A DECADE WITH MAX

 
Recently, I
got a mail which read,  “People come into
our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime…”. So very true!
When Max
walked into my life with Viji on the 29th of July 2004, exactly ten
years ago, how was I to know that he had chosen me for a reason and for a lifetime,
and that the season would go on
forever?

I had been
brought into cancer care by Dr. V P Gangadharan at Lakeshore Hospital, Kochi,
just a few months earlier, as a volunteer help. And soon, Viji offered me a
volunteership with Max, which Dr VPG told me to grab with both hands.

Then, on
this very day ten years ago, Viji appointed me Assistant MaxStation. From then
until now, it has been a journey of wonder and growth for me, as for all the
others associated with Max.
In India, we
have a story about Lord Krishna as an infant. His mother caught him swallowing
a good helping of forbidden fresh butter, and asked him to open his mouth so
she could catch him in the act. But when he opened his tiny lips, what was
revealed to her was the entire universe, swimming in his mouth.

Max has
similarly opened the whole world to me, physically and mentally. He has taken
me across the globe… and he has exposed me to so many experiences I never
knew to be even possible.

As a
MaxStation, and more recently as Region Head (South), and now as Programme
Officer, I was sent to all corners of India to organize and attend meetings.

And abroad
too:
2010 – Asia Pacific meet at Bangkok
2011 – New Horizons meet at Amsterdam
2012 – UICC at Montreal
2013 – 2014 – Rising Sun meets at Beijing and Penang
Right from
the days of GIPAP, Max has shown me, step by step, the layers of meaning contained
in that one word- “Advocacy”. From a fresh, faint-hearted novice who would cry
with the patients and caregivers as they narrated their woes – to a consoling
listener – to a reasonably competent counsellor- and now, to a presenter of
their issues at public forums and on national and international platforms, I have
grown a lot in peeling a number of layers off that magic word. I am sure there
are many more in there for me to discover, under the unfailing tutelage of Max,
my friend.

“Humanity”
is another word that has sunk deeply into me over these years. Through our
sufferings and our little joys, we as a species, are meant to stick together.
What an experience it has been, to watch the various ways in which recipients
under GIPAP and NOA have expressed their humaneness so beautifully!

There is the
instance of our modern day Shajahan marrying his very own Mumtaz  on Max’s birth anniversary – 19th
October, 2008, so he would never ever forget that day in his life. (Both are
CMLers, and they fell in love at the physician’s waiting room.) Then there
are these two sisters in CML who decided to get their son and daughter married
to one another, so there would be complete understanding and harmony, and they
could say bye-bye to social stigma. Also, every now and then one got a ride in
an auto rickshaw, only to be told during the ride what a wonderful person you
are for saving the auto driver’s father’s life! Even recently, two separate
callers phoned in to tell me of their deep gratitude to me and to the programme
for their continuing to be alive. As usual, I gently corrected them, saying
“Thanks to Max and Novartis, you are well. Thanks be to God!”

Another word
we use day in and out hit me, just about a year ago- “Caregiver”. Little did I
know what it really meant, until I became one to my very dear and only brother,
who is no longer with us. The pain, the fear (more like panic), the terrible
knowledge of the certainty of his leaving and worst of all, the need to keep
from breaking down so as to give him courage and support… If not for Max, and
the rock solid support from Pat and Viji, I don’t know how I would have
survived. All the training I got, and all the counselling I delivered just
barely saw me through.

And that
brings me to “Mentoring”. I had a string of qualifications in various fields
such as Management, Computers, Accountancy and Journalism, but little exposure
to the hard realities of life. Viji picked me up and built me like a Lego
project – grooming, praising, coaxing, chiding, encouraging, enabling and
leading, and finally setting me free to lead. And, though not in the beginning,
but more and more as the years went by and I grew within the organization, I
began to see the smiling shadow behind Viji emerging as the known and admired
leader– Pat, who guides us all.

My wonderful
fellow team members, in India and the world over, especially in Seattle,
require specific mention as a special breed. No other team could have such a
dedicated, committed, selfless bunch of people pledged to the service of
humanity, without any of the outward trappings and labels.
Guys and
girls! Let me assure you, we are a great bunch!

The
physicians and hospital staff, the Novartis team and stockists, all those we
are associated with have contributed so much to our mission. And I have formed
such lovely friendships with so many among them.

This could
go on and on..

The song in
my heart started 10 years ago. Only much later did Max take on the form of the
songbird Maximo. Yet, it is so apt a form to picture him in – Flitting
tirelessly from place to place, spreading joy and cheer and helping us all to
learn and to share.

Thank you,
Max, for the wonderful past ten years. 
And here is wishing for many, many more years with you. I know, unlike
you, I am a mere human. But I wish you would go on forever.

And so will
end this by quoting John Keats:

“Still
wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain –
To thy high requiem become a sod.
Thou wast not born for death, Immortal Bird!”

Hey! That
sounded too serious, so let us quote Douglas Adams of
‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, instead:

“So long,
and Thanks for all the fish!”

Beena



2005



2005

2006

2006

2007
 
2008

2009

2009

2010- Chalo Chennai

FOM Kerala Meet 2010

2011 – Hyderabad All India Meet

2011-Amsterdam New Horizon

2011-Amsterdam (New Horizons)

2011 – Livestrong Day

2012- UICC Montreal

2012-Bhubaneswar FOM Meet

2012

2012

2013

2013

2013 – Beijing Rising Sun Meet

2014



2014 – With Dr V P Gangadharan – World Cancer Day

2014 – With Pat at Penang- Rising Sun Meet

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