It was November of 2006 in London. The crowd was watching an Odissi performance with bated breath, unaware of the fact that she was not feeling her usual self. While still dancing, she realised that she was bleeding, but that did not stop her. She finished her performance, went back stage and flew back to India the next day where she got her sonography done.
ShubhadaVaradkar was40 at the time when the doctors found a 10-inch long tumour in her abdomen. A talented and renowned Odissi dancer, Shubhada, was at the peak of her dance career, with multiple national and international performances lined up when the news of her illness came along.
It seemed like an end of a flourishing career to those who knew about it. Shubhada had left her lectureship at R.R. Ruia College to pursue her dream of being a professional classical dancer.It all was coming to an end, the tinkling of her ghunghroo were about to fade into the beeping of the ECG machine.But what could have been an earth-shattering news for anyone else, could not break her spirit and her passion for dance kept her going. This is what she had to say:
“I always had this thing that as long as I am alive, I shall not stop living . I should not stop respecting and recognising this life energy within me. I decided not to think about the cancer which was taking away this life energy, let the doctor decide whatever treatment he can give me. I should dance.”
When the final report came and it said what everybody feared – Cancer. Turned out that she had two malignant tumours, one in the ovary and the other in her uterus. Doctors started her chemo therapy, while she focused on her upcoming performances. Through all the pain of Cancer as well as its cure, her body grew weaker but her determination was unshaken. Though she could not dance at the time, she planned the whole routine in her head.
“After your first chemo, your body goes through such trauma that your mind stops thinking ,you can’t think of anything else but the ppain and discomfort. Many leave the process midway. But for your body to react to the medicine and the treatment, your psychological strength is very important. Luckily I had my performances to look forward to. I brought myself to the chemo sessions so I could perform.”
Shubhadadid not let the pain stop her. She found a reason in it. That pain was how she was going to be able to perform again and that is what helped her bear it. She believed that dance is her Karma; that whatever you can put all your dedication in, can take help you sail through all perils. It was dance for her. It takes around 3 weeks for the blood count to come back to normal after chemo and thus her performance dates were fixed accordingly. Though she was losing her hair, even eyebrows, she danced with a wig and make-up on.
It was her passion for dance and the love of her family that did not let her feel demotivated at any point.
“You can overcome anything with pure art and passion which you follow with dedication and sicerly , be it depression or anything else.”
It’s been 8 years since she was first diagnosed. A lot has changed, she has changed. But one thing that’s been constant throughout is her love for dance and her unbreakable spirit. The motivation that kept her going through painful chemo therapies and tiring dance performances is now her strength behind spreading awareness about Cancer.
“I felt that I can make the dance form a tool to spread awareness about Cancer.”
Varadkar now encourages cancer patients and survivors to not lose hope or give up. Having gone through it all herself, she understands the physical and psychological problems one goes through and she uses herself and her dance, her best way of mass communication, as an example to motivate others. She performms the dance production based on the stiry of cancer survivor, she give talk about her experience with cancer .She teaches classical dance and conducts regular workshops in different places. Her organisation, Sanskrita Foundation, gives dance lessons to underprivileged kids and also collects money for cancer patients. Finally, this is what she had to say:
“In the end it’s all about being happy. Find that one thing that makes you happy, that keeps you going. That one passion that makes you say in the face of trouble – #WhyStop
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