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“Your power levels have gone down. This tube you see will take the dripping power liquid inside your body so you can become strong again like Chhota Bheem.” Since I’ve told my 4-year-old son Rudra this, he flexes his tiny, needled arm every night before sleeping. I’ve tried different ways to answer his innocent questions and he seems to have liked this the most. I don’t have the strength or courage to tell my son that the reason he’s going through such painful tests and skipping school is the six lettered disease the world dreads – cancer.
I’m Dinesh Pote, a freelance gym trainer by profession. I live with my wife and two children in a small chawl in Chembur. A good month for me is earning Rs. 6,000 from the clients that I have. There are times when I struggle to find even one. Right now, I’m holding a medical bill in my hand that states that my son has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and the treatment will continue for 2-3 years costing me at least Rs. 12 lakhs which includes treatment and postoperative costs. It’s like the sky came crashing down. Both cancer and the cost to save my son’s life have left my family devastated. My inability to pay for my son’s treatment can cost me his life. How will I live with myself if my son dies because I failed to pay on time? Your support in the form of donations can help me save my son’s life.
One unfortunate afternoon, I got a frantic call from Rudra’s teacher informing us that he has collapsed in the school. When we went to pick him up, he was running a temperature and he was limping while walking. On our local doctor’s advice, we got an X-ray done. All the reports were normal but Rudra continued to limp, we thought it must have been the after effect of the fall.
A few days later, while attending an aarti during Ganesh Chaturthi, I noticed a black coloured spot on his forehead. In a few days, these spots started spreading to other parts of his body, some even looked like blood clots. We got worried and rushed him to the nearest hospital run by a trust. After a few tests, the doctors explained that Rudra has blood cancer and it was curable provided I get the treatment started at the earliest. The treatment and other expenses cost were a whopping Rs. 12 lakh. Since that day, every thought I have is around arranging this amount so I can save my son’s life.
The first few days at the hospital were extremely difficult for us. Rudra went through a series of painful tests – most of them would end with him screaming in pain, begging us to take him home. It was such a painful sight, his mother would often start crying too. When I saw Rudra’s arm at night, my heart broke. I decided to shift him to the Hinduja Hospital in Mahim immediately – his arm had turned purple and black because of the constant needling. I’m glad I made that decision because the tests my son undergoes are not painful anymore. After his experience at the trust, Rudra has developed a fear of needles, he starts crying when he sees doctors holding syringes. I can see that’s changing now – at a very slow pace but it is.
So far, I’ve spent over Rs. 1.5 lakh on tests, medicines, and hospital charges. I mortgaged my wife’s mangalsutra and got about a lakh because of that. I’ve received the rest from running to trusts that help families of patients that can’t afford medical treatment on their own. But I haven’t come close to the amount I need to pay. I’ve written to many trusts already but I’m yet to hear from them. I don’t have a lot of time. Now my only hope is getting donations from people who read my story.
Since the last couple of days, things have changed dramatically for Rudra. He’s come from his classroom bench to a hospital bed, from being around his friends to being around nurses, doctors, and other patients. The doctors explained that he’s at a high risk of infection so we make sure everything is dust free. My Rudra is a smart child. Often he reminds me to use the sanitizer when I come near him. He says “Baba how can you touch me before sanitizing your hands?”. He’s very co-operative for a 4-year-old. I try to keep things normal for him. He loves to colour so I ensure there’s always a colouring book at his bedside.
Rudra needs to get his treatment done before cancer gets worse. I haven’t managed to gather any more money. The thought of losing my child haunts me when I’m sleeping and when I’m awake I have two children who look at me like I’m their hero. My younger daughter is always wondering where everyone is since my wife and I spend most of our time in the hospital. I just want to see Rudra healthy and happy again.
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