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Walking the Ramp for Cancer, Bureaucrat Urvashi Prasad Showcases Grace Under Fire


Walking the Ramp for Cancer, Bureaucrat Urvashi Prasad Showcases Grace Under Fire


  • NITI Aayog Director Urvashi Prasad recently walked the ramp in New Delhi
  • The event was an oncology enclave to showcase the spirit of people living with cancer
  • Dr. Prasad has stage 4 cancer but has never allowed the disease to defeat her sense of purpose
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As NITI Aaayog Director Urvashi Prasad walked down the ramp at a function for cancer awareness, she was not just holding a fellow cancer survivor’s hand. She was, in fact, also holding on to her steely determination to not allow cancer to defeat her spirit. She sent out this strong message from the ramp of an oncology enclave held in New Delhi on 9 May.

Clad in a beautiful bright-red saree that belongs to her mother, Dr. Prasad epitomised beauty under grace under the spotlight that day. The fourth stage cancer patient looked radiant dressed in her special and ‘quintessential Urvashi’ cloak of dignity.

NITI Aayog Director Urvashi Prasad (red saree) on the ramp


“Cancer cannot ever kill my spirit,” she said to loud applause while delivering her talk on the occasion. “It might be able to defeat my body, but, till my last breath, I will not allow it to defeat my spirit.” Dr. Prasad attributes this spirit to her parents: “Such is the way they brought me up.”

However, being called “strong” for this irritates her. She calls this kind of talk ‘toxic positivity’. “There’s no other way to be. What else do you do when you have just turned 35 and your doctor tells you that you are lucky if you get to live 5-7 years?”

Dr. Prasad was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer of the lungs called Alk-positive. This form of cancer can occur in young non-smokers and it usually gets detected in the fourth stage when the cancer has already spread to other organs. Although she was devastated at that time, it did not take long for her to gather the pieces of her life and move on.

Delivering her talk at the enclave

While starting treatment, she also started piecing together the shattered bits of her life and developed a pattern to live a life of fulfillment doing the things that she loved to do. And, here, work and dance took pre-eminence.

A trained dancer, she immersed herself in dancing after diligently discharging her work in office as well as in public forums.

She always emphasizes that more sensitivity is required when it comes to dealing with cancer patients. “Be it the doctor or the caregivers, or friends and relatives, everyone is at a loss of words as to what to say to the patient. And very often, they end up mumbling words which are not going to help. Rather these would trigger the patient. When people use words like ‘strong’ and ‘inspiring’ for me, I find it irritating because I, too, am just as human as anyone else and not made of some special material. Hence, I call this kind of talk ‘toxic positivity’.”

Walking down the ramp with a fellow cancer warrior


She went on to say that she had taken the trouble to dress up for the ramp walk. But, every day is not like that. People see the veneer and conjure up an image of you, which is deceptive, she explained.

“The ramp walk was not the typical one where you showcase designers. It was for cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, and doctors. To showcase the spirit of people living with cancer. So we were all wearing our own clothes, not some designer’s. I picked my mother’s saree as it is bright and easy to wear, and took pain to look good. I don’t look like this every day. There are good days, and there are bad days,” she said.

Urvashi Prasad (second from left) at the oncology enclave


The dancer in her took over as she walked gracefully down the ramp with a fellow cancer warrior. They walked hand in hand, as if to tell the world: “I know what you feel”.

And, that’s the way it is. Living from pet scan to pet scan, only a cancer warrior and a cancer survivor would actually know what it feels like to have this unwanted guest in your body. Others can only assume and try to alleviate the pain. But, here also, as Dr. Prasad rightly pointed out, one needs to tread with a certain amount of responsibility and sensitivity. Sometimes, just saying nothing can say a lot. It can say: I am here for you.

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