It’s a beautiful sunday morning with the bright sun shining on the university town of Manipal. The walk started out with all of us going to AMCARE – a clinic with resources dedicated to healing people and not just curing diseases, situated in Udupi, a small city in the state of Karnataka, India.
The clinic is associated with paramedical college by the name Chyavana, whose students also had come to support us in our cause. We met up with Dr. Suresh Shenoy – an Orthopaedician, Dr. Prabhakar Mallya – a Physician and Dr. Ajay Prabhu – a dentist in Udupi. The event began with Dr. Prabhu speaking about oral cancer for a few minutes to brush us up before we started talking to the general public. He explained how the disease starts out and runs its course. He also took time to explain on how to detect it early and how to treat it subsequently. He also spoke to bust a few myths about its treatment modalities.
As a symbolic gesture, we tied black ribbon bands to our arms. Then we took the show on the road. Walking down the streets with two banners and twenty people distributing fliers to every passer-by so as to reach as many people as possible. We stopped by every store that was open to inform the owners about oral cancer, its detection and treatment.
The local public was very receptive with a lot of people that actually stopped to listen to one of us explaining the information. We stopped for longer at stores where either tobacco or cigarettes were sold. We also stopped particular people who work as daily wage laborers or auto drivers because they are a high risk group that includes a lot of tobacco chewers. It was easy to catch their attention by the mere mentioning of tobacco and cancer in the same sentence.
We walked on the left side of the road for a distance of about 4 kms before deciding to turn around and walk back to the origin. On the way back, we walked on the other side of the road and covered the stores on that side. We were getting exhausted and dehydrated because the sun was scorching over our heads. One of the store owners was really kind. He sent his son with bottles of cold water to cool us all. He didn’t ask for money either. Just wanted to help us out. That made us all forget about the heat and kept the enthusiasm from drying up. We distributed fliers enthusiastically till the last remaining one was given out and explained well to the public.
A thousand fliers were printed for the walk and hence we managed to reach out to a thousand people. But we could have made a few more fliers and still would have used them up. It was worth the hot Sunday afternoon because people realized the damage the disease can do and how early intervention can be helpful. We told them how it was not as much about the dosage of tobacco or cigarettes as it was about the duration of consumption. People in turn, asked questions about it and cleared their doubts then and there.
So all in all, it was a walk for a good cause that succeeded in spreading awareness about oral cancer with a very receptive public that strengthened the group’s will to fight for the cause.