Community Shows Support for Cancer Care Hospital in Lahore
ByRas H. Siddiqui
The Cancer Care Hospital and Research Center (CCH&RC) in Lahore is trying to offer late stage cancer treatment free of charge to patients in Pakistan’s second largest city. But like all other efforts of this nature (Imran Khan’s visionary Shaukat Khanum Hospital comes to mind), the heavy subsidies required for keeping these operations going are generated mainly through charitable contributions or donations.
The generosity of the Pakistani-American community is well known for helping such causes but an event has to be planned and executed to attract them in various cities in America. And this is exactly what occurred in the Sacramento, California suburb of Citrus Heights at the White Lotus Banquet Hall on October 20, 2017 where around 250 people gathered to support what can only be described as a noble cause. And representing the effort here were CCH&RC President, Professor Dr Shaharyar accompanied by Board Member Mrs Ghazala Tariq. Another huge draw for Pakistanis here was singing sensation Humaira Channa.
Cancer or “The Big C” can be deadly if it is not detected early. It is also a great equalizer. No race, color, creed, national origin, religion, age or gender is immune from its embrace. Few families are unaware of its visit or impact. Many of our friends and family members have already succumbed to it. So it was not a surprise that when a group of people namely Rabina Khan, Azmi Gill, Rukhsana Qumar, Beela Shaikh, Rana Rehan Zaffar, and Shahid Saleemi initiated this fundraising effort in Sacramento, they received quite a bit of support. They deserve praise for planning and executing such a fine evening. The fight against cancer in Lahore certainly deserves community attention.
The evening began with a lot of socializing and some great appetizers. Our thanks to our location host Rummy Cheema of White Lotus for making everyone feel welcome. To start the formalities co-emcees Onsa Saeed Khan(English) and Mrs Durriya Syed (Urdu) carried the formalities through in an efficient and seamless manner. Onsa stressed the importance of this event, because each one of us has somehow been impacted by cancer (either directly or indirectly).Mrs Durriya Syed pointed out that all should appreciate the unity of effort by our community here. She also shared the impact of cancer on her family’s older generation and their passing away. And next, a very capable young lady was invited to recite from the Holy Qur’an to bless the evening.
Professor Dr Shaharyar was introduced next. In his half hour presentation, the good Doctor both informed and moved us. He appreciated the kind words said about him and immediately expressed his thanks to the team led by Rabina Khan which had worked very hard to make this event possible. He also introduced a member of the Cancer Care Hospital Board, MrsGhazala Tariq, who travelled all the way from Pakistan to be here. . Shaharyar started off by sharing with us a few fundamental things about cancer. He said that with every new diagnosis, regardless of age, a whole family is immediately affected and that cancer is a disease which is on the rise in Pakistan. The good doctor presented some facts and figures relating to the alarming increase in the rate and numbers of cancer patients in the country. “Our country is not prepared to treat so many cancer patients,” he said.
Dr Shaharyar said that Punjab has a population greater than Canada and Germany combined, close to 110 million people. He explained that Shaukat Khanum is an excellent hospital (thanks to Imran Khan) but it cannot provide care to all of the patients coming in for treatment. About 300 people come to that hospital every day but only a small fraction (20-30) can get treatment. He added that about 150,000 people diagnosed with cancer in Punjab go without treatment every year and one knows how that ends (he provided some very disturbing images of people, women and children who came in too late). People often have to make choices on whether to spend money on their children or get treatment themselves. Cancer is a relentless disease. Many people (around 400 daily in Punjab) die daily and it does not even make the news. He said that we would be surprised to learn that there are 18 cancer hospitals in Delhi (India) alone, eightof which run on charity. Pakistan has only one cancer hospital! We need at least 20.
The good doctor zeroed in on breast cancer in women in Pakistan and presented alarming statistics and pictures. He explained that due to a lack of mammography facilities, most of these cases are detected at stage 3 and stage 4 when it might be too late. Treatment (Palliative Care) is too expensive for many of them, he said. And then turning to the Cancer Care Hospital, Dr Shahryar explained the vision and the current status of the facility which is a work in progress (on 27 acres) and could benefit from financial help immediately. He said that the vison of this project is that no patient will be refused treatment even at a late stage and that every patient will be treated free of cost.
That set the stage for the fundraiser which was helped in a big way by Rabina Khan. Mrs Khan shared with those in attendance the impact that this deadly disease has had on those near and dear to her. And her appeal resonated with many people here. One young person who was a friend of our entire community and was being sorely missed (due to cancer) was remembered by his widow at the event with her starting donation of $25,000. And by the time all was said and done, including the Q&A session, close to $125,000 had been raised at this Sacramento venue.
The last part of the event was extremely entertaining with a top vocalist performing. Humaira Channa was in great singing form. She started off with a spiritual number “Wohi Khuda Hai” and one of her songs from a Coke Studio performance. But for us old timers it was her rendition of Madam Noor Jahan’s “Mujh se Pehli si Mohabbat Mere Mehboob na Maang” (written by Faiz Sahib) that really made an impact. And when she followed it up with “Chandni Raatain” and a host of Punjabi numbers originally sung by the Melody Queen, the evening appeared complete. This writer is indebted to Humaira for singing upon request a very difficult “Daagh-e-Dil’ (written by Baqi Siddiqui) and originally sung by Mohtarma Iqbal Bano. The last number was “Dama Dam Mast Qalandar” during which some diehards danced to close the event.
(Readers are encouraged to view the Cancer Care Hospital Website: https://www.cch-rc.com/ for more information about this project)