Mr. Y. K. Sapru's association with cancer patients began way back in 1969, when a friend was admitted to Tata Memorial Hospital for some tests. On the bed alongside was a little girl battling leukemia. Although her prognosis was good, her family did not have the funds to support the recommended chemotherapy treatment. Mr. Sapru, along with a few friends, stepped in and raised the money required for the treatment. Jaya Jhabbar was cured and CPAA took wing.
Mr Sapru, is an experienced pharmaceutical professional who has had long stints with John Wyeth & Brother (where he progressed from Medical Representative to Marketing Director) and Johnson & Johnson (where he spent 10 years in their pharmaceutical division and 7 years in the diagnostic division). He retired as an Executive Director at Johnson & Johnson in 1999 and since then has dedicated all his time and efforts in CPAA. It is his vision and farsightedness that has seen a germ of an idea mature into the well-respected association that CPAA is today.
It was Mr. Sapru who coined the phrase ‘Total Management of Cancer’, the credo that has been the cornerstone of CPAA's philosophy all these years.
According to Mr. Sapru - "Big hospitals are inundated with such a huge number of patients that they tend to forget that they are dealing with human beings, often frightened, ignorant and in strange surroundings. They treat the malignancy, but they do not have the time to answer 'stupid' questions. We treat each patient as an individual and an effort is made to recognize each one’s unique problems and address them fully. There have been cases where we have found accommodation for a family that has come from a remote corner of India, got a sibling admission in a school in Mumbai, arranged for the father's employment besides giving medical aid and guidance for the patient."
"Our work has evolved from just aid disbursement to the full spectrum of activities that CPAA covers today. This is the only way the movement can go ahead. We have a tremendous ability to grow. My task is to see that activity continues without diluting the philosophy."
Silooben, as everyone in CPAA calls her, used to work with Mr. Sapru at John Wyeth, where she was Family Planning Officer. When he started CPAA, he felt that she would be a valuable asset and asked her to join as Honorary Secretary.
In the early days, Silooben and Mr. Sapru would spend Saturdays going from shop to shop asking for donations (just Rs.1 per month, Rs. 12 a year to begin with), but even that was hard to come by. And so, Silooben came up with the idea of the first ‘fund raising programme’. She invited noted songstress Begum Akhtar to perform for CPAA. Although the association offered to pay for the artiste's travel and put her up at Ambassador Hotel, Begum Akhtar refused to accept payment and opted for a cheaper hotel to save money.
For quite a while, CPAA raised funds by organising film premieres (the first was Raj Kapoor's smash hit, Bobby). Now, Silooben has never been very fond of Hindi movies (the only movie she had seen was 'Shakuntala' and the only stars she knew of were Raj Kapoor and Nargis), so when someone offered her Rs.500 for her Rs.100 ticket, she took it and gave the money to CPAA! "At one of our premieres," recollects Silooben, "I had to garland Amitabh Bachchan. I told him to bend over; otherwise a ladder would have to be ordered. It was the first time I saw him smile.” Silooben, through association with Dimple Kapadia's parents, roped the gorgeous actress into various CPAA activities.
Journalist (regular columns in Dharamyug and Eve's Weekly magazines), radio and TV artiste (she initiated the programme 'Khel Khilone' for Doordarshan), Rekhaji, as she is affectionately called, is one of the original founder members of CPAA.
When her husband, Mr. Y. K. Sapru, started CPAA in 1969, the daily running of the fledgling organisation fell on Rekha by default. It so happened that this was a task she was well suited for, given her exposure to social work from childhood, due to her mother's activities in the field. She had also written a column 'Upchar Samachar' for Dharamyug answering readers queries related to medical problems, experience that stood her in good stead when handling the queries of cancer patients and their families. "The first 15 years were very difficult. Our activities had to be restricted to giving medical aid and guidance. We had a vision, but every day was a struggle. It was heart breaking to have to turn away people who needed economic help, although guidance and medical advice was freely given. At that time, it was Siloo Jasdanwalla who was the strength behind our endeavours. She was our cannon ball and would often open doors that were otherwise closed to us."
The first breakthrough came with the celebration of CPAA's 15th anniversary when the President of India, Giani Zail Singh was the distinguished guest at an exhibition on cancer arranged by the association. "The next 15 years saw an exponential growth in our activities. Today CPAA is well known for its many achievements and we find ready volunteers coming forward from all walks of life, but are still turning away people who come to us for help due to our limited funds. I also want to see CPAA become independent and self-sufficient. Then we can say that our efforts which started with Jaya are truly victorious."
Rekha Sapru was honoured with the Giants Award, 1999 in the field of Social Service. Giants International also honoured her for her outstanding contributions at the Giants Anniversary Celebration on its Founder's Day. For the future, Rekha wants to see CPAA becoming self-sufficient.
Dr. Shashi Bakre, has been with CPAA since 1971. Dr. Bakre grew up in Indore where her parents were both practicing doctors. After marriage, she moved first to Calcutta and then to Mumbai, where she started practicing as a General Practitioner near Breach Candy Hospital. In 1971, she was already well known for her social work. Around the same time CPAA's activities were expanding from just aid disbursement to include the preventive aspects of cancer treatment. The Saprus met Dr Bakre and convinced her to join CPAA.
Along with a team of 5 doctors, she started holding clinics to screen persons with a perceived high cancer risk, the objective being to catch the disease early when there is a greater chance of full recovery.
For almost a decade, Dr Bakre and her team conducted these cancer screening clinics at the Sophia College Medical Centre. In 1980, Dr. (Mrs.) Fernandes of St. Elizabeth Nursing Home invited us to use their premises from where we operated for 7 years. In 1987 the cancer screening clinics moved to Adams Wylie Hospital at Agripada and Naigaon recently in 2003 to Prabhadevi.
"Initially we had to use the word 'cancer' very cautiously when announcing a Screening camp. Today with greater awareness, people are not as frightened to come for checkups," says Dr Bakre. "For the future, I would like to see the diagnoses extended to their logical conclusion, i.e. complete treatment."
If you were watching Bombay Doordarshan in its early days, you could not have missed Manju Gupta - she was the first newscaster and newsreader, presenting programmes in both Hindi and English. In 1974 when she moved to the US along with her husband, she worked at Cornell University Medical College during the day and attended a course in Television and Film Production at night. When she returned to India in 1982, she joined Doordarshan again, a move that would eventually bring her to CPAA. In 1984 CPAA organised an exhibition, which was inaugurated by the then President of India, Giani Zail Singh. Manju was sent to cover the event and worked for 5 days with us, making a feature presentation about our activities.
"They convinced me to leave Doordarshan and join them," exclaims Manju, a hint of disbelief in her voice. During the next two years, Manju made 5 low cost audiovisuals for CPAA. These were greatly appreciated and raised awareness about our activities and us.
Soon afterwards, Manju was assigned to the newly sanctioned Adams Wylie Memorial Hospital where the Red Cross had given space to CPAA. The Rehabilitation Centre had just started shop, with one person and a single machine. "I would visit exhibitions looking for ideas," says Manju, "to see what was selling. I identified unique items with the view to value addition." One such item was the homely diya. Manju’s daughter, Salone, was roped in to jazz it up and 10 years on, our designer diyas still sell like hot cakes at exhibitions in Mumbai and all over the world.
Manju has used her creativity to develop a range of merchandise. Each item is produced with an eye to detail. "We want our clients to come to us again and again. If we do not make a competitive piece, we may have one sympathetic purchase, but there will be no follow up. The first time that I took a sample to Taj, the hotel got our piece copied but did not buy from us. The next year, they came to us and they have remained loyal over the years."
Gulshan was all of 18 years when she joined CPAA in 1979 after school at J.B. Vaccha (Dadar) and a degree in Economics from Wilson College, Mumbai. "I heard about the opportunity through a neighbour who worked near CPAA’s Administrative Office. Initially, my parents were hesitant to let me work with CPAA, because of the word ‘cancer’ but I managed to convince them," says Gulshan, whose association with CPAA is now over 30 years old.
"In those early days," reminisces Gulshan, "CPAA operated out of a small room and activities were slow and consisted of aid disbursement to about 10-15 people. ` 500 per month, was enough for the month’s medicines. Donations were collected through moneyboxes placed at various locations throughout Mumbai. Cancer Screening Clinics were held at St. Elizabeth Nursing Home and Pap smear slides were analysed at the Dysplasia clinic at Cama Hospital."
"Every month we would be given a budget and were asked to stay within it, but this would be very difficult. Patients would come for aid but often we had to turn them away for lack of funds. It was the first time I saw grown-up men cry. I would end up exceeding the budget, and at times I would make up the difference from my own pocket."
"In those days," remembers Gulshan, "the Government of India would give the proceeds of taxes raised from races at Mahalakshmi to a chosen organisation. Through the good offices of Mr. B.G. Deshmukh, then Chief Secretary to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra and a CPAA patron, we were beneficiaries every year from 1989 to 1995.
Today, Gulshan is in charge of Human Resources, Finance, Legal and Administrative matters of the association. One of her important functions is arranging licences for programmes. "We have had a couple of embarrassing experiences in the past," admits Gulshan, "when the organizers failed to inform us about the program so that we could arrange for permissions. Now we are careful about it."
Gulshan has been with CPAA through most of its ups and downs, and it is her efforts that keep the gears turning smoothly.
Dr. Shubha Maudgal, a PhD from IIT Mumbai, has worked as Resident Research Associate at NASA, USA, Technical Services Executive at Johnson & Johnson, Mumbai; Scientist at Aeronautical Development Establishment, Bangalore and Research Scientist at National Physical Laboratory, London. So what brought her to CPAA ?
"My interaction with CPAA started in 1989," says Shubha, "My mother had breast cancer in 1986. After surgery, chemotherapy and later, investigations on a second suspicious lump in 1988, which turned out to be benign, we thought she was cured. It was a shock when we found that she had suffered a relapse and this time the cancer had spread to her bones and lung. She was so depressed that she refused to consider a second round of chemotherapy."
"This is when I met Mr. Sapru at a party. I happened to mention my mother’s case and he immediately told me to bring her over. I will never forget that meeting in his office at J & J. The genuineness of his response to her questions made my mother change her mind about chemotherapy and raised her morale immensely. He also introduced us to Dr. Durga Gadgil, who helped her to deal with the pain she was suffering. I realized that this was an organisation that tackled the problems of cancer in a positive, sympathetic manner. And I resolved to help the cause when the opportunity arose."
"That opportunity came 10 years later when we returned from England. I happened to meet Mr. Sapru again in a restaurant, and knew that destiny called."
As it turned out, CPAA was looking for help in setting up their website. Having seen, what this relatively new medium could achieve abroad, Shubha felt that this was a project worth pursuing.
"The website provides a means to make CPAA’s activities known to a wider audience. It help us network with similar organisations globally. Most importantly, we hope it will make it easier to reach potential customers of products produced by the Rehabilitation Centre, thus making us economically self-sufficient."
Dr. Dhananjaya Saranath, Ph.D. from Mumbai University, fellow of the Maharashta Academy of Sciences, Professor Emeritus – School of Science, NMIMS, has joined CPAA in May 2012, to direct CPAA research activities to the next level, reviewed by a professional Scientific Committee and Independent Ethics Committee.
She has extensive experience in the field of Molecular Oncology, and has been a Research Director, Reliance Life Sciences; Deputy Director – Research, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre; and Head, Cancer Genes Laboratory, Cancer Research Institute. She is a Member-at-Large, Council of the International Academy of Oral Oncology; Assessor, National Accreditation Board of Laboratory & Callibration testing, and College of American Pathologists, USA; President, Association of Molecular Pathologists, India, and Past President of the Indian Association of Cancer Research.
Dr. Saranath is a member of several scientific advisory councils of national institutes. She has done pioneering work towards understanding the molecular basis of oral cancer, and her current focus in translational medicine aims towards ‘Molecular Diagnostics for All’ with cost effective tests for molecular biomarkers in human cancers. She has authored 80 publications in peer reviewed journals and chapters in books.
Kiran Hukku, an alumnus of Ruparel College Mumbai, was a champion sports woman in school and college. She joined the teaching profession and as principal of Vidya Niketan School, New Delhi, Mrs. Hukku proved that she was an educationist par excellence. After the demise of her husband, Mr M N Hukku (Director - New Delhi branch), she took over the charge in 1999. Even during the directorship of Mr. Hukku, Kiran had worked with her husband from the very inception of the branch.
On taking charge of the Delhi Chapter, she created a highly motivated team and brought in many changes and new activities. Since then her life has been totally devoted to this noble cause. Under her guidance CPAA Delhi has gone from strength to strength. The Delhi branch got its first van in 1987 thanks to her initiative.
Kiran had a vision to create a Diagnostic cum Detection center for the poor in the National Capital Region. Her vision became a reality in 2007 when Global Charity Foundation, USA agreed to lend full monetary support to this project and SOS Aangpur provided space. Kiran is always available to guide and listen to patients, families and colleagues who come to her for support. Her professional advice laced with motherly concern and affection uplifts the morale of all who come to her and empower them to face their problems bravely and courageously. Her ultimate vision is to make CPAA Delhi a totally independent and self-sufficient branch and to a large extent she has succeeded in this.
Maharukh Mehta, alumni of K C College Mumbai, joined CPAA as a volunteer at the Mumbai Branch. When she moved to Pune in 1996 she was invited to be a part of the Pune branch and in 2003 she took over as the Director. Under her leadership the Pune branch team has the support of a number of companies and individuals.
Joan Shenoy has a 25 year association with CPAA. As a young writer she was appointed to cover 'Uncommon Passions in Corporate Leaders'. A riveting interview with Mr. Y.K. Sapru, then Vice-President with Johnson & Johnson gave her insights into his pet project, Cancer Patients Aid Association and that changed things forever. She joined CPAA as Communications Director and worked full-time with the organization for 10 years during which she edited & produced a quarterly publication ‘Cancer Care’; scripted and produced an AV for CPAA; created a bank of educational & awareness literature, besides lending her creativity to oversee & build CPAA’s offices in Adams Wylie & King George Memorial.
ROSE Day was her vision for CPAA and was instituted to draw people into a conversation on cancer in a non-intimidating way…to reach out to cancer patients in compassion & love. Joan is a freelance writer, events & editorial consultant by profession. As Chairperson of ROSE Day, she leads the project externally, to date.
Vinaya Chacko, heads the most vital Patient Care Department and has been with CPAA since 1990. She joined CPAA after acquiring a Bachelors degree in Arts (Social Sciences) from SNDT College, Mumbai.
Her repertoire of activities include registration of patients, hospitals visits, planning their monthly budgeted medical aid, counseling and support for patients and their family members, planning house visits for palliative patients, organising special events, conducting playgroups for pediatric patients at various hospitals and institutes. She has also started working on a clinical research relating to counseling of breast cancer patients.
Vinaya has received special training through programs like Breast Cancer Support Group Volunteers Training course organized by Indian Cancer Society and Sahachari Mastectomees Association and Training Progamme in Social Work for Volunteers organized by Department of Extra Mural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Science. She recently attended The International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP) at the CICG, Geneva, Switzerland, where she made a presentation on ‘Art Therapy for Cancer Afflicted Children’.
Neeta More graduated in Economics and had completed a year studying law. She had a small son when she heard about CPAA. She joined CPAA in 1990 in Administration department, followed by a stint in Fund Raising, before she found her forte and first love, the Awareness and Early Diagnosis Department. Neeta is grateful to CPAA for her transformation from a hesitant newcomer to the confident head of department she is now. She remembers wryly her first camp on her second day at work when she was called upon to fill in for someone who called in sick at the last minute. "Initially, the medical terms on the forms were unfamiliar and strange, but soon I became comfortable with them. I found my feet very fast."
Neeta heads the Awareness and Early Diagnosis Department, which tries to tackle the problem of lack of knowledge and highlights the importance of regular cancer screening. They identify groups, deliver lectures and arrange on-site camps at factories, mills and offices. The employees are told about the hazards of lifestyle factors like tobacco abuse and early marriage which cause cancer and are subsequently screened for warning signs. It is not enough to carry out an isolated screening. It is important to follow up those cases where warning signs are detected, to ensure that the individual has actually changed his habits.
While, there is a great deal of resistance on the side of both the workers and the management to such camps, over the years, Neeta has developed a special ability to reach the person in charge and arrange camps where they are most needed, be it a jails, police stations or even a red light area. She has consciously formed alliances with social workers in various fields and organisations and paramedical social workers, to reach the underprivileged, who would not be able to access such facilities in the normal way.
Neeta's dream is to see these activities spread further and reach people outside Mumbai as well and she is working actively in this direction. She completed the UICC's APCASOT Fellowship for a study that she undertook on the topic prevention and Early Detection at the Queensland Cancer Fund (QCF), Australia in 2007.
Anita Peter joined CPAA in 1991 as a pathology technician for our Cancer Screening Camps. In a couple of years, she rose to head the pathology team. Her multi faceted nature, exemplary, communication skills and basic nobility saw Anita move from a technician's post to that of a manager in the Cancer Insurance Policy, a department which required perfect balance between customer satisfaction, empathy towards patients and deliverance of Insurance claims on time.
It was a mammoth job for a NGO, whose purpose is not business but propagation of its Mission, of Total Management of cancer. Today Anita heads the Cancer Insurance Policy department. She is also the proud recipient of the UICC's APCASOT Fellowship for a study she undertook on the methodology utilised to combat tobacco issues and cancer screening at the Queensland Cancer Fund (QCF), Australia. She plays a very vital rote in Event Management and shares a major responsibility in organising events for the association, be it fund raising or patient care oriented. Anita's liaising skills benefited the organisation in the form of donations and goodwill. Anita has been responsible for the training of the APCASOT (UICC) scholars that CPAA hosts for a week every year.
Her passion for work and care for the patients is exhibited in all her interactions. No task is impossible for her and no work too small.
Kavita lost her father in 1992 after battling with cancer for 7 years. She had closely seen her father going through the pain and suffering and from there stemmed her passion to do the best she could for alleviation the suffering of cancer patients. She resigned her job of teaching and associated herself with Cancer Patients Aid Association. Through the initial years with CPAA, she helped organise & conduct cancer awareness lectures & cancer detection camps. This also gave her opportunity to raise funds for the cause. She soon realized that though this is an important aspect in the process of Total Management of Cancer, the collections through such camps, would be insufficient to meaningfully help the cancer patients.
She ventured into activity of raising funds from Corporates. Her acumen and personal effectiveness soon brought sizable resources in the corpus of CPAA. The top brass of corporates like ONGC, Hindustan Petroleum, Bharat Petroleum, Indian Oil Corporation, to name a few, soon became the partners-in-service for the cause of Cancer.
As an innovative way hitherto, she roped in support of some of the topmost banks like SBI, HSBC, Citibank through direct debit appeals to their credit-card holders. She convinced BPL, one of the major mobile phone service provider, to support CPAA through their mailers. With her dedicated efforts, Citibank agreed to specially open Payment-Gateway for CPAA. She was single-handedly responsible to get the sponsorships till date from media channels of repute as Sony and Star Plus.
She attributes this dynamism to her extensive training of Art of Living, Est Training Forum, Life Program, Existential Laboratory, Reiki, Advance Meditation course, Self Expression and Leadership Program etc.
An alumini of La Martiniere Girls college, Shailja has a post graduate degree in Economics. She joined CPAA as a fund-raiser in 1997. Being an army officer wife, she has traveled extensively across the country doing a variety of jobs like: teaching, conducting empowerment workshops and a range of welfare and social service activities. At CPAA, she is involved in conceptualizing, organizing and managing various fund raising events like musical concerts, fashion shows, plays & events garnering celebrity support.
She liaisons with several corporates to facilitate adoption of patients, funds for medicine, useful machines for the rehabilitation centre, ambulances etc through various CSR projects. She recently completed her UICC APCASOT fellowship at the Queensland Cancer Fund, Brisbane, Australia.
Aditi Bapat joined CPAA in 2001. With a bachelor's degree in Commerce & Economic from Narsee Monjee College and a post graduate degree in Software Technology from NIIT, she heads the IT Services department of CPAA.
She is responsible for maintaining and updating our exhaustive and informative website www.cancer.org.in with regular articles, e-newsletters, special appeals & events. She is also responsible for Server administration & Email management, IT Training, Support & Networking. Her repertoire of activities also include organizing Fund-raising events, formulating schemes for Public Awareness about Cancer & Early Detection, to designing & create material for awareness campaigns (Brochures, billboards, pamphlets, presentations etc.)
She brings with her the much needed technological expertise which has helped CPAA in constantly updating and upgrading themselves. In 2007, she successfully completed her UICC APCASOT fellowship at the Queensland Cancer Fund, Brisbane, Australia. Her project for this fellowship was 'Fundraising Strategies'
Piali Syam joined CPAA in 2007. A degree in Visual Art from Government College of Art and Craft, Calcutta and an exposure to art since childhood, made her the best qualified to be curator for CPAA’s annual art exhibition and sale, 'Colours of Life'. Senior artists from all over India participate in this exhibition, donating a portion of the proceeds of sale of their works. Over the years, the exhibition and sale has grown in stature so that today, it is anticipated by artists and buyers alike. CPAA's catalogue of the works and the invitation card which are designed with the help of O&M are highly appreciated and have become collector items largely due to Piali's contributions.
Her experience in the advertising field helped focus CPAA’s strategy on branding of the organization. She is responsible for creating a unified look and feel which is used in every communications and publicity item.
Piali is also responsible for CPAA’s ongoing training project, Udaan, run in collaboration with FICCI-FLO, for families financially affected by cancer which aims to provide vocational training to a member, helping them to find appropriate employment. This initiative fulfills CPAA’s goal of empowering cancer afflicted families, making them financially and socially independent. Piali is part of the Psycho-oncology training programme faculty which is held once every month.Piali’s dynamic ability to adapt, her quest for newer ideas and involvement in multiple activities has been an advantage for CPAA.
Susmita has a Masters degree in Geography from Science College, Kolkata. After a one year stint of lectureship she joined UCO Bank. During the course of 11 years in the bank, she held various positions, from branch manager to departmental head in the Foreign Exchange department. In 1995-96 she conducted a course on 'Exposure to the financial facilities' at Bombay University.
Her passion for music led her to get involved in various cultural activities as a participant, organizer and also as a director. Her drive towards doing something 'worthwhile' saw an opening through a friend in CPAA, she joined as a volunteer on 2003 and is now Director – Special Projects. During her time as a volunteer Susmita acquired a good understanding of cancer treatment, problems of the patients and counseling.
She now runs the monthly workshop of 'Psycho Oncology Volunteering' as faculty, keeps liaison with leading cancer hospitals of Mumbai, leads the volunteers' team and counsels patients and caregivers. She is also involved in various patient related activities like support group, camps and retreats for the patients. She conducts awareness lectures, especially in regional languages like Bengali. Susmita has put together informative booklets on various cancers (In English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and Bengali), on related topics like Diet, Smoking- Non-smoking tobacco and a hand-book of various cancer resources called 'Sahayata'. She also heads the Capacity Building programme under the Twinning project.