There are certain stories that have the potential to change the lives of people around them. This is an exceptional story of two mothers, Sonal Sharma and Poonam Bagai, who started the war against child cancer and continues their battle wholeheartedly to eliminate child cancer from India. Their story is an example of relentless hope, incessant struggle and remarkable strength to win against the deadly disease Cancer, which risks the life of several children in India. Let us now explore how these two brave and wonderful women became an inspiration for the society after forming an NGO named CanKids, which endeavors to help the children fighting with all types of Cancer.
About Sonal Sharma
Sonal Sharma, the co-founder of CanKids devoted her entire life after a heart breaking incident which took place almost 17 years ago. In 1998, her 2.5 years old daughter Gungun was diagnosed with cancer. Sonal’s world shattered before her eyes and changed her forever. From restless days to sleepless nights, the mother of a young daughter felt the ground slipping under her feet day by day. Sadly, the awareness about cancer was minimal during those days and she was desperately trying to garner cancer related information by all possible means. There was no one to talk to, and to people whom she shared her feelings with, petrified her. She grappled with her belief day in and out but never succumbed to the fear of losing her daughter. Being exposed to such a brutal truth, the helpless mother ran from pillar to post to save her cancer affected daughter. At times, she felt helpless and depressed due to her inability as a mother who could do a little for her daughter. However, prayers and strength of a mother never fail. Her daughter’s treatment started at All India Medical Institute. A chance to meet with Doctor L.S Arya gave her enough justification about why she needed to get her daughter treated in AIIMS despite other Indian and foreign hospitals. With best medical facilities and extensive support of the medical staff at AIIMS and Sonal’s positive energy, her daughter recovered from cancer within 3 years. While leaving the hospital, her husband posed two questions to her, “whether she wanted to go home and forget everything or do something for mothers like her?” She chose the second option and joined Indian Cancer Society “Cancer Sahyog” as an activist in 2002 where she met Poonam Bagai, another Cancer Survivor from Poland.
About Poonam Bagai
Poonam graduated from St. Stephens College in Delhi and went to Warsaw, Poland after her marriage. However, it was the unfortunate day when the mother of two sons aged 7 and 3 years respectively was diagnosed with Cancer at the age of 38 years in November 2000. It was a major setback for the entire family and they all were in great turmoil. In the words of Poonam, “I had everything in terms of money, financial support, health insurance covers and other resources, but I still felt miserable while dealing with the situation.” There were constant thoughts in her mind that she is going to die and was very depressed. This cancer affected mother was always complaining and bargaining with the God to spare her life for her children. God heard her prayers and she survived.
Poonam came to India and she too joined Indian Cancer Society, “Cancer Sahyog” as an activist. Sonal and Poonam’s stories were heart wrenching yet full of indomitable courage. Hence, both mothers met while volunteering with Cancer Sahyog and later embarked a journey which not just inspired but also changed lives of many mothers.
Together they started CanKids
CanKids was formed in January 2004 by Poonam and Sonal. Poonam is a strong advocate of Palliative care and is a lifetime member of the National Palliative Care Society. She has also worked for Breast Cancer. Her mission is to increase the survival chances of child cancer patients and to decrease the number of child cancer cases in India. CanKids is determined to bridge all the gaps in the existing child cancer treatment and wants to create an effective cancer treatment model for the country.
“All this could have been possible only with an emotional and mental connect between us. A mother should never confine motherhood to her own child; rather the fragrance of motherhood should spread in every direction and inspire other mothers. Each mother should stand for a cause and set up an example before her child by helping the society”, say the brave mothers, Poonam and Sonal.
Emanated from motherhood, CanKids is growing rapidly and has established itself in various parts of India. As per the official study conducted in January 2016, this specialised child cancer treatment NGO has 44 CanKids Hospital Support Units (CHSUs) across 18 cities that are spread in 14 states of India and 7 care centres – 4 Home Away from Home (A ‘Bridge’ Between Hospital and Home), 1 Day Care Transition Home (to fill gap in provision of Pediatric Palliative Care in India), 1 CanShala (based on School in the Hospital’ concept) and 1 Chirag Reintegration Home. It is a heart touching story of two mothers who showed enough courage and stood not for themselves but for other well. Their journey of extended and shared motherhood continues to inspire millions of people.