by Kanika Sabhlok
On 27th October, 2013, Manipal University hosted an event called “Dhol Baje” -a dandiya event to celebrate Navratri, in collaboration with the local Rotract Club. We got an opportunity to put up an informative booth at the event, where volunteers gave informative brochures to the public and explained to them about the causes and risks associated with oral cancer.
This idea was successful since many students were reached out to and it was stressed upon how smoking can adversely affect their lives. Volunteers also raised money by banding people with a black ribbon, to encourage them to join this fight against oral cancer. Overall, it was a fun filled night with dancing, clicking of the dandiya sticks and of course, arms tied with black ribbons – showing their support to fight oral cancer.
by Sampada Deshpande
Orientation of the volunteers
The Oral Cancer Awareness Drive NITK 2012 took place on the 20th of October as a result of the fruitful collaboration of our team in Manipal (led by Dr. Anirudha Agnihotry) and the Rotaract Chapter of NIT Surathkal. We communicated with Harold Benson, President of the Rotaract Chapter, NITK and planned the whole event of Awareness Walk 2012, an experience that will forever stay in our hearts.
Volunteers with pamphlets
As part of this Drive, we went to different places around their beautiful 250 acre campus and distributed pamphlets pertaining information about Oral Cancer. We educated students, mess workers and pedestrians about the different facets to this disease and made it easier for them to understand the diagnosis and treatment procedures. The thirteen of us distributed nearly 700 pamphlets in the two hours that we spent there.
Having a dialogue with people
My most memorable moment was when we came across a young man with an incessant pan chewing habit, who informed us about bleeding from his mouth while eating and brushing. He caught up to us after having read our pamphlet carefully and nervously asked if he had cancer. We informed him about the various causes for oral cancer and that bleeding might suggest it but does not confirm it and advised him to get a check-up at the nearest health facility as soon as possible. One of the volunteers relieved him greatly by telling him that a symptom of cancer if detected early, can almost always lead to an early diagnosis and an effective treatment. He thanked us for our help and assured us of making a visit to the doctor/dentist immediately. It was a good experience and I felt great by helping people.
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.
We see in this photograph, Dr. Prashant Sharma who helped us arrange an educational program on oral cancer for the teaching staff of the Tiny Tots School, Imli Fatak, Jaipur. It was coupled with a dental camp organized for children by Vaidya Dental Clinic of the same locality. It gave us the opportunity to educate those, who educate the children.
It was an interactive session, in which we distributed information literature and also demonstrated the Six Step Screening, a technique of screening oral cancer formulated by Eva Grayzel (a stage IV oral cancer survivor, a motivational speaker and an author) on one of the volunteers. She has been working for oral cancer a lot by conducting talks and emphasizing on regular screenings of the same. (her official page: http://www.sixstepscreening.org/)