August 10, 2022
A report by Anirbaan Hritiq
In a front-to-front interview with Adv. Swagatika Acharya, a renowned social worker, and Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (cancer) survivor, we went through an in-depth analysis of her excruciating journey of life. As serving through such a tough phase of life and formulating an organization that would go on to work for those people who are walking on the same path on which ones she walked through. Recalling, some of the old events she added, “It was a spine-chilling experience not only for me but for my entire family when they heard about my disease in March 2018.”
What was the motto behind initiating the cause Awaaken, was it some sort of challenge or a self-commitment to stand for the helpless cancer patients?
When she was asked to describe the idea behind the choice of her organization’s name, she said ‘Awaaken’ which comes with two ‘a’s’ emphases on boosting the courage amongst those hopeless souls who have lost their battle with the dreadful disease of cancer already in their mind. She further adds that, when people hear the name Awaaken, it should show them the ultimate light of hope. As the name suggests it means ‘Rise or Wake Up’ and be the hope for yourself as well as the family which is struggling hard to keep you going.
Enlightening us about her initial journey as a cancer patient she said, “When I was detected with cancer suddenly, I was a subject of societal trials rather than being discouraged by the family members. Neighbour used to suggest my father save money for the marriage and education of the other kids rather than spend on my treatment as there was no hope for survival. People indirectly boycotted our family members and stopped visiting us regularly as they used to do previously citing that cancer is a communicable disease which can spread with physical contact.”
Influence of positivity and chance of my viewpoints:
The famous social worker says that she has been a great fan of Irish author Joseph Murphy and the book which shaped her life was Murphy’s ‘The Power of your Subconscious Mind’. She said after reading that book, she developed a habit of writing blogs and sharing her thoughts openly in public forums.
The journey wasn’t easy as she was subjected to many trolls and cyber-bullying, where people termed her as an attention seeker who is using her illness to gain sympathy and exploit others. But as the saying goes, ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’ nothing stopped the determined Swagatika to achieve her desired objectives and accomplish her goals. After recovering from Cancer, she opened a cause named Awaaken which was registered as a non-profit organization in December 2019 and hasn’t looked back since the beginning.
How did Odissi dance help during her cancer journey?
Swagatika who has been an Odissi dancer since the age of 4, has achieved numerous recognitions in the same field as well as has represented Odisha 5 times in different national level events as a performer. But how it helped during the cancer fight question still revolves around the same idea. She says, “Both mental and physical health plays a crucial role during this tough fight with cancer. One cannot win this struggle without strong willpower and rock-hard determination.” Odissi dance helped me in being motivated and challenged me to take a vow to dance again after my complete recovery. She proved everyone wrong by once again performing the Odissi dance with sheer perfection and still practicing the same. Being physically and mentally sound during diseases such as cancer enormously contributes toward speedy recovery as well as boosts the effectiveness of the medicines.
Why did she initiate Awaaken, and who was the inspiration behind the same?
Swagatika says, that working for society is in her genes as her father is a Rotarian and always inspired her with a simple sentence, “We have taken a lot from society and it is our responsibility to return the same in any form”. Since her early childhood, she has been part of many charitable and humanitarian causes, but Awaaken was a game changer for her as it represented her thought process and dreams.
Awaaken as a trust has divided the experience of cancer patients into three predominant categories, they are Financial, Mental, and Societal. Cancer and his/her family go through the very first phase which is Financial after detection of the disease. Suddenly, various questions revolve around the bread earner’s mind how can they manage funds, from where they will arrange such a huge sum of money for treatment, and lastly will it be worth spending so much?
Here, Swagatika adds the importance of having Health insurance which had helped her a lot in bearing her treatment expenses as everything doesn’t come free of cost or is covered under the schemes of the Government a patient must be financially sound to bear the trauma of financial hindrances. Awaaken helps patients with their medicines and expenses but only in form of kind, not cash.
The second and third categories are interrelated as mental trauma is caused maximum by societal pressure. Miss Acharya says that people have already created havoc around the disease and have determined some predefined conclusions that further demoralize the patients. People need to accept that; cancer is just another form of illness that can be cured if detected at the early stages and doesn’t have any alien impact on society.
Patients undergoing difficult treatment producers need moral support and help over anything else. No amount of monetary compensation can compensate for the traumatic experience created by societal hatred and ignorance.
Awaaken & its initiatives:
As an organization, Awaaken has taken cancer care to the next level, where its unique methods of awareness programs have inspired many patients to come forward and speak loudly about their illness. The organization regularly holds awareness programs in Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Banki, Baripada, Kendrapada, 42 Mauja as well as in various tribal-dominated areas and they also provide free-of-the-cost counselling and cancer screening sessions to the public.
It also helps patients with expensive medicines and provides employment opportunities to already recovered cancer survivors. It has also helped students of cancer patients with their education and free ration. Though currently Awaaken is focused on the promotion of cancer awareness in Odisha & its nearby regions, they are also planning to expand it to Pan India in days to come.
At last, Swagatika gives her sincere regards and thanks to all those who have supported her in this tough journey as well as gives some special mentions such as her father Manoranjan Acharya, mother Purnima Acharya, younger siblings, her close friend Adv. Subhrajeet, Ollywood Actor Partha Sarathi Ray and others.