children with cancer and their families are preparing to go to Rashrapati Bhavan Feb 15 for a fun-filled day of outing, celebration and gifts, hosted by the New Delhi Municipal Council on the 14th International Childhood Cancer Day (ICCD) 2015. They are hoping President Pranab Mukherjee will join them.
The event, being organised by an NGO, will involve children from government and private hospitals, including AIIMS, Safdarjung Hospital, Kalawati Saran Children Hospital, Apollo, Max, Medanta, Rajiv Gandhi and Shroff Eye Hospital.
Blood cancer survivors Chandan Kumar, 23, and Sonu Piyush Narain, 21, have sent a special invitation to Mukherjee for the event, which they have named "Tea and Samosas with the President".
"We want to petition the president with eight reasons why childhood cancer should be considered a health priority in India. The most important and obvious thing to remember is that even when childhood cancer cure rates are 70-95 per cent, the mortality rate continues to be 50-70 per cent," Narain told IANS.
Sonu Piyush Narain said: "In 2006, both Chandan and I were fighting cancer. We went to Rashtrapati Bhavan and met president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. He was kind and caring. He took out time to talk to all of us and take pictures and offer us tea."
NGO Cankids Kidscan’s programme manager (awareness and advocacy) Kapil Chawla, who is coordinating the visit to Rashtrapati Bhavan, said that on the occasion of ICCD, an awareness run would also be organised in the campus of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
The resident doctors would launch their week-long fest with a Run For Childhood Cancer. Coming together with Cankids Kidscan – the national society for childhood cancer, over 1,000 doctors, survivors and supporters will run five kilometres to spread awareness on fighting childhood cancer.
The run will be flagged off at 7.30 a.m. by AIIMS Director M.C. Mishra.
Shashank Pooniya, representative of a resident doctors’ association, told IANS: "This would be the first time when the doctors would be running for patients."
Doctor Anurag, joint secretary of the association, told IANS: "It is indeed an honour to participate in the run. It’s a double treat, a healthy as well as noble pursuit."
The annual ICCD event is held worldwide Feb 15 under the auspices of Childhood Cancer International, formerly International Confederation of Childhood Cancer Parents’ Organisations (ICCCPO). This year’s ICCD theme is "Access to Care" under which Cankids organised a 45-day campaign across 21 cities and over 42 cancer centres.
AIIMS Director Mishra told IANS: "Such campaigns create awareness that childhood cancer is curable if diagnosed early and treated. It is an important opportunity to raise funds in support of affected children and families."
Poonam Bagai, founder chairman of Cankids and board member of Childhood Cancer International, told IANS: "The ICCD campaign is a local and global call to act now for kids with cancer."
"Together, we must make sure that children with cancer get better access to the best possible treatment and care," said Bagai, who was recently awarded by the Indian Academy of Paediatrics for "yeoman services to child health in India".