SRINAGAR: Eight months ago, when 50-year-old Bashir Ahmad was diagnosed of lung cancer at Srinagar’s Sher-I-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), he felt as if the sky had caved in on him. More than the disease, with its attendant implication of imminent death, a distraught Bashir was worried about the treatment cost because of his poverty. He was sustaining his family of five including his wife, sister and two daughters, by running a grocery shop in Srinagar.
Little did he know how to run his family after the killer disease was detected, resulting in his having to shut down his shop and receive periodic treatment at SKIMS. After he found the first cycle of chemotherapy consuming more money than he could keep up with, he thought of abandoning the next phase. A patient suffering from the same disease, however, recommended that he approach the Cancer Society of Kashmir (CSK), a non-governmental organisation in Srinagar.
That facility for Bashir, who was feeling as though the disease had already left him “dead”, proved no less than an “elixir”.
There he was provided anti-cancer drugs, medical examinations and consultations without having to cough up huge sums of money. Established in 1999, the facility has been providing free treatment to cancer patients apart from raising awareness about the disease. According to a booklet brought out by CSK, it has spent more than Rs 90 lakh on the patients so far. The charitable organisation has especially raised money in the month of Ramzan, the month of fasting for Muslims. Moreover, prominent doctors have been volunteering with CSK to see patients on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Dr Mariqa Ahmad, who looks after patients in out-patients department, said that they have so far provided free treatment to 4,035 patients without any government assistance.
“This society runs on funds collected through charity. We provide quality drugs to patients free of cost,” she added.
Among the doctors who have been treating patients is the head of the SKIMS Oncology department, Dr Gul Mohammad. He said that CSK has been rendering a great service for the cancer patients of the Valley for not less than a decade.
“Plenty of patients get free cancer drugs despite their high costs, free baseline tests, upper and lower endoscopies and USGs are regularly done here free of cost and for non-cancer patients at a low rate,” Dr Gul told Kashmir Reader.
According to him, CSK’s main motive is to provide all facilities to cancer patients under one roof.