The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cancer care for loners

Living miles away in Newark, USA, NRI Asutosh Roy Choudhury, 43, always remains worried about his father, who is recuperating from colon cancer surgery in Calcutta and has no one to look after him. His father wants to spend his last days in the city, leaving Asutosh with little option but to make frequent phone calls to keep a tab on his father’s health.

Asutosh’s is not an isolated case, with 65,000 new cancer cases detected every year in West Bengal alone. Many of the patients have kith living abroad and are, therefore, forced to live alone. All of them are in the same predicament as Asutosh’s father.

Last week, Asutosh felt a little relieved when he learnt that another NRI friend, whose brother had died of cancer, along with a breast cancer survivor, has taken the initiative to build an exclusive cancer-care centre for ageing patients, whose close ones live abroad.

To start with, Swapan Choudhury, an NRI employed as a senior officer in a merchant navy company, has donated five-and-a-half cottahs in Santoshpur. Somasree Roy, a breast cancer patient, along with dansuese Bratati Choudhury, television director Probir Roy and cancer specialists Gautam Mukhopadhyay and Subir Ganguly, have formed the ‘Friends Foundation’ to look after the planned cancer-care centre. The Foundation will start the project with a modest budget of Rs 50 lakh. Gradually, more money will be pumped into the project.

“While recuperating from cancer, I have come across several cancer patients who had no one to turn to. Not even a servant to fetch medicines. I always wanted to build a home for patients whose close ones cannot look after them for various reasons,” says Somasree Roy.

Initially, the centre will have 20 beds. It will boast all modern medical facilities, and doctors and nurses will be available round-the-clock for cancer treatment. The Foundation members have planned a separate doctors’ clinic for the patients.

“All kinds of medicines, including morphine-based drugs, will be provided to terminally-ill patients,” said Probir Roy, television personality and husband of Somasree.

The management of Friends Foundation will provide televisions, and organise cultural shows and film shows regularly to entertain residents of the centre. People can avail of the facilities against a modest payment of Rs 300-500 a day. That will cover the cost of food, stay and medical treatment.

“We have decided to attach a separate pantry with every room for the patients. There they can cook their own meals if they want to,” Roy added.

The foundation has already embarked upon a fundraising campaign. Cultural shows have been planned.

These will include a gala classical dance festival in May at Netaji Indoor Stadium. Pandit Birju Maharaj and Hema Malini are scheduled to enthral the crowds there.

“We hope to start functioning by early next year and slowly expand over the following years. The response, so far, has been overwhelming and we are sure that this concept will be taken up by others,” added Probir Roy.

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