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Dancing her way through cancer

/ December 16, 2016 /

Of all the various alternative therapies patients try for cancer, this must definitely be the most unique. The case in point is that of the hugely talented Odissi dancer-choreographer and inspirational writer, Shubhada Varadkar. The danseuse is an example to be emulated by many women who find their dreams, career and happiness cut short cruelly when diagnosed with the terminal illness.

A busy dancer and choreographer, Shubhada felt uneasy due to excessive bleeding during a performance in London in 2006. Though she felt no pain and assumed it to be a menstrual issue, a sonography done in Mumbai showed the presence of a ten-inch tumour in her ovary. A hysterectomy and an oophorectomy were immediately performed and the tumours were sent for biopsies.

In the meanwhile, Varadkar surprised her physicians with her unrelenting passion towards dance. They were also amazed that the resilient lady had danced without complaining of any pain despite the presence of such big tumours.

Even while recuperating after the surgeries, Shubhada conceptualised a whole dance sequence and managed to put up an impeccable performance on stage. Unfortunately, the reports came back indicating the presence of two tumours, though both were in the primary stage.

By January 2007, the dancer was undergoing chemotherapy. Yet her resolve to practice her art never died. Shubhada determinedly went on performing on stage despite the various side effects of chemotherapy. She was firm on not letting her audience know about her illness and she devised different means to cover her weakness. She was helped in this journey by her guru and family members as she performed Odissi in between chemotherapy sessions!

As a dancer, maintaining a pleasing physical appearance was essential for Varadkar. Her mother even designed a special toupee for her performances as she had to balance a mukut while dancing. Despite numbness and weakness due to medication, Shubhada never considered giving up. Through sheer grit and ample support from her family, she translated her illness and treatment into motivating factors.

After surviving cancer, Shubhada decided to use her own experience to inspire and support other patients. She spreads awareness through her the medium of dance as well as through her writing. Her autobiography Mayurpankh details her arduous journey through the dreaded disease.

Shubhada Varadkar was awarded the prestigious Mahari Award of Odisha in 2011 and was also selected as recipient of Senior Fellowship by the Ministry of Culture in 2011-13. Other accolades such as the titles of ‘Singar Mani’, ‘Priyadarshini’ and ‘Maharshtra Gaurav’ were also conferred on this beacon of perseverance, who managed to use art as a therapy to battle a life-threatening illness.

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