BHUBANESWAR: It's not just Bollywood actors who have been vocal about their cancer struggles. Shunning stigma, a few brave survivors in Bhubaneswar came forward on Friday to let the world know about their fight against cancer and how they embraced life with optimism.
Not bogged down by the challenges cancer has put forth, they have been smiling their ways through life. Last evening, as they walked on the ramp of 4th Kiah Fashion Show—organised by Parichay Foundation—their enigmatic smiles inspired the audience. And, their stories rekindled the love for life!
Draped in a green Ikat dress, 22-year-old Swagatika Acharya walked the ramp like a star. The head held high and eyes shining bright, the youngest survivor was at 'war with cancer' once! "Ever since I was detected with nasopharynx cancer in 2018, I had not let cancer weaken my will power. I ensured that I have to weaken the disease, instead," she said. A fourth-year law student at SOA University, Swagatika spotted a lump on her shoulder in 2017.
For four months, doctors failed to identify the trigger for the swelling. She was treated for glandular tuberculosis for at least four months until she fainted at her residence. "I had just returned from college. After I fell unconscious, I was rushed to the hospital where my blood was tested. Surprisingly, my white blood cell count was abnormally
high. It was 40,000. That was the first time when doctors suspected cancer," she added.
Swagatika was the first one in her family to read her biopsy report, confirming cancer. She wasn't broken then. Rather, she was counselling her father and other family members to face life's challenge--preparing her army for the battle, perhaps!
After undertaking three cycles of chemotherapy and receiving 35 doses if radiation, Swagatika recovered. "The four months of receiving radiation was painful. I had lost my voice for four months. There were ulcers inside my mouth.
"My food pipe was squeezed. I was put on liquid diet--one glass each of water, barley and rice starch,
that's it!" she remembered.
But, she had been a fighter throughout! Without any second thought, she shaved her head, all by herself and posted a photograph on social media. She has even documented her cancer struggle on social media, throughout.
"With a bald head, I looked more beautiful," she chuckled. Today, she runs a YouTube channel with her doctor Saroj Panda to spread awareness on cancer.
For many, cancer is like a bolt from the blue. That's what happened to laparoscopic surgeon J M Rao—vegetarian by choice, non-alcoholic and non-smoker! He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2012. Being a surgeon himself, he took no time to undergo a surgery the same year in the State itself.
"I refused to move out of the City for the surgery. I had full faith on the doctors in my State," he said. A fitness freak, the surgeon lives life to the fullest now. He goes for trekking, long-distance bike rides and lives life on his own terms. Recently, he claimed to have covered 41 km in six days while trekking to the famous Sandakphu peak in West
Bengal. He had also been on a biking road trip from Bhubaneswar to Keonjhar.
The story of socialite and entrepreneur 58-year-old Bijaylaxmi Kar is interesting. In 2009, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. "I was losing tremendous weight. In six months, I lost 12 kg. My skin got tanned.
"But, during preliminary check-up the doctor couldn't detect my case. Only after an ultrasound showed enlarged spleen, doctors asked me to go for further test. It was the first time I heard of an organ called spleen," she laughed.
Doctors in Mumbai had asked her to get the bone-marrow transplanted, which would have costed around Rs 45lakh then. Bijaylaxmi had an objection to the proposal. "I had travelled to remotest of the villages in Odisha with my husband for social work. I have seen how poor people die as they are unable to afford treatment cost. This thought stopped me. Why should I spend so much to save just one life? And, I decided to face my destiny," she said.
Bijaylaxmi was put on chemotheraphy. It's been 10 years, she is surviving on chemotheraphy tablets. But, she believes, it's her love for an adopted son that is keeping her alive. In 2006, she had adopted a visually-challenged child suffering from cerebral palsy. "
All these years, I forgot my own disease or suffering because I have dedicated myself to make his (the child's) life convenient and beautiful," she claimed. Today, she is also a motivational speaker, trained fashion designer and artist, who trains underprivileged children in art and crafts.
For 70-year-old former metallurgist, Bhabani Pani, who had been diagnosed with cancer last December, 'life is still full, time is left!" Though he is suffering from prostrate cancer, you will see no sign of pain on his face.
"I have changed my lifestyle a bit. I maintain a strict diet and exercise regularly to stay fit. We are not survivours. We are fighters," he said.
Founded by Rosalin Patasani Mishra, Parichay Foundation organises the fashion event every year to support education of underprivileged girls.