Inspired by her personal experience with cancer, a Rutgers student created a club in support of individuals dealing with cancer within and outside of the University.
Hardee Bhavsar, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, was diagnosed last April with stage two Hodgkin’s lymphoma, for which she underwent six months of chemotherapy and two surgeries, she said in an Instagram post. She said that cancer does not have just a physical effect but a mental toll as well, especially during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“When I was going through treatment myself, from April through November, I had to go through … the testing, the infusion itself, the chemo. All of that I had to do by myself,” Bhavsar said. “My family could not be there with me in the hospital … because the chemo would put the patients at such high risk for contracting COVID-19.”
She said seeing what herself and other patients went through led her to start a club, Answer for Cancer (AFC), as a means of providing a support group for those affected by the disease. The club plans to arrange video calls with cancer patients for when they undergo infusion therapy and make a website where people affected by cancer may chat with club members while remaining anonymous, she said.
“Being a part of AFC is about more than just giving back,” said her friend Kiran Jagtiani, a Rutgers Business School junior and the treasurer for AFC. “It's about making an impact on someone's life. Sometimes something as simple as a shoulder to lean on or a person to talk to can really change someone's day.”
AFC also plans on fundraising for cancer research and for those who cannot afford cancer treatment through means such as a COVID-19 mask sale, Bhavsar said. The club’s second meeting today will focus on an application called Charity Miles that donates money to organizations based on one’s movement, as well as a plan to write letters to patients in St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, she said.
The club held its first interest meeting online last Tuesday, for which approximately 50 people showed up, Bhavsar said.
“It was absolutely insane,” she said. “I was so overwhelmed.”
As of yesterday, 97 people have joined the AFC group chat. Bhavsar’s friend Ronika Jain, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and marketing director for AFC, said she hopes to gather a group of students interested in giving back to their community.
“With the club just starting, we will need as much help as possible, but we know with the right group, we can successfully help the ones who might need it the most,” she said.
Bhavsar said that she hopes for AFC to continue and make a difference in others’ lives after she graduates due to her personal connection with it.
“Whether it be fundraising for cancer centers, fundraising for those who cannot afford treatment or the support for that … that is something I really, really hope grows into something big because a lot of people may not realize that there are a lot of students (who are) going through it, but not all are comfortable with sharing it,” she said.