Sunshine story: Love for dancing helps woman beat breast cancer

After she was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago, this 68-year-old turned to dance to lift her spirits; after beating both the tumour and subsequent heart blockages, she now helps others tackle their ailments with the help of hobbies

Watching this 68-year-old sway and twirl in time while humming a song to herself, it’s hard to imagine she had once had to fight off not only breast cancer but heart blockages as well. Even when she had first been diagnosed with cancer, it was dance that had raised her spirits and helped her emerge triumphant against the deadly disease.

As a young girl, Aruna Jogalekar was encouraged by her parents to learn dance, but she eventually gave up on it 35 years ago. It was only in 2008 that she revived her old passion as a way to keep her spirits up during her battle against breast cancer. Pics/Nimesh Dave
As a young girl, Aruna Jogalekar was encouraged by her parents to learn dance, but she eventually gave up on it 35 years ago. It was only in 2008 that she revived her old passion as a way to keep her spirits up during her battle against breast cancer. Pics/Nimesh Dave

“When one faces challenges or diseases in life, such hobbies offer refuge from all the stress,” said Aruna Jogalekar, who is now trying to pass on the same message to other senior citizens who face health problems. As a child, Jogalekar was encouraged by her parents to learn dance, and she received training in Kathak.

While she was in college, she even went on state-wide dance tours and performed alongside famous personalities such as Smita Patil. “Those were the magical days, when we were haunted by our passion and art,” recalled the former electrical engineer, who gave up dancing 35 years ago, once she began working and got married.

Then, in 2008, her world came to a halt when she found a suspicious lump in her breast, which would eventually be diagnosed as breast cancer. Instead of letting the disease weigh her down, however, she took it as an opportunity to revive her old passion, and took up various forms of dance Odissi, ballet and ballroom dance.

In fact, one of the dance teachers who taught her the Odissi form, was none other than her family doctor. “As engineers, we were always taught to think of ways out of a problem instead of sulking, and that’s what I decided to do. Once again, my parents and my in-laws supported me and said it was the time for me to enjoy life to the fullest.

I had already crossed 60 years; my children were settled and my husband earned enough to support both of us. So I began to focus on dancing and my other hobbies,” said Jogalekar, who also picked up embroidery and sewing, with the help of which she began to design Odissi dancers’ outfits.

With support from her family and doctors, Jogalekar simultaneously kept up her battle against cancer and eventually triumphed over it after a successful surgery the same year. Seven years since the cancer diagnosis, and two years after she underwent an angioplasty procedure for heart blockages, Jogalekar continues to fulfil her passion for dance.

She is part of Smitalay, a group of dancers in Santacruz who perform at local cultural events, and also choreographs performances for IIT alumni functions, with her husband being an IITian himself.

More recently, however, she became a part of Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital’s Live 360@60, a unique senior citizens’ club that intends to guide, assist, educate, and engage its members on all matters of health, as well as
keep them healthy and active through wellness activities.

As one of the motivational speakers in the group, she recounts all her experiences with disease and how her hobbies helped her overcome them. This is her message to everyone, young or old, in good health or poor “Everybody should learn or develop some hobby.

Dancing, instrument playing, stitching, drawing or crafts; it could be anything that keeps you engaged, teaches you, challenges your creativity and most importantly, gives you something to look forward to.”

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