SILCHAR, Jan 9: “The focus of my film making and project is on rapidly increasing cases of breast cancer and how to contain it with particular stress on awareness, besides highlighting the stories of patients and their survival”, pointed out Cithra Jayeram, film maker, physical therapist and project researcher, based at Washington D.C. In a tete-a-tete with The Sentinel in the premises of Cachar Cancer Hospital and Research Centre here on Friday, she said after her post-graduation in Physical Therapy from Ram Chandra Medical College, Cheni, she decided to become a research worker, specializing in health service delivery in rural areas. But, she did not complete the course.
Cithra Jayeram therefore opted to work as a physical therapist. It was at this time that she happened to meet a film maker from India. This inspired her to go for film making which, she thinks, is a powerful media. “It has emotiol and wider reach being an audio-visual medium”, she said. She did her film making degree from University of Texas, Austin. She worked on various film projects. Every year, there was provision for film making. She made films on breast cancer in view of the fact that the incidence of such disease is on the rise in America.
One of the reasons which impelled her to venture into the field was the discovery of a lump in her own breast which however was removed. The biopsy did worry her. She was fortute that she was not affected. While filming, it came to light that the death rate ran very high because due to inhibitions, women were late to report or in treatment. This bothered her much. It was not only to focus on rising cancer in India, but “I thought of doing more in this diverse country”.
Cithra Jayeram felt appropriate to make short stories that would contain 1001 breast cancer cases. She found it a positive move and made her hopeful that the projection would remove the inhibitions in women and bring them for treatment on right time. “It is this vision with which I started the project”, Cithra Jayeram said. All the funding for the project is by the American agencies. To do work in this country, access to cancer treatment centres is important. In Tamil du, her tive state, she went on to establish contacts.
She has now quite easy access to Cachar Cancer Hospital and to know all about the disease and the patients. Some basic questions have been raised what people think of breast cancer in Washington. There have been varied reactions. Some think it is a death sentence; some attribute it to communicable disease while some others related it to bad behaviour like drinking and smoking. Strangely, women were not coming forward on the premise how society would react.
Cithra Jayeram found some fundamental differences between the USA and India in dealing with cancer. There is much more focus in the media, every October awareness campaign is carried on for the sake of precautiory measures in America. In this country, as she discovered, women are afraid of talking of the disease. Besides, poverty is a big issue. She at the same time admitted there is not lot of understanding in the advanced country like USA. In fact, death rate from breast cancer is higher in South Africa and Mexico.
Coming back to her project, Cithra realized projecting the stories of survival is much better. Sharing such stories infuses confidence among those who might be losing hope. Cancer treatment is totally different. It may take one year or even more and at the same time have side effects. Her project shows there is a window and an end of tunnel. Her finding is that fincial barrier comes as a deterrent to treatment. She has very pleasant experience in this hospital at Silchar where all patients, irrespective of their fincial status, rich or poor, are treated equally.
Fincial constraints are not a barrier here and everything needed for treatment is available under one umbrella. The team of doctors led by eminent Oncologist Dr. Ravi Kann and paramedical as well as nursing staff are doing commendable job. It is a model of treatment. “My project will focus on telling the story of Cachar Cancer Hospital and Research Centre”, Jayeram mentioned. It is also appreciable that without any state help, the entire staff has dedicated itself to the services of the patients and making the treatment affordable.
Jayeram would also like to bring into focus the heroes who are behind the making of this hospital since its inception in 1994. Besides making videos, she would also launch websites. She calls diseases like cancer as life style diseases and how to face the challenge. Today, tuberculosis and diabetes can be checked, but much more has to be done in respect of cancer. Piloting videos for breast cancer will also be one of her priorities, she concluded.