“I am destined to live like Anand,” remarked Bollywood superstar Rajesh Khanna to his doctor after he was diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer 18 months before he passed away.

The actor apparently alluded to the role in the much talked about film Anand in which he tries to spread cheer in spite of knowing that he would not live for long.

Renowned gastro-intestinal oncologist, Dr. P. Jagannath, Chairman of the Department of Surgical Oncology at Mumbai’s Lilavati Hospital & Research Centre who treated the actor in his final stages, recalled the human side of Rajesh Khanna while interacting with the media here over the weekend. He said the actor fought cancer for 18 months after a new treatment (a tablet each day) was given to him instead of regular chemotherapy.

In jest, he used to tell the doctor that he would like to be a Bawarchi in his house.

Dr. Jagannath was recently elected worldwide president of the prestigious International Hepato Pancreatobiliary Association. He is the first Indian to head that body.

Stating that 80 per cent of cancers could be cured if diagnosed early and treated adequately, he said the incidence of gastro-intestinal cancers was on the increase because of diet and lifestyle changes. He emphasised the need for regular exercise and proper diet, which includes fruits and fibre content. He said gall bladder cancer, which was rare in the South was more prevalent in North India and attributed this to contamination of water in the Ganga with heavy metals.

Dr. Jagannath, who established a charitable trust, ‘Crusade Against Cancer Foundation’, said cricket star Sachin Tendulkar and his wife Anjali Tendulkar helped raise Rs.1.5 crore for it. The Foundation extends financial assistance of Rs.20 lakh every year for needy children afflicted with cancer. Another programme is planned with Sachin next year to raise more funds.

He also started a web portal, www.indiacancer.org , to promote public awareness about cancer.