Pedal power: Dr Prashanth Prithviraj is riding 500 kilometres this month to raise money for the fight against childhood cancer. Photos: CHIPPY RIVERA

Ride only part of doctor’s huge effort

October 18, 2020 BY

CANCER is the single largest killer disease of children in this country.

It takes a special breed of person to work with youngsters suffering from the insidious disease which continues to puzzle the world of medical science.

Ballarat oncologist Prashanth Prithviraj knows from first-hand experience the heartache of treating cancer, and the collective despair of parents and medicos at any child’s death.

“As one parent said, ‘The whole process is without a doubt the toughest thing that any family goes through’,” Dr Prithviraj explained.

“It’s why I’ve decided to ride 500 kilometres in the October Great Cycle Challenge, part of the Fight Kids’ Cancer campaign.

Dr Prashanth Prithviraj

“My team and I hope to raise $10,000, every cent of which will go to The Fight Kids’ Cancer Project, an independent national charity supporting childhood cancer research.”

Born in Bangalore, capital of the southern Indian state of Karnataka, Dr Prithviraj came to Australia in 2001 to study bio technology.

Together with his GP wife, Dr Shubha Siddalingaiah, whom he met as a medical classmate, they settled in Ballarat, 2012, and which they now consider to be their home.

Dr Prithviraj is also involved with Sri Lankan Melbourne community group Patient Transport Charity which purchases decommissioned Australian ambulances.

“We have just learned there are six ambulances ready for sale,” he said. “They cost us about $20,000 each. We raise the funds and ship them to the north of Sri Lanka where they are urgently needed,” he said.

While the vehicles are deemed obsolete by Australians standards, they are far superior to anything available in Sri Lanka, particularly the north of the island which is still recovering from the ravages of the 25-year Civil War which ended in 2009.

“It may not seem much by Australian standards, but it all helps in a country where there is so much poverty, and so many people are in such desperate need,” Dr Prithviraj said.

For a time in Newcastle, Dr Prithviraj was involved with a charity group which purchased out-of-date Australian medications which were destined for dumping.

“Drugs have a six-month life after their given expiry date and remain medicinally effective. The prescription drugs were shipped to hospitals in Africa where there’s still a desperate shortage,” he said

“They help to save the lives of people who have nothing, especially children; and something is better than nothing.”

One project of which he is especially proud is the orphans’ Ashram in Bangalore.

“These are kids whom the Ashram has picked-up off the streets, or they’ve been dumped by families who can longer afford to keep them,” Dr Prithviraj said.

Some of them know nothing about their parents. It’s our responsibility to get them enrolled into English speaking schools, and to give them a chance in life.

“One boy has gone-on to do medicine, and another, engineering.”

In the meanwhile, Dr Prithviraj is out every spare moment burning rubber on Ballarat’s roads and clocking-up the kilometres to make their team goal of $10,000 for the Fight Kids’ Cancer fundraiser.

He’s confident, with generous support, they will achieve their objective.

Every year more than six-hundred Australian children are diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, three die every week.

“Maybe one day we’ll see a 100 per cent survival rate for children with cancer. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” Dr Prithviraj said.

For details of how to support Dr Prashanth Prithviraj and his team, read Roland’s column here.