In June 2009,when railways employee Ruby Ahluwalia (49) was diagnosed with breast cancer,she was more apprehensive about the reaction of her family and friends rather than her own treatment. My children were initially scared. My husband was tremendously supportive but stressed nonetheless. Friends who came to visit me would start crying and I would end up consoling them. Increasingly,I started to feel the need to vent my feelings, she says.
For the next eight-nine months,as Ruby underwent chemotherapy at Tata Memorial Hospital,she decided to take up a hobby she had long forgotten painting. It started after the first chemo cycle,when she just splashed colours on canvas.
When I made the first painting expressing my state of mind,I realised that this was what I needed to do to look beyond the disease. Initially,I was reluctant to undergo chemo but it became an incentive for me. I would rush home to my canvas and spend time with myself and my colours, she recalls. Over the next nine chemo cycles,Ruby made nine paintings representing her emotional state of mind at each stage of her treatment. These works of art will be showcased at the International Film Festival in Goa next month.
Ruby also formed Sanjeevani – Life Beyond Cancer,an NGO which was registered in April this year. With 15 cancer survivors as part of the patient facilitation team,the group focuses on providing emotional support to other cancer patients.
Sanjeevani now has a centre at Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai and another in Bhopal. Centres in Chennai,Pune and Ahmedabad are also in the offing. Ruby has charted out a road map. In the next three years,we want a centre in a city in every state so that no one is deprived of patient care and treatment.