By Subhojit Panda

Battling any form of cancer, does take its toll on the patient. But if you have a companion by your side, who becomes a part of your journey and helps to alleviate the stress, then you are definitely, blessed. The case in point is 59-year old Sumitra Panda!

Blood cancer patients have found a new hope in their long and painful battle in the form of Sumitra, who has been supporting cancer patients by helping them find resources, connecting them or their family members with support groups, identifying organizations that can offer financial assistance, counseling them and the most important of them all- spreading happiness among the patients, who have started believing that life needs to play into the hands of cancer.

Sumitra believes, life always teaches a lesson at the right time. “The turning point in my life came when I lost my elder daughter to cancer. She could’ve been saved had we arranged for funds at the right time. The incident left a lasting impact on me and I promised myself, that I would work for the needy and poor cancer patients for life,” says Mrs Panda.

Recalling her initial days of social activism, Sumitra says, “I remember, in 1990, I met a tribal woman whose son was getting treated for blood cancer at Acharya Harihar Regional Cancer Centre, Cuttack. The curiosity to meet her child pulled me to Cuttack. I was in tears after seeing the suffering of the young and old patients at the cancer ward. Slowly I began visiting the ward regularly and distributed toys, chocolates and clothes among young cancer patients. Doctors present there were initially not very pleased with my regular visits and I often ended up having heated arguments with them. Despite such stiff resistance, I continued meeting the cancer patients.”

Sumitra’s regular visits to the cancer ward often boosted the morale of the needy patients who found solace in her presence. They would spend hours with her and she began assisting the families of patients in collecting their medicines, help them with their income certificate, move patients to Tata Memorial Hospital Mumbai and AIIMS Delhi for further treatment and more

Sumitra goes an extra mile to save the lives of blood cancer patients. She goes door-to-door asking the donors for financial help which can be helpful for the patients. “Cancer is a painful battle that requires a huge amount of money for its treatment. Not all patients that I come across are financially sound. So I decided to start doorto- door donation campaigns for the surgery of needy patients or paying their medical bills. I’ve been doing this for the last 17 years and have no qualms in doing it.”

Since seven years, Mrs.Panda has joined hands with a youth group named Parivartan Foundation and true to its name, the Foundation believes in bringing a tangible change (or parivartan) in society through awareness on blood and blood-related ailments. From organizing blood donation camps to arranging blood donors during emergencies and carrying injured commuters on the road to nearby hospitals, Sumitra has been dedicatedly supporting and lending a helping hand to the Foundation. “I feel if people could organize blood donation camps instead of spending huge bucks on their birthdays then nobody on this earth would ever die due to blood shortage in blood banks.”

Sumitra credits her success to the unceasing support and inspiration of her husband. “At times, my work keeps me away from family for days but my husband never complains. He takes pride in my work and constantly inspires me to pursue my mission,” she adds about the role of her husband who works as a security personnel. Ask her about the future plans and she is quick to reply. “I have a long cherished dream of opening an old-age home in Bhubaneswar where senior citizens can be taken care of. If more kind and generous donors come forward the world would be a better place to live.”

At times, my work keeps me away from family for days but my husband never complains. He takes pride in my work and constantly insp ires me to pursue my mission

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