Over the years, the Mohammed brothers have spent countless hours on the footpaths outside the Tata Memorial Hospital in Parel, waiting for reports or for doctors to arrive. As the year turns, they are in for another wait until they collect enough funds for a cosmetic surgery for 19-year-old Javed Mohammed. Javed has been battling a rare form of cancer since he was four years old. Since then, he and his brother Aarif, have grown accustomed to the interminable pauses on the footpaths of Parel. But the cure always seems around the corner.
On Thursday afternoon, while the brothers, who hail from a farmer family in Madhya Pradesh, sat on the pavement with other cancer patients, their luggage huddled near them, the growing anxiousness of the other patients was palpable. Javed was greeted by curious stares from bystanders, something he had grown accustomed, then oblivious to a long time ago, after he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer, called adamantinoma. A tumour in his jawbone disfigured his neck and the lower part of his face.
The defacement began after 1998, the year he underwent an operation to remove the malignant tumour from his jawbone. In 2010, after more than a decade of battling the deadly disease, doctors at the Tata hospital informed Javed’s family that he was completely cured and his cancer was in remission. The family was relieved. But the disease and the operation wracked Javed’s face, which has since been severely out of form, owing to lack of funds.
“We were informed in 2010 that his plastic surgery would cost at least Rs 60,000, which we could not afford at the time. Javed and I would return to the hospital every six months for check-ups after he was done with his chemotherapy,” said Aarif, his 26-year-old brother who helps their parents at the farm back home. “We earn only Rs 3,000 a day. A CT scan alone costs around Rs 1,500. On top of that, Mumbai is an expensive city to live in,” he added.
Almost four years ago, Javed lost all his hair as a result of chemo. Most of his teeth had fallen out in 1998, following the operation. His brother rued that one tooth implant would set them, back by Rs 20,000. “Each one of us takes turns to bring him to the city for treatment. Over the years, we have grown to strongly dislike this city due to the immense hardships we face here, as we don’t have any friends or relatives. We have managed to pay his bills so far due to the concessions the hospital provides us. We can only pray that we get some help this time,” said Aarif
Initially, the family stayed on footpaths outside the hospital, like many penniless patients. And just like them, they would often be chased away by the cops. “To avoid being repeatedly humiliated by the policemen, we stay in an ashram in Dadar,” said Aarif. While they arrived in the city on Monday, the duo will have to spend at least another three days in the city as the hospital’s out-patient department will be closed for Christmas holidays.
Javed is pursuing his Std XII in Commerce and hopes to become a businessman some day. “My favourite subject is business studies. I look forward to going back to my village and being around my friends and parents again,” said Javed. The teenager is preparing for his board exams, which will be conducted in the last week of March. “We plan on coming back to Mumbai and scheduling his plastic surgery in April, after his exams. That way, his treatment won’t come in the way of his studies. Maybe, by then, we will collect the funds we need for the treatment,” said Aarif. The family has so far managed to accumulate Rs 10,000 for his treatment.