Masked dancers, performing the Saraikela Chhau, depicted on the stage the struggle of a couple in a boat trying to cross a river against great odds signifying the huge burden life of every human being. The unique feature was that the audience comprised hundreds of people who have been either battling cancer or have conquered it.

The message of the day read, ‘this battle can be won’. A famous Bollywood actor, oncologists and an eminent social worker joined hands on World Cancer Day on Sunday at the SOA (Deemed to be University) to declare that cancer could be defeated. “I feel it is one the most humbling moments of my life to spend time with you people and I deem it a privilege,” said actor and politician Dr. Jaya Prada while hailing the cancer survivors as ‘great fighters’.

Dr Jaya Prada was joined by eminent oncologist Dr Lalatendu Sarangi, presently Director of the Acharya Harihar Regional Cancer Centre, Cuttack, Magsaysay awardee social worker Ms Neelima Mishra and cancer expert Dr Vinod Kochupillai who encouraged the patients and survivors to look at the positive aspects of life. Stating that she lived in a glamorous world, Dr Jaya Prada said her view of life took a turn when she was performing at a show in Nairobi many years ago.

As she was performing on stage, a gentleman badly wanted to meet her. Irritated and peeved over the man’s insistence to meet her, she agreed to see him during the interval. “The man was with a three year old child who was a fan of mine. The child, a cancer patient, wanted to meet me and hug me,” she said adding, “All my arrogance evaporated that day.”

After entering politics, Dr. Jaya Prada said she had seen poverty and need from close quarters and she had been trying to do what she could to help people in distress, particularly cancer patients. “You are not survivors, you have conquered it,” said Dr. Sarangi urging the victims not to think that they were patients anymore.

The move of the government to have a cancer centre in every district where chemotherapy and palliative care would be available would go a long way to help the patients, Dr. Sarangi said while informing that the government was also considering to make cancer treatment free.

Dr Vinod Kochupillai, former Professor of Medical Oncology at AIIMS, New Delhi and a cancer researcher, struck a philosophical note to the to the proceedings by pointing out that if life was destined to be short, it should be filled with colours.She said,“Cancer no longer means certain death as more than 50 per cent of the cancers are curable”.

Ms Mishra, a Padma Sri awardee, said while narrating her experience as a social worker said, “We can do much together, but we don’t try.” Dr Saroj Panda, Pediatric Oncologist at IMS and SUM Hospital, said of every 100 children affected with cancer, 80 to 90 could be completely cured with proper treatment.

Total expenditure would range between Rs. 50,000 to Rs. two lakh, he said. Prof. Neeta Mohanty, Dean of the faculty of dental sciences of SOA, Dr. Pushparaj Samantasinhar, Medical Superintendent of IMS and SUM Hospital and Dr. Sunil Agrawal, Surigcal Oncologist at IMS and SUM Hospital also addressed the programme.