This is the story of twin sisters, Kanitha and Kanoksri Kumphai from Thailand. Like twins the world over, they were inseparable and continued to do most things together well into their adulthood. Now in their late 40’s, Kanoksri is married with a family of her own, and Kanitha is single. Both sisters were running a successful Thai restaurant together in Bangkok that specialized in northern Thai cuisine when an unexpected health event forced them to close their beloved business.
Kanitha was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a condition that meant having to go through a rigorous treatment protocol that included regular chemotherapy. Trying to run a high-intensity business like a restaurant while battling a health condition proved to be too challenging so following the closure of their business, the sisters moved to Nonthaburi, a riverside suburb of Bangkok to save on costs.
Says Kanoksri, “We were running a restaurant together, but then everything stopped because without her I couldn’t do it. We have always been doing things together. However, I have my own family, a husband, and children. But she has only me”. On chemotherapy till recently, Kanitha has had to stop since she is no longer responding to treatment. “The cancer she has is blood cancer, not a tumor that we can cut off. Without chemotherapy, we can’t do anything else but only supportive care” comments Kanokshri. The sisters, running out of savings, have chosen to rent a riverside home, close to the Chao Phraya river so they could use the ferry to get to the hospital and cut down on transportation costs.
Says Kanitha, “I once had depression and tried to commit suicide. Maybe, it could be because of the drugs I took during that time because I was unaware of doing all those things. Now I still want chemotherapy, but the doctor suggested that my body can’t handle it anymore. The risk is too high”.
More positive and resilient now and intent on being strong and fighting on, she continues, “Now I want to live. But since chemotherapy seems impossible to me I’ll just do whatever I can do now. I would go to the hospital for whatever symptoms I have to live a little longer. I actually feel better lately. Apart from going to the hospital, I would spend my time reading books, going to temples, being with nature, or doing exercise”.
The Max Foundation’s Last Mile transportation assistance program that helps defray transportation costs for patients has helped cut the price of the sisters’ transportation costs to the hospital. Monetary grants provided through the Max Foundation’s Last Mile transportation assistance program help eliminate the cost of travel – a major barrier to accessing treatment for many patients and their families. Says Kanoksri, “Now we can cut half the price for the transportation cost. But we don’t know how long this battle is.”