There Is Always Hope Beyond What You See’, Says Dr. Ravi Kannan

There Is Always Hope Beyond What You See’, Says Dr. Ravi Kannan

The Magsaysay Award Winner For The Year-2023

One who takes the road less travelled earns the rewards missed by most. It is hard to think differently but to change your world you need to change your thoughts. There are some extra ordinary people among ordinary people like us, who just mix with the crowd without throwing their weight around. They are just like your next -door neighbours whether they win the Padma Shri, the 4th highest civilian award of the Republic of India or The Ramon Magsaysay Award often called as the’ Nobel Prize of Asia’. For them it’s the work that matters and nothing else.

A tete-a-tete is generally sounds like a casual chat, but this has turned out to be a formal conversation as I was conversing with a Padma Shri awardee and an Oncologist serving cancer patients in the remote areas of North East. It was an accidental meet and a wind fall for me to have met with this divine couple Dr. Ravi Kannan, and Smt. Seetalakshmi towards the end of June 2023 during the Golden Jubilee celebrations of our friends and Samdhis, Dr. Anjna and Dr. Mohan Das. Dr. Ravi, in the friend’s circle is well known for his work particularly for the rehabilitation and empowerment of people and their families suffering from cancer in the Cachar region of Assam. He is exceptionally spirited and has an influential and infectious smile.

The first thought that comes to mind when you see, Dr. Ravi, is that he is a God sent angel and a Saviour for the suffering. He is down to earth and an excellent human being who has made notable contributions to how the society and community together can come to the rescue of cancer suffering and their families and how the myths can be busted by them alone. He is known for his strong stance on the involvement of family while treating the cancer patients. Any person being diagnosed with cancer is upsetting and traumatic at any age and stage of life, it is painful and agonizing. Feelings of sadness, anger, confusion and helplessness come with cancer diagnosis.

There is no end to the misery and suffering for the hapless family. They will have many questions like why did their dear one get it? Will they become well at any time? Where to go and what type of treatment need to be given and so on are the doubts that the family faces. Dr. Ravi had opted to join the Cachar Cancer Hospital way back in the year 2007, though reluctant initially, to treat and elevate their families and work for the betterment of their community. He said that he proffered to join leaving the comforts of a cosmopolitan city because that’s the place where he was needed the most. Volunteering to work in remote areas need not necessarily be the time and comfort, you just need to have the heart. He believed that,’ we need to step out of our comfort zone, and be open to new experiences that helps every suffering individual’.

He showed his unwavering belief in himself and believes that in order to get to the next level of whatever you are doing, you must think and act in a wildly different way than previously you have been. You cannot get to the next phase of a project without compassion, love and empathy in your heart for the needy and the suffering. He believes that this gives an individual, specially, a doctor, a grander mind-set, more acceleration and extra horse power. He believes that cancer is curable like any other disease and he does not want to see anyone dying without dignity and treatment because he or she has cancer. We need to go to people and focus on prevention, treatment and cancer care apart from infrastructure and equipment. Dr. Kannan felt that the must and the most needed is human touch, human resources which is a recurring requirement.

Adjusting to a person’s cancer diagnosis and finding ways to stay strong is challenging for everyone in the family. They need to be prepared to face challenges they may experience. The families and children who are under a lot of stress need to be reassured that their feelings are normal towards the sick. All these can be settled and understood by explaining what is happening, talking with about their feelings which is an uphill task seeing the economic and financial condition of people the doctor works for. Cancer survivor’s family Dr. Kannan says exhausts their savings to meet the medical expenses. The Cachar Hospital now serves more than 20,000 cancer patients for free.

A helping hand with even basic requirements can make a huge difference to the family. Getting help from others gives strength to the person undergoing treatment and to the family. Hence it is important that society assumes a collective responsibility to improve the existing condition available for cancer treatment holistically. Regular campaigns are being carried out for prevention of oral cancers which is quite common in this far east area due to excess of betel nut chewing and tobacco consumption among people irrespective of the gender. Multiple educational programs are being carried out for adults and children in educational institutes, tea gardens, community centers about carcinogenic effects of smoking tobacco and areca chewing. At present focus also includes prevention of other noncommunicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension. The local ASHA workers are being trained and engaged to screen for early signs of mouth cancers.

The area is characterized by undulating topography with rugged hill terrains in between and vast plain low lands. Sometimes fetching the patients from villages deep into the woods across small streams in the Cachar region of Assam to the hospital is a tedious, risky effort. One interesting episode during one such visits by Dr. Ravi’s team is narrated here: A man in his mid- fifties was brought to the screening camp. He was found to be choking due to throat cancer, a sign of advanced terminal cancer. Dr. Ravi put him in the jeep used for such visits. With lack of resuscitation facilities and rugged drive on those rough roads, the team was very apprehensive about the fatality in this case and facing the wrath of the locals wouldn’t be an easy thing. It was a relief that his breathing was maintained till he was brought to the hospital. He remained critical for 4 days. His nutrition was built up till he was declared fit for anticancer treatment.

The man walked out of the hospital after 2 months. It was a cashless treatment. There was jubilation all over for saving a critical life. That is how dedicated and passionate Dr. Ravi Kannan and his team are about cancer cure and prevention among under privileged. For these patients said Dr, Ravi Kannan, ‘it’s a battle, a battle not only possible to survive but to thrive and lead a healthy, happy and wonderful life again. Yesterday it was their struggle but today it is their win. Cancer cannot cripple love; it cannot shatter hope. It cannot conquer the spirit or kill it. Take time to care, let your sympathetic words heal and not wound’. He knew his was not soft grass, it’s a mountain path with lots of rocks and boulders. But need to move forward towards hope. God is his refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

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