At the age of 40, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, her life took an unplanned route. Two surgeries, six chemotherapy cycles, and five long years of antibiotics can leave many spirits scarred but it did not deter her. She was determined to dedicate her life to a mission.
In August 2000, chemotherapy made her go bald. When she was fighting with life and death, the people around her made her realise how many people were not even aware about the basic preventive measures for thee disease. Since then, she is on a mission to spread awareness.
Meet Ritu Biyani a dental surgeon by profession, mountaineer, skydiver and a paratrooper, she is a woman with story to inspire. A breast cancer survivor in 2006, Ritu is the face behind breast cancer awareness across India. A Limca Book of Records holder, she is the first woman to do a solo drive to the flour corners to India to spread awareness about breast cancer.
Realizing the problem
While Ritu was undergoing cancer treatment, one of her dental patients walked out of the clinic when he was informed of her breast cancer treatment, thinking that cancer is a communicable disease. That was when she realized that while she had many misconceptions about breast cancer, there were many others who did not even know the basics of the disease.
Once she got better, Ritu committed to herself to the cause of cancer awareness. Post recovery in 2006, she set her dreams into motion by setting up her own foundation, High>>>Ways Beyond Cancer.
By driving a distance of 30,220 kms in 177 days, her daughter and she travelled across India conducting breast, cervix and oral cancer awareness camps, educating people about the preventive measures and offering details about supportive care to the patients.
This experience stirred her to begin her journey across India spreading breast cancer awareness. “In six months, I held 140 workshops where 26,000 people attended, covering 30,220km in 177 days, including 26 states,” says Ritu. During her journey, she met many women who did not know anything about the disease.
“Initially people asked: Tumhara breast nikal diya gaya kya? (Did they remove your breast?) Whether it’s urban or rural, 90% women are unaware of breast cancer symptoms and 70-80% about cervical, oral and other cancer in the country,” she told to a website.
Ritu is a significant record holder in her own special category. Along with the Limca Book of Records India, she also holds the record related to the first mother-daughter duo expedition in a successful manner on cancer awareness across the nation with several more laurels. She traveled along with her 15-year-old daughter Tista Joseph to spread awareness.
Most of the great personalities in the medical field appreciate and applaud Ritu’s initiative. They indicate that her mission and motive is the need of the hour for women at large and society in general. Many VIPs and concerned government departments of central and state government extended their support and assistance to her.
Ritu has received the Manthan South Asia Award in 2008, thus getting recognition her efforts to create awareness about breast cancer throughout the country. She was also honoured on the DEF Mobile Summit as Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things in the Red Rickshaw Revolution.
High>>>Ways Beyond Cancer
Ritu’s initiative is to link adventure sports with cancer and to support her Breast Cancer Awareness Programme. The foundation has provided care to over 70,000 cancer patients.
Ritu has her own dental practice in Pune and continues to be a dynamic cancer activist representing the country at various international events and conferences. Her inspiring work has received accolades from the Indian armed forces, various state governments, the TATA Memorial Hospital & Cancer Centre, and many more.
She is the first woman from the traditional Marwari community to join the army and a certified mountaineer and skydiver. Today, through her foundation, she has travelled over 30,220 kms across India spreading awareness.
Ritu’s significant life’s mission to largely spread awareness among tribal, urban, and rural reaches of India has saved thousands of lives. With a lot of perfection, self-confidence, and will power, Ritu is one person who has spread an important message among women in general and the society at large. Her mission is the need of the hour for all the people who are unaware and suffering silently without any medical assistance.
If you like Ritu’s story, share it and spread awareness about cancer. Tell us your views by writing in the comment box below. We read each one of them.