Reshma Chikankar, a brave 26 year old woman has done more than walking just a mile. In 1992, when Reshma was just two years old, she developed cancer in her right eye for which she was being treated till 1994. Although her treatment was successful, her cancer eventually led to her losing her eye. When she was in school, she was bullied and teased by her peers but her innocence and naivety prevented her from understanding why.
Reshma grew up with a constant reminder of staying strong, independent and courageous, as this was her parents’ advice in the face of the bullies. It was only at the age of eleven years when she started regular follow up sessions and counselling that she comprehended her condition. Seeing fellow patents and others at the hospital is what made her want to devote her life to social work. She worked closely with Ugam, a group of cancer survivors that work with patients at Tata Memorial Hospital. It was at one such meeting that she was introduced to the Can Saarthi - Oncological Care giving program, an initiative by Sanjeevani, conducted at TISS.
She saw this as an opportunity to learn and understand the plight of other patients and how she could empathise with them having gone through a similar ordeal. Being interested in learning about other forms of cancer, gaining medical knowledge about the illness and ways in which these patients can be guided and supported was the reason she decided to enrol for the three month course in July.
Gradually into the course, with the help of the comprehensive theory and medical knowledge, she began understanding the pain of the other patients. She says joining the course generated empathy within her because of which she could counsel and talk to the patients in a more considerate manner. She recounts her class days as a good opportunity to relive the good ol’ school and college days. Talking about how the course helped her personally, Reshma says she had always been introverted and hesitant to make conversations with anybody but now, she says she is not the same after the course. She always facilitates conversations with everybody and her mother now tells her that she talks a lot.
She has been working with St. Jude's Childcare Centre that works with children who are below 15 and are victims of cancer. She loves her job especially because it involves children, so whenever she takes a holiday, the children call her to speak with her. She also thinks that the course has helped her impart better counselling and emotional support to the patients that she interacts with. Moreover, she also says that it has enhanced her communication skills and has helped her on a personality development front. The increase in confidence too has really changed her attitude towards life and imbibed positivity within her.
She also speaks about how her perspective towards cancer has changed tremendously now. From being a life threatening disease, she now thinks of it as an illness that can be completely cured. She also talks about her attempt of imparting the knowledge she gained to the residents of villages around her. Although they are not completely receptive to the information she imparts, she won't give up or stop trying.
She believes that it is very important to listen to your doctor and follow the advice they impart. She warns against being careless or ignoring any illness or the symptoms that one experiences. The technology is greatly advanced now along with numerous NGOs that work in the health sector so it has become very easy to restore one's health.