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D.Muthukrishnan (Muthu), Certified Financial Planner- Personal Financial Advisor

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My visit to Cancer Institute

Posted by Muthu on June 25, 2012

All of you may know about the renowned Cancer Institute in Adyar. I’ve been a resident of Adyar for last 8 years and would have crossed this place thousands of times. Till last Friday I’ve not stepped into the institute once. As you read through, you’ll know why I went there. 

The road I live is called L.B. (Lattice Bridge) road. Government renamed it long ago as Dr.Muthulakshmi road and still we call this only L.B.road. If you say as Muthulakshmi road, even the auto drivers or courier guys would not know.

Who is this Dr.Muthulakshmi? 

She is the one who founded Cancer Institute, Adyar.

You can imagine a girl born in 1886, father being a Brahmin and mother an Isai Vellalar aspiring for higher studies. The place she was born in Pudukottai in Tamilnadu and after finishing her schooling, there was no college to study.

The Maharaja’s college was for men only and she was denied admission. Then Maharaja of Pudukottai, a forward looking person, allowed her to study in the men’s college. Again imagine a single woman studying in an all men’s college around 100+ years ago.

She went further and studied medicine at MMC (MadrasMedicalCollege) becoming one of the first woman in the India to become a Doctor. She also did higher studies in medicine at England.

Seeing the pathetic situation of women inIndia then; especially what was then considered as low castes and Devadasis, she represented WIA (Women’s India Association) and went into Madras  Legislative Council. Not many may be aware that she played a key role in abolishment of Devadasi System; bringing a legislation into effect. This was staunchly supported by Periyar and opposed by Congress led by Sathyamoorthy.

She is the first one to propose the minimum marriageable age of men and women as 21 and 16 respectively. This was radical at the time child marriages were the norm.

When people did not even realise that they were dying due to a disease called cancer, she saw the need to establish an institution for research and treatment of cancer.

A person by name S.K.Puniyakoti Mudaliar donated 9 acres of land for this purpose and the institute was started by Dr.Muthulakhmi in 1954.

Dr.Muthulakshmi married Dr.D.T.Sandara Reddy. Again a woman marrying at the age of 28 someone from a different caste and language was very unusual.

One trivia: Muthulakshmi is the aunt of famous Tamil film actor Gemini Ganesan. 

Adyar Cancer Institute is now considered as one of the best state of the art cancer institute in the world today. Around 1.25 lakhs patients are seen and treated here every year. Out of which around 65% to 70% of the people are treated free of cost. People come here from all overIndia and even parts ofAsia. Where else a poor person can go for a quality treatment for an expensive disease? 

Many popular corporate hospitals do not have the kind of Doctors who specialize in various forms for cancer as in Cancer Institute. 

Someone told me about a cancer patient from a middle class family where a popular hospital suggested spending Rs.30 lakhs. They came to Adyar for a second opinion. On checking the patient, the family was informed that the patient has only few months to live and the treatment suggested by the popular hospital is not only useless but would also eave them in severe debt for a long time. They were asked to keep the patient happy and suggested medicines to reduce the pain for rest of his remaining life. The patient died in few months. If they have listened to the first hospital, in addition to loosing their kin, they would have also got into irrecoverable debt trap.  

 The main problem faced by the people traveling from rest of India to Chennai for treatment was food and accommodation.

How can extremely poor people who are affected with Cancer and come to city along with their attendant would be able to afford accommodation and quality food 3 times a day?

Mr.Mohandevi Hirachand Nahar built a 4 storeyed Dharmasala in the (Old) Cancer Institute campus for the same.

Though the building was ready, the next main issue was taking care of poor patients, feeding them, provide them other amenities, administer the daily functioning and above all rise funds for the same.

A retired Indian Oil employee, Mr.V.Krishanamurthy took up this cause and formed ‘Sri Matha Trust’ for this purpose.

The trust was formed in August 2000 and so far they have taken care of over 2 lakh patients.

It is surprising to learn what all they do. For all the inmates (patients and attenders), a good cup of coffee is served as the first thing in the morning. In the afternoon, they provide typical South Indian food – rice, 2 vegetables (Poriyal & Kootu), Sambar, Rasam and buttermilk. Again tea is provided in the evening. For dinner, it is one mixed rice or Kittachadi, plain rice, poriyal, rasam and buttermilk. Pure RO water is provided to all.

On an average, 300 to 350 people are served every day. Since they do not know how many new patients may be checking in a given day, the kitchen functions continuously from 5 a.m to 9.30p.m.

A group of few volunteers under Mr.Krishnamurthy manages the whole thing on 24/7/365 basis.

House keeping by professional contractor, continuous water supply and cable TV for entertainment are some of the salient features of this Dharmasala.

Before setting up of this Dharmasala, people who can be cured (in the first 2 stages of cancer) would not continue their treatment for want of money to pay for stay for food and go back to their native only leading to advancement of disease and death.

Because of the above facility, now they stay and take treatment. So I honestly feel that these patients are provided life by Matha trust.

Many poor people come here would not even have clothes for change and the trust gets them the same. PET scan usually costs 30K to 40K. The trust in understanding with institute sponsors such patients by paying 10K from their corpus. So the patient gets PET scan free of cost.

There are babies and children with blood cancer. For certain kind of these cancers, an injection costing 7K per week has to be administered to these kids. Since there is no way, the parents can afford 7K per week for 52 weeks, the trust sponsors the same.

I heard about some one going for cyber knife treatment for brain tumour which cost Rs.50 lakhs+ and got cured. Cancer is curable but treatment is expensive.

A single Chemotherapy sessions normally costs 45K (with less side effect- Rs.1.5 lakhs). Some one in a stage 1 or stage 2 of cancer need to spend Rs.12 lakhs to Rs.15 lakhs for treatment alone to get cured. Cancer institute and Matha trust take care of these with almost free or negligible cost for poor and needy.

All these are made possible by contributions from people like you and me.

In my opinion, Money or Wealth basically has three primary functions 1) Current Consumption – spending for our life style 2) Savings and Investments- for our future safety or ‘rainy days’  3) Giving- what we spend for others. Most of us focus either on the first or second or both but completely ignore the last one.

At some point of time in future, I plan to allocate either 25% of annual income or  25% of my financial assets into a trust and channelise it for giving. So far I’ve focused on feeding the poor and sponsoring education. I’ve decided to add 2 more to the list- helping for medical treatment and fund spreading of financial literacy, which can really make or break a person’s life.

Giving by our family is so far mainly tied to occasions like birthdays, marriage day, in memory of deceased elders etc. I’ve visited Cancer Institute for giving for one such occasion.

Charity is not merely cutting a cheque. Unless there is a compassion or empathy for a cause, charity becomes very shallow. Warren Buffett is doing the largest charity in history so far. The beneficiaries include many people in ruralIndia. None of them may know Buffett or even Gates & Melinda foundation which administers the money. I feel there should not be any publicity in charity and it should not become one more avenue for showing off. I’m amazed to see temples walls covered with the name of donors starting from Rs.1001/- and even tube lights are printed with donor names so that there is very less light:-)

As much we are diligent and account for money while spending and investing, the same diligence needs to be applied in giving. We need to ensure that the money given by us is properly spent and accounted for.

Why giving is important because there is a tremendous amount of inequality in the world. I’ve written in the past a lot about this inequality.

World Bank economist Branko Milanovi has done a lot of research and wrote a book, The Haves and the Have-Nots. This is how the income break-up is for the whole world

Top 50% earns $1225+ (Rs.61,250) a year

Top 20% earns $5000+ (Rs.2.5 lakhs) a year

Top 10% earns $12000+ (Rs.6 lakhs) a year

Top 1% earns $34,000+ (Rs.17 lakhs) a year

Top 0.1% earns $70,000+ (Rs.35 lakhs) a year

Half of the world population (3.5 billion) earns less than $2 (Rs.100) a day. 90% of the people in the developing world (including India) earn less than $10 (Rs.500) a day.

 For ease of calculation, I’ve assumed $1= Rs.50/-

Wealth or money is not infinite but very finite. Since we are lucky to be in the better slab above, we also need to think about the unfortunate.

Since I’ve written about Cancer Institiute; few lines on Cancer. Cancer in stage 1 and stage 2 is now completely curable if identified and treated in time. Movies either make fun of cancer or depict a person having cancer facing imminent death. Nothing can be farther than truth.

Cancer can come to anyone at anytime in life. It has nothing to do with one’s habits or lifestyle though avoiding certain habits like smoking and having a healthy life style may decrease the chances. Cancer is not contagious. Just because a friend or family member has cancer, it would not spread to us. Thinking, speaking or writing about cancer would not cause cancer. The awareness of this disease is very low and hence it would help if we can talk about it.

Since lot of people think cancer is contagious, they even kick their near and dear out of the home as disease progresses. That is the reason why Sri Matha Trust is planning for a Hospice centre in Chennai. This would be a palliative care centre for terminally ill patients to help them have painless, hunger less and peaceful death including conducting last rites as per their belief; all free of cost. They are unable to get land for this purpose and have been petitioning government towards the same. Hope their plea is heard.

Since this social cause should go on smoothly, Mr.Krishnamoorthy has already chosen and grooming Ms.Vijayasree as his successor. Ms.Vijayasree and her husband, both very young, have quit their career and is working full time for this trust on a voluntary basis.

I would like to thank Mr.Krishnamoorthy, Ms.Vijayasree and Ms.Rama who educated me on the above and took me around the center so that I can see things myself.

Those of you interested may contact Sri Matha Trust at +91-044-24420727 or +91-044-24404950.

8 Responses to “My visit to Cancer Institute”

  1. Kathir said


    very thoughtful article.Deeply appreciate it and will surely spread this around.

  2. Muthu,

    Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

    you have done the best thing, of spreading important message and way… May god bless you for spreading this.

  3. Milind S Nitsure said

    Many thx Muthu.Excellent Article

  4. Shinu said

    There is not greater joy than giving to the needy and remain unknown. You need to experience it.
    The Creater has a magic wand who do ensure to give it back into you in some other way/ day.
    A giver will never be a loser. Be remain blessed.

  5. amol said

    thats good sir!
    Waiting for new article!

  6. KDS said

    My mom had been detected with CLL and we thought we would consult Cancer Institute to confirm and as we had heard its a non profit organization.
    We registered my mom as a new patient. While registration, they asked for monthly income. I had provided monthly income of our home as Rs. 10000. They asked us to pay for consultation at the cash counter. I was shocked on hearing Rs. 900 as consultation fees. I found it very high; higher than other hospitals where its normally Rs. 500.
    After consulting doctor, he had prescribed some test and was asked to pay at the counter. At the counter we were told to pay Rs. 13,600. This was a real blow to us. I was wondering how can a person with Rs.10000 pm can afford to pay. I approached doctor again to check if it was really required to be done immediately. He told me i can get it done outside where it would be lesser by some thousand to two thousand rupees. I was really shocked on hearing this as I was in the impression that adyar cancer institute is a non profit organization and help people in need.

    This is my experience at the adyar cancer institute.

  7. thirunavukkarasu said

    I had a very bad experience in this hospital as I lost my brother – in – law. He was admitted in this hospital stating that he has a starting stage of blood cancer , but within a week his pulse got down shifted to ICU given ventilation and after 4hours they came out and said he is no more while we seeing him he was almost in a packed condition that is ready to be shifted to mortuary. We took the case history and went to other hospital to show the case history the chief doctor told he can be recovered in two weeks but when we said he has away he told that something they have done mistake in the hospital. cancer hospital adyar.

  8. sree chiru said

    Dear muthu sir,

    Very good information and it is useful for many needy people. The way the article was describing about cancer and how to treat the human beings was impressed me a lot. Thank you.

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