BENGALURU: In 2014, at the age of 34, when Mili Baruah was diagnosed with breast cancer, she recalls coming home, cooking a meal and going on with the rest of her day like she otherwise would have. While she was initially in denial, even hoping that the report was wrong, Baruah quickly accepted her reality. “I had two choices – first, to cry and worry about pain and death, and the other was to face it and try and fight it. I chose the latter,” she says.
For the next eight-nine months, Baruah underwent chemotherapy at Cytecare Cancer Hospital, when she had to face hair loss, nails turning black and other side effects of the therapy. “I always dressed well, wore lipstick, and would often be asked if I am really the patient,” she says. Soon after she was told by her doctors that she was cancer-free, she went ahead and signed up for a yoga certification course to help others with cancer with pain management and mind and body wellness.
While it was physically and emotionally challenging for her to undergo treatment, Baruah took to yoga during a difficult time. “I invested two hours every day to practise yoga and de-stress myself, which became an everyday routine. It reduced the fatigue, improved stamina, strength, quality of sleep and also helped in reducing anxiety and depression,” she says, adding that the last time she had done yoga was during her college days in Guwahati.
Baruah has participated in many medical conferences across India, and has trained close to 500 people in yoga, including cancer survivors, in the last two years. She has also gone back to the hospital where she was treated and trains people on how to overcome their mental stress while going through the treatment and conducts yoga classes for them on a regular basis. “Had I been doing it just for myself, I may not have been that serious. But since I decided to do it to help others, I was really determined,” she says, adding that “cancer was a gift to her”.
Dr Anthony Pais, who was one of the doctors who treated her, pointed out that in addition to coming in with a comparatively early breast cancer diagnosis, what struck him the most about Baruah was her positivity and the way she handled the situation. “She had a fighting spirit that very few have today. Once I operated upon her and her treatment was finished, she was so happy that she decided to give up her profession as an air hostess and work with cancer patients instead. We offered her the position of Cancer Navigator at Cytecare Hospital where she counsels the patients and helps them reduce stress levels and depression through various methods including yoga,” he said.