Against all Odds

Back in the year 2000, fresh out of the armed forces, Dental Surgeon Dr. (Capt) Ritu Biyani found her world crashing down when she was diagonised with breast cancer. What followed was a long series of rounds at the hospital and endless doses of heavy medication. Biyani refused to get bogged down with the entire ordeal her body had been subjected to. "I mean, everyone who is a patient needs to get beyond the 'Why me?' syndrome. In fact, the faster a patient does that the better is his or her mental conditioning to fight the illness," she says. She has gone across the nation conducting workshops about cancer under her project, called Highways Infinite, and has till date shared her life story and the various effects, misconceptions and also the ways of battling cancer with over one and a half lakh people. More recently, last month she took up the challenge of climbing the Siachen Glacier, an experience she describes as a must-try for anyone who is fit.

" The whole idea of doing so many things post learning about the illness was to push myself to the extremes and show the world and myself that it was possible to combat this illness. Moreover, there is a lot of stigma associated with cancer and people refuse to come out in the open and talk about it. The message that I was trying to spread was on two levels. One being understanding the illness, its implications and the manner in which it can be treated. The second one is about learning to boldly combat it, live life normally and not give up anything. Having a focused positive attitude is something that will help them a lot," she says.

Enthusiastic about sports like skydiving and mountaineering amongst others, Biyani is the first lady paratrooper of the Indian Army. Describing her recent journey to Siachen and her participation in the Raid De Himalayas, she says, "I had to prepare myself for two months prior to the trek. I learnt only very recently, that treks to the Siachen were open for the general civilian public. And I wanted to take it up as a challenge. The thing is one needs to be extremely fit to complete it. I wanted to do it so that others who have also battled the illness can also try and do it."

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