Sheeba’s daughter struggled to fight the disease and, after several sessions of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, she recovered for a while. But she caught an infection and the struggle with cancer started all over again — a battle that she unfortunately lost.
“She was a fighter. She faced the situation bravely. But, despite our best efforts, she did not survive. I still remember everything that we went through during that period. Nothing is worse than seeing your own flesh and blood suffer such pain while you stand by helpless,” Sheeba recalls with a heavy heart.
But Sheeba was going to ensure that no one else stood by helpless for lack of finances or medical support. This housewife, who had never experienced life outside her home and family, did something completely unexpected and extraordinary. While her daughter was still struggling with cancer, she started an organization, Solace, in 2007. The aim was to provide affordable medical, psychological and social help to cancer patients and their families.
“Having gone through the pain, I didn’t want any other mother to lose her kid. So I started Solace. Being a Muslim woman, I had never got the freedom to step out of my house much. I was a typical housewife. But my struggles gave me the strength to start something like this,” says Sheeba.
Sheeba, through her organization, provides financial aid of at least Rs 8 lakh every month to the many beneficiaries she works with. Solace has successfully helped over 900 patients so far. The initiative has received liberal donations from many donors, well-wishers and supporters from across the world.
Solace has been able to intervene successfully in the lives of many cancer patients. Srihari, a school going kid, is one example. His family did not have the means to get him treated when he got cancer and approached Solace for help. The organization engaged with Srihari and his family completely for the three years it took to help the boy get rid of the disease. Srihari now, once again, goes to school regularly.
“One lady came to us with a child who was suffering from cancer. She had an abusive husband and she was in severe pain due to all the harassment. She was both physically and emotionally weak. We tried to help her but it was too late and she committed suicide. We want to save women like her by early intervention and support. Our centre will give them that financial and social support, which is critical,” says Sheeba.
This story was originally published in The Better India.