“He came home complaining of leg pain. There was no blood or even a bruise. It took months to diagnose his cancer. I have no answer when he tells me I should have just listened to him and taken him to a hospital that very day.” – Bhimanna, Mallikarjun's father.
16-year-old Mallikarjun has aggressive cancer in his right leg and the teenager faces possible amputation or worse if not treated. His father Bhimanna is a daily-wage farmer in Dhuttagaon, a small village in Karnataka. As much as Bhimanna wants to save his son – every round of chemotherapy pushes him closer to financial ruin.
No one thought that Mallikarjun's leg pain would be cancerBhimanna and Renuka bitterly regret not taking him to the doctor in December when his pain began. It was when they saw their 16-year-old start crying with pain that they knew this would not go away. Mallikarjun had a fast-spreading bone cancer in his right foreleg.
“He slipped and fell. The pain started then. When he told us his leg was hurting, we put some oil on it. Later that week, I took him to the dawakhana (hospital) in Gulbarga and Kolhapur and got many scans done. They gave us golis (tablets), he took all of them but he only got worse – much worse.”
Mallikarjun has his life ahead of him and may lose a limb to cancerIt was only when they came to Bangalore in April that Mallikarjun's cancer treatment finally started. Because they had lost so much time, Mallikarjun needed strong chemotherapy that would act on cancer immediately. He has completed four rounds of chemo and needs two more. Not only is he afraid of cancer, but he faces the prospect of losing his leg if his treatment does not succeed.
“He is a happy child – someone who understands everyone's feelings and do comedy to get them laughing. 'Cancer' and the fear of amputation has emotionally hurt him. He wants to do a lot more with life. He is suffering physically also – he has sores all over his mouth and stomach. His leg hurts a lot and some days, pain medication does not help.”
Bhimanna earns Rs 130 for a day's work but nothing will make him give up on treatmentBhimanna is determined that even though treatment started late, he will do whatever it takes to complete his youngest child's treatment. He has borrowed close to Rs 2 lakh from the money lenders in his village. He is worried about what the future may hold for their family if they don't pay back the amount.
Mallikarjun (seated) with his parents and two older brothers
“I can earn only so much working on our leased farm and on others' land. On days that I bring him to the hospital, even that is not there. But no matter what happens, his treatment should not stop. I can't let go of my child's health. I will fold my hands and ask everyone for help.”
Bhimanna is a tenant farmer and most of the money he earns comes through working on other's farms. He takes care of his family and educates his three sons through a lot of hard back-breaking work. But this is the crisis this brave farmer cannot face on his own.
How you can help
Help Bhimanna save his son from cancer.