What's the link between cancer and tennis? This was the question that topped the minds of many budding tennis players who got a special invite to take part in an under-14 tournament here this month to help children with blood cancer.
It took some explanation from the tournament's brand ambassador, Krishang, 13, himself a cancer survivor, to join the effort to collect money through registration fee for the Asian Under-14 Lawn Tennis Tournament and donate it to an NGO, Cankids, working for children with cancer.
Once Krishang motivated the participants, the entries started pouring in. Some from as far as the US and Australia, and all of the participants numbering about 100 - agreed to join the noble cause through the event organised between April 13-21 at Van Sports Club.
Malika Raghuvanshi, Krishang's mother and co-organiser of the event, said, ''My son used to donate prize money that he won in various tournaments, including the one at Dubai, to Cankids. Once, he came up with the idea of doing something bigger for the cause and we decided to organise the event.''Cankids co-founder and director Sonal Sharma said, ''It's a novel idea for spreading awareness that children fighting blood cancer can emerge as winner.''The eight-day tournament, conducted under the watchful eyes of former India Davis Cup player Vishal Uppal and supported by cricketer Abhishek Nayar, saw many children with cancer cheer for budding tennis stars.
Krishang was a satisfied philanthropist after the event. ''It feels so good that I have been able to help children like me in their fight against cancer. I want this tournament to become an annual event so that we can do more for little brave hearts,'' he said.
The young tennis champ has himself fought off blood cancer or Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). He was diagnosed with the disease at the age of three and he overcame it after treatment for five years.
''I want to become the best tennis player and be an inspiration for other blood cancer patients that they can also beat this disease,'' said Krishang.
ALL is the most common form of cancer in children and the most treatable. Nearly 90 per cent of children diagnosed with the condition are cured in the West but in India, the survival rate is still a low 45 per cent.
Cankids, which runs ALL Golden Crab Fund and offers help in minimal residual disease (MRD) test for effective blood cancer treatment monitoring, is also planning to host a special interaction session of Krishang with some young children.
Poonam Bagai, Cankids chairperson, said, ''Krishang can motivate kids to face adversity courageously and overcome cancer. We will organise a session for his interaction with children with cancer.''''Many children with cancer suffer due to lack of uniform treatment protocols. We are striving to get childhood cancer enlisted as a national health policy priority,'' said Bagai, pointing that over half of the 70-80,000 new cases of childhood cancer diagnosed in India each year are that of blood cancer.
Over a period of 10 months in 2017, 264 children with ALL received free MRDs in 12 centres of Cankids in north and west India which involved a financial help of up to Rs 25 lakh. Almost 60 percent of these children had high risk leukaemia. Cankids has been supporting patients with ALL for treatment since its inception in 2004. In 2017-18, of the 4,853 new child cancer cases registered under Cankids' YANA you are not alone holistic care programme, 1,691 (35 per cent) were that of blood cancer.
The NGO, with help from donors like Krishang, is working on supporting children with blood cancer using the MRD, an advanced test done for leukaemia that can predict chances of relapse and stratify treatment, escalating to intensify treatment or de-escalating to reduce toxicities and costs of treatment.
Worldwide more than 300,000 (age 0-19 years) children and adolescents are diagnosed annually with one of 16 forms of childhood cancers. Out of these, 40-50,000 (age 0-15 years) are diagnosed in India.
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