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Compassion in Action 

Family creates Holding Hands Foundation to comfort cancer patients and their caregivers at Sylvester.

Neha Ganju Tanna and Chandra Ganju

For nearly two years, Chandramukhi “Chandra” Ganju stood by her daughter’s side, holding her hands and providing comfort while she underwent treatment for stage 4 renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, a part of UHealth – University of Miami Health System.

Knowing her daughter, Neha Ganju Tanna, was never alone during this painful journey brought some solace to the grieving mother, who soon after founded the Holding Hands Foundation in her daughter’s memory.

The volunteer-run, non-profit organization is dedicated to serving cancer patients and their caregivers. Its mission, “Never Endure Hurt Alone,” is an acronym of Ganju’s daughter’s first name. 

For anyone in distress, anyone who is struggling, or anyone troubled, simply do something, from wherever you are, to show you are there for them. No effort is too small, and no effort goes unnoticed. Sometimes just knowing that someone is there for you takes away all your worries. So please be there for someone in your life.
– Neha Ganju Tanna

“When your loved one is lost due to cancer, showing compassion through care and giving provides closure for grief and pain,” said Ganju, president of Holding Hands Foundation. “Having witnessed firsthand the challenges and emotions cancer patients face during treatment, I am deeply committed to helping Sylvester and its patients.”

Support for Cancer Patients

One of the many ways she does this is through philanthropic donations to the NEHA Cancer Support Services Fund, allowing Sylvester’s Cancer Resource Room to provide complimentary wigs, scarves and head coverings to patients. 

According to Tangela Hillery, coordinator of Sylvester’s Cancer Resource Room and Volunteer Services, these gifts can make a world of difference to cancer patients. 

“Cancer treatment affects not just your physical self but your emotional self, as well,” said Hillery. “Hair loss from chemotherapy impacts a patient’s self-esteem and self-image. A wig helps patients look and feel like themselves again. When they look good, they tend to feel better. This makes the cancer journey more tolerable.”

The Holding Hands Foundation also provides patients with plush port pillows. Ganju’s daughter received immense physical and psychological comfort from the one she was given, often clinging to it like a small child to a teddy bear.

Reducing Cancer Stress

Providing comfort is at the heart of everything Ganju and the Holding Hands Foundation do for patients and their caregivers.

“We aim to reduce the stress and burden of cancer on individuals, families and our community as a whole,” said Ganju, noting that beyond providing wigs, scarves and port pillows, the Holding Hands Foundation also offers a sympathetic ear, meal services and travel support. “The name, Holding Hands, is reflective of the compassion and nurturing we provide to patients and their caregivers.”

Gita Shaykher, the director of fundraising for the Holding Hands Foundation and Soup for the Soul Program and Chandra-Chandramukhi Ganju, the president of the Holding Hands Foundation

Gita Shaykher, the director of fundraising for the Holding Hands Foundation and Soup for the Soul Program, and Chandra-Chandramukhi Ganju, the president of the Holding Hands Foundation.

To support the Holding Hands Foundation’s efforts, Ganju raises funds selling chai tea, Indian food, spices and cookbooks from Neha’s hometown, and through proceeds from the sale of “Body Betrayed Beauty,” a compilation of Neha’s writings near the end of her life.

“Through her insight and advice, Neha left an important legacy for the ones she left behind,” said Ganju. “Her poignant words and message are at the core of what we are trying to do through the Holding Hands Foundation.” 

Tags: philanthropy, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center