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PASSAGES Association for Guidance, Education and Support
92, Lady Ratan Tata Medical Center, Cooperage, Mumbai, 400021
Phone: 022-22047823
/ CANCER HELPLINE : 086524-00000
email : info@epassages.org, website : www.epassages.org

  I'm not okay, you're not okay, and that's okay! - Natasha Josefowitz
Times are changing and so are we at Passages. Please accept our apologies for the long overdue newsletter. We are revamping the website and transiting to the e-newsletter format. Throughout the year, we have done several donation drives at various hospitals, giving you all an opportunity to participate and contribute towards the Cancer health programs.

My New Year's resolution was to accept people as they are! Take in their strengths and their weaknesses and love them anyway! Above all remembering that “I am enough” and accepting myself exactly like that - is like receiving the gift of being at ease within yourself.

Not being perfect in every way is good enough. So what if we have gained a few pounds of stubborn inches that refuse to leave, and we are a bit slower on the treadmill, or have a few more wrinkles despite the innumerable facials.

In our youth, our energies were scattered in various pursuits. Now our energy is well focused on few significant undertakings. We have earned the luxury of growing old gracefully. Even advertising entertainment and services are becoming more focused on the mature audiences.

As we mature and we like to think we are like a fine wine getting more mellow and richer in experience and learning. As we celebrate our increased wisdom and capacity to embrace and love life, we recognize the best is yet to come.

We welcome new ideas and energies within Passages.

Look forward to your participation.

- Kaya Shewakramani


  Cancer Health Programme

PASSAGES is registered with Cancer Care India (CACI), the apex body of cancer support groups in the country. There are 25 member groups of CACI spread over 13 states/UTs and one in Nepal. In Mumbai, V Care and Dream Foundation are the founder member groups; Indian Cancer Society and CPAA are also part of this body.
Harmala Gupta (Founder of CACI) responded to our News Bulletin: “What a lovely Newsbulletin. Thank you for sharing it with us. I congratulate all those involved for their dedication and efforts. CACI is lucky to have so many jewels in its crown!

We honour the memory of Padmashri Dr Ketayun Ardeshir Dinshaw, internationally renowned cancer specialist and former Director of Tata Memorial Centre who succumbed to the disease she fought for four decades on 26th August, 2011. She was an outstanding doctor, guide, friend and administrator and could harness support and goodwill, bringing about a sea change in so many aspects of cancer management, education and research in the country.

Our good friend, Vimal, Founder of Mastectomees Association (India), a stalwart in the NGO movement for aid to the cancer afflicted for many, many years, passed away in the early morning hours of October 14, 2011. A strong personality, with a sense of humour, lots of love and a big heart, Vimal helped countless people. The training provided by her organization MAI to volunteers is invaluable. Even at the age of 83, her zest and commitment were an example to many. PASSAGES worked very closely with her in the distribution of the drug Tamoxifen to needy patients in Government and Municipal Hospitals.
All of us will miss her and salute her memory. May her spirit continue to guide us in the path we have chosen. Rest in peace, Vimal.

Our Cancer Health Programme continues to reach out to many. Although, initially we began with only breast cancer cases, we have now been able to include patients of various other cancers with financial assistance and other help, such as information and emotional support.

Counseling in hospitals & house visits
Counseling continues at various hospitals. Our volunteers are regularly at:
(a) Holy Family Hospital in Bandra
(b) Raheja Hospital, Mahim
(c) Bombay Hospital, Marine Lines
(d) Nanavati Hospital, Vile Parle
(e) Rupali and Hemal have also made house visits when needed under the doctors' advice.

The sincerity, commitment, dedication and love that Rupali and Hemal bring to their work are truly appreciated and we record here our admiration for the two of them.

Associated and involved in Maitree, the brainchild of Dr. Bhavna Parikh
Our counselors, Ms. Rupali Tulshan and Ms. Hemal Chandan work with Maitree, a Support Group, which is the brainchild of Dr. Bhavna Parikh (Medical Oncologist) in Nanavati Hospital.
Maitree also holds regular support groups at Nanavati Hospital. Apart from talks and discussions on the disease itself, its prevention and the type of treatments available, various other topics are covered, such as nutrition, yoga, taichi, qi-gong, etc. These support groups are held on the last Tuesday of each month, 4 to 5 p.m. The last topic was 'Blood Cancers'.

(a) Camp organized at Shrirampur
We participated in Maitree's camp organized at Shrirampur (which is Hemal's birthplace) on February 4, 2012 – World Cancer Day. All women's cancers were addressed – breast, ovarian and cervical. The turnout at the camp was much larger than expected and Hemal's family played a major role in organizing the event. There were more than 300 people, including the Mayor. Hemal and Rupali attended; our BSE's in Hindi were distributed. The gathering expressed a desire for a similar camp to be arranged which would address cancers in men, focusing more on awareness and not so much on treatment. These would be cancers related to tobacco chewing and smoking, prostate, etc.

Hemal completed the Self Help through Creative Writing conducted by Heart-to-Heart Counseling on August 14 & 15, 2011. She enjoyed the experience and learned the release of anger, frustration and negative emotions through creative writing. This would help her in her counseling work with patients.
Rupali and Hemal (for Rupali this was a repeat/refresher programme) attended the Palliative Training Programme for Volunteers at Tata Memorial Hospital (August 23 – 30, 2011).

(a) Donations
We have helped Cama Hospital, Shanti Avedana with food grains, powders, nutritional drinks, clothes, etc. Patients have been helped with stoma bags and the drug tamoxifen. We have paid for the treatment of several patients and donated a television to Cama Hospital.
Last month, at their request, we donated 500 adult diapers and 9 cartons of Nestle (tetrapack) milk to Shanti Avedana.

Financial Assistance
In the last six months, several patients have been helped with financial assistance to the tune of approximately Rs.1,25,000/-. These include a child of eight years old and patients of not only breast cancer but other cancers as well.

5. The Joy of Giving' Programme at Cama & Albless Mother & Child Hospital,
Mahapalika Marg – Monday, October 10, 2011
October being Breast Cancer Awareness month all over the world, October 10 is our 'PASSAGES' day for breast cancer awareness every year. Mrs. Valerie Singhvi, Ms. Rupali
Tulshan, Ms. Hemal Chandan, Ms. Snehal Salve and Dr. Coomi B Singh met with the young and dedicated Dr. Dilip Nikam, Head of the Department at Cama Hospital and distributed festive gift hampers for the Dassehra and Diwali season to cancer patients undergoing radiation and chemotherapy in the Hospital. The hampers contained 1kg rice, 1 kg moong dal, ½ kg sugar, ½ kg tea, ½ kg milk powder and 1 large shawl each. These items were decided upon after some discussions to identify what the patients really wanted

It was emotionally satisfying to see the joy on the faces of many of the women who are struggling to cope with their illness and make two ends meet. In these days of spiraling costs, the food grains and shawl brought a smile to their faces.

Thanks to the generosity of our friends, well-wishers and members we were able to collect over a lakh of rupees. The hampers cost us Rs.68,000/-. The surplus amount received by us will be used for financial assistance to needy patients.

6. Children's Day Celebrations – November 14, 2011
(a) 'C' Kids Party at the Breach Candy Club
Once again, the 'C' Kids Party sponsored by the Breach Candy Club was held in the morning of November 14, 2011. 'C' Kids Foundation brought a busload of children who celebrated in a festive atmosphere on the lawns of the Breach Candy Club with games and good food. As always, the children enjoyed the 'craft' session where our volunteers helped them to create their own paper bags with embellishments, using paints, crayons, glue, etc. Our thanks go to Ms. Bimla Makhija whose dynamism provided zest to this activity.

Ms. Kaya Shewarakani, Ms. Valerie Singhvi, Dr. Tarana Khubchandani, Ms. Shilpa Saraf, Avika Bhansali, Snehal and other volunteers of PASSAGES were present to encourage the children and celebrate Children's Day with them. This voluntary programme is a part of our 'Gift Your Time' project.

(b) Celebration of Children's Day at St. Jude's India Child Centre in the Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer (ACTREC), Khargar.
Cancer afflicted children undergoing treatment at this new state-of-the-art R&D satellite of the Tata Memorial Centre had a delightful afternoon along with their parents and members of PASSAGES, Ms. Rupali Tulshan, Ms. Hemal Chandan and Dr. Coomi B Singh.

We gave the Children Attractive, colourful kits with glue sticks so that each of them could make their own, creative and innovative photo frames. Professional photographs were taken of each child along with his parents or parent. The children were delighted when they could insert the photographs into the frames which they themselves had created and present them to their parents. It was a wonderful experience to see the kids
all concentrating on their activity, being helped by their parents, and the joy with which they displayed their end-product and posed for more photographs holding up their completed photo frames.

Our volunteer, Hemal, had thoughtfully brought along chocolates and biscuits.

Several of the mothers were preparing 'kheer' in the spotlessly clean, spacious kitchen which has a beautiful view of the greenery outside the window and the hills in the background.


The loving and caring staff was ably led by Ms. Tayaba who is in charge. We returned home exhausted but happy.


Telephone Helpline

Our Helpline number has been changed. The new number is 086524 00000.

A Caregiver's Story...
              Straight from her Heart!

Hi Coomi, Hope you are doing well! I drafted this when you first asked me to pen my thoughts. The book, 'Whispering Hope' has been a great help. Thanks for being there at my worst time, Coomi. Regards, Alpana.

The word “cancer” has been synonymous to the word “devastation”…. Since childhood my sister has been my idol, I believed that the song, “Phoolon ka taaron ka sab ka kahena hain; Ek hazaaron mein meri bahenaa hai,” was composed for my sister and me. It was I who first got the confirmed reports that “Di” had cancer. It would sound cliché but then the whole world actually stood still... She was just 39 with 2 young kids at home. Her husband was more distraught than I was but he tried to keep himself strong as much as he could. While he took care of the running around with medical reports/insurance papers I took on the role of 'caregiver'. It was ingrained in me that the 'caregiver's' role was as important (if not more) than the oncologist's, treating her.

My personal anthem since my student life has been the following verse from Edwin Markham's poem, 'Rules for the Road': “Be strong: Sing to your heart a battle song:..something is in you that can smile at fate.” These words were like a guiding star which helped steady me and, more importantly, keep my “Di” stable through her fear and grief. Like the above lines, I was strong. It didn't matter what I was going thru inside...something was within me which could make her smile at fate!

As caregiver, my most important job was to keep Di's thought away from the disease…and to keep her positive. I used to point out positive things that happened through her ailment. I used to distract her with girlie talks and made it a point to be with her as much I could. Of course, hearing her out was another important thing...I made her emerge from pensive thoughts, emotions, frustration…Indeed one look at her kids and she would be more inclined to get well.