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Ganga Prem Hospice Patients


INDIA, Rishikesh, February, 2018
A Corpse-handler With Oesophagus Cancer
"I am not afraid of death. I am fearful of the pain that will accompany this death", says Baba Ashok Nath, a fifty-eight-year-old who had come to the Ganga Prem Hospice cancer clinic for the first time on February 25th, 2018.

Ashok Nath explain his symptoms to Dr Aditi
Ashok Nath explain his symptoms to Dr Aditi
Suffering from cancer of the oesophagus and so far battling it alone, Baba Ashok Nath narrates his story, where he does the work of picking up abandoned corpses and cremating them. "I have to dive into the river sometimes to recover a corpse, and invariably ingest some water. Sometimes the body has maggots. Maybe these things gave me cancer?” ponders the frail man innocently.


The patient has trouble in swallowing food due to the disease, and as a result, his nutritional intake has reduced greatly. He goes to the bhandaaras in ashrams in Rishikesh to get food. Mostly he is found at the local ghats, where abandoned bodies are often found. Ashok Nath has lived in Rishikesh, Delhi and Bengal, and everywhere he did the work of taking care of corpses - a job that most people shirk away from and are horrified by, and for doing which, he informs, he has never taken any money. Ashok Nath says he has a son and a daughter but he does not depend on them. He says his son especially dislikes him knowing that his father does the 'abhorrent' work of fishing out corpses.

Ganga Prem Hospice is supporting Ashok Nath with his initial hospital treatment.




INDIA, Gohri Maphi, January, 2017
A Patient Weeps for her Daughter
In late November 2017, Ganga Prem Hospice got a phone call from one of its volunteers asking for help for a 43 year old underprivileged woman who had just been diagnosed with cancer.

A hospice volunteer was helping the woman financially so that she could get a hip surgery done for a broken bone. When the injury was investigated at a local hospital, a diagnosis of extensive cancer came to light. The patient lived in a roadside hut and used to work as a domestic help when she was still able. As she was bedridden her daughter had had to leave her cleaning job to care for her and the two were struggling to find food.

Ganga Prem Hospice immediately made a home care visit after which Parul Mandal was transported to the hospice on December 1st, for admission to the inpatient facility.


Since then, Ganga Prem Hospice has cared for Parul, giving her medical care, and providing for all her needs. In winters, Parul enjoys lying on a cot in the sun in the hospice verandah, that overlooks the Ganga and the forest. "Had I known of this place earlier, I would have worked here for a living - done some seva as well as stayed here," says Parul to a Hospice worker.



The nurses take constant care of the patient who does not receive any other visitor except for her lone daughter, about who Parul worries day and night. The daughter, who is in her mid twenties, now has a small job at a local restaurant during the day and cooks in someone’s home in the evening. Her mother is worried about her being alone at night and about what would happen to her if she dies. The debt the daughter has incurred for her mother's treatment is another source of worry. Knowing of this situation, a Ganga Prem Hospice volunteer spoke to the restaurant owner, who assured that they would keep their employee's best interests in mind, especially at a time when she was facing such a difficult domestic situation.

Parul, who was very malnourished, was also suffering intense pain from her broken leg and bedsores which have developed because she is unable to lie in any other position. The bone could not be set due to extensive bone cancer. Parul also has lung and liver cancer but has found pain relief at the hospice. 

As a patient who came from an economically disadvantaged background and who has struggled hard to bring up her only daughter after her husband left her, she often experiences great emotional distress. The hospice team spends time with her listening gently as she repeats her story over and over again and comforting her as she weeps for her daughter.  The team is thankful to be able to offer social and emotional support as well give her medical relief for her pain.




INDIA, Gohri Maphi, December, 2017
MY STORY by Vikas
My name is Vikas Singh Jhethuri, age 17, I was born in Mindath, Silesara village, Uttarakhand in the year 2000 to Dina Devi, age 40, mother and Raghuvir Singh Jhethuri, father.

My father passed away when I was 13 years old. I have three sisters and one brother. I am the eldest of five in the family. After my father passed away the living condition at home was very difficult. In 2014 I left home and travelled to Dehradun in search of work. I found a job in a house, where I worked from 6 am to 12 pm. I washed cars and helped with small jobs around the house and in the kitchen. I was paid 3000 rupees per month. I felt compelled to help my mother financially because the villagers who had helped us started asking for the money to be repaid. In order to repay the loan i stopped school and went to work. I did not complete my 10th Standard . Round about 2015 my voice started changing then there was trouble breathing. I went to a nearby hospital where i was told that being winter I was suffering from cold and I was prescribed homeopathic medicine to take for 4 months but my condition got worse. I then went home.

When my mother saw my condition she consulted the village people who said that the goddess and god are angry and I should do pujas to worship them. This of course required some money.  Even after paying some money and doing the necessary pujas, my condition did not change. When my condition got intolerable I was advised to go to AIIMS hospital, Rishikesh.



At the AIIMS hospital,  Rishikesh, the doctors told me that I had papilloma. The hospital did not have a laser machine to do a laser surgery.  The doctors referred my case to AIIMS in Delhi. I became frightened by the situation. I knew my mother could not afford the cost of the surgery, let alone travel to Delhi. She could not leave my sisters and brother, and the animals to accompany me. The prospect of travelling to Delhi and undergoing surgery on my own scared me. Furthermore I was told that there was a month’s waiting list for laser surgery. I could not afford to stay in Delhi for a month waiting for a laser surgery. I was totally dejected and depressed because during this period we were under enormous financial strain, we had no income of any kind and no food at home. In desperation I called my grandfather who gave some money and also accompanied me to New Delhi. Some relatives with great difficulty managed to lend us a small amount of money.

We arrived in New Delhi and stayed for a month waiting for the laser surgery. After a month the surgery was done.  It went well. The surgeon told me to return in a month’s time. However within 20 days I had the same problem with the throat.  We returned to AIIMS New Delhi and after the checkup I was told that the papilloma had increased and that I may need another laser surgery. An urgent surgery was done. But 8 or 9 days later the problem returned. I returned to the hospital and was told that further laser surgery could not repeated within such a short period however an operation was done to allow a tube to be placed in my throat. It was during this operation the doctors mentioned that I had cancer. On hearing this I broke out in cold sweat and thought I had not much time to live. I cried for days and did not eat food.  Then the doctors assured me that i will be okay after radio therapy however if the cancer returned I would require another surgery.

The ENT specialists said that I had advanced local cancer and that I had to undergo radio therapy soon after the operation.  I had a tracheostomy followed by a total laryngectomy, total thyroidectomy. A tracheo-esophageal puncture (TEP) was inserted into my throat to allow me some  way of speaking. After three weeks my radio therapy started, which lasted for 2 months.  Today I have  a hole at my throat.  I am unable to sound out my words and therefore cannot carry out normal communication. Two more surgeries are required to widen the stoma which will then hopefully allow the TEP to work.

In addition to dealing with cancer I was told that the MRI and CT SCAN of my chest indicate that I have tuberculosis (TB) of the lungs.  I am currently on medication for TB for next 6 months.

My mother worries about me because she cannot accompany me for visits to doctors in Rishikesh or Delhi. When I am away from my home I have no way of communicating with my mother or my siblings. The reason being i cannot speak, I can only text them via WhatsApp but my family do not have a mobile phone, we simply cannot afford one. It was only through the generosity of volunteers of GPH that I was gifted a mobile phone. This enables me to communicate with my uncle.
Pending the clarification of my disease I stayed at Ganga Prem Hospice. As of 24th December my chest xrays shows improvement and it has been confirmed that I do not have cancer in my lung but I do have TB and that I should continue to take medication for this disease for further 5 months. I will be returning to home now and will continue taking the TB medication till I am cured of this disease.

I am very grateful to Nani Ma ji, the staff of Ganga Prem Hospice and volunteers for taking good care of me and for all the help rendered to make my stay at the hospice a pleasant and memorable one.


Vikas during art therapy at GPH inpatient facility
Vikas during art therapy at GPH inpatient facility




Date of Home Visit: 3rd December 2017
Name of patient: Vikas Singh Jethuri
Caregivers: GPH Volunteers Jyoti Jayan (Kerela) and Bibi Hamel (Rishikesh)
Address: Mindath,  Silesara village, Uttarakhand

Vikas, Jyothi and Bibi left Rishikesh in GPH’s vehicle at about 10.30 am.  Approximately at 12.30 pm we arrived at his village Mindath. The simple house was situated on a small hill and somewhat isolated. Enroute we did not see any vehicles i.e. shared jeeps or buses coming down from the villages. Neither did we see any facilities i.e. medical or banks or any kind of township.


Bibi with Vikas and his family
Bibi with Vikas and his family
Jyothi with Mr Jethuri
Jyothi with Mr Jethuri 


His mother was away cutting fodder for their cows and his 14 year old younger sister was busy with household chores. Two of his other siblings an 11 year old sister and 7 year old brother greeted us shyly when we arrived unannounced. When his mother learned that Vikas had come, she hurried home with a load of freshly cut grass. She was happy to see her son and relieved that he is alright because she had no idea where or how he was.  Jyothi assured her that he was well taken care off. The mother’s other worry was that she or her children had no way of contacting Vikas as they had no mobile phone so that  they could at least keep in touch via text messages because Vikas is unable to speak due to Laryngectomy. He was diagnosed with larynx cancer.

Mrs.Jethuri is a widow with 4 children. Her husband was killed in a truck accident 7 or 8 years ago. Vikas, then 13, stopped attending his schooling and started working to help contribute towards the household and help his mother pay off some of their debts incurred after his father passed away. In 2015 he was diagnosed with larynx cancer which required surgery. In the course of medical checks it was found that his lungs were infected either with cancer or TB. 

Pending confirmation of the disease, Vikas stayed at Ganga Prem Hospice. He is currently being treated by doctors at AIIMS hospital, Rishikesh.

The financial situation of this family is poor. Mrs. Jethur is unable to go to work as she has not only her other children to take off but also the cows. She is responsible for sourcing fresh green food for the cows on a daily basis. As she has no income other than the small widow’s pension she receives, she is also doubtful of being able to afford the cost of travelling frequently to Rishikesh or Delhi if and when further visits to doctors are required.

Vikas is keen to complete his 10th Standard. He is interested and good at sketching, painting and photography. He has got artistic talents which could be encouraged by guiding him into the appropriate college for further education.
Both Jyothi and Bibi helped the family by buying provisions and contributing some money towards their daily needs before they took their leave.

As of 24th December Vikas his chest x-ray shows an improvement and he has been cleared of cancer however he will have to continue taking medication for his TB for further 5 months, after which he can undergo two more surgeries to widen the stoma which will then hopefully allow the TEP to work.



INDIA, Gohri Maphi, November, 2017
A Quiet and Contented Patient
Siya Ram is a quiet sixty-seven year old suffering from cancer of the oesophagus.
Siya Ram’s neck wound is testimony to the advanced stage of his cancer which has brought him to Ganga Prem Hospice inpatient facility, where he is cared for, giving medical assistance, and nutritional support, all free of charge.


Reshu blows out the birthday candles
Siya Ram at the hospice
GPH team dancing and singing with Reshu
Siya Ram and Sharbati Devi enjoying the sun


Siya Ram has lived in Rishikesh for many decades, working as a labourer in a stone powder making unit till the factory closed down a few years ago. He has a son and three daughters, and the son and grandson visit him every alternate day at the Hospice. “I have had cancer for three years”, says Siya Ram. His movement is limited but he now walks around on the wide hospice corridor with the aid of a walker or the arm of hospice staff.

"Siya Ram is a very cooperative patient", says one of the hospice nurses, looking at him fondly, “ He is very easy to care for, never fussing when his wound is dressed, or with his meals.”

As winters set in, Siya Ram enjoys lying on a cot out in the open hospice corridor, taking in the warm sunshine, as the Hospice staff gently oil his hands and feet.

Update 7.12.2017
On the 3rd of December Siya Ram asked that his children and grandchildren should come and visit him. As many of his sons, daughters and grandchildren as were able came to visit him in the afternoon and he spent a joyous few hours with them.

On the 5th of December Siya Ram asked for his own bedding to be brought to him and he snuggled up happily under the huge, heavy and somewhat faded covers.

On the 7th of December in the early evening he passed away quietly with his grandson and the hospice staff in attendance.




Cancer patients and their loved ones are invited to write to us about their views, thoughts and feelings. We will include as many letters, articles and stories as is possible in these web pages.

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