Health

The #UnhookTheBra Challenge raises awareness about breast cancer

Neeti Leekha Chhabra   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

“If you tell someone this is a video about cancer, most people won’t want to watch it,” says Neeti Leekha Chhabra, from Delhi. It is the reason they decided to do a dance instead. On September 17, a team of five breast cancer winners (“warrior sounds like you’re still battling it; a winner is done with it”), put out a challenge on social media, as they held up bras and danced to the song ‘Kudi Nu Nachne De’, from Angrezi Medium.

They called it the #UnhookTheBra Challenge to draw people’s attention to many realities: “There are several messages we want to put out — that breast cancer can happen at any age, that there’s nothing to be ashamed about, that we must stop being shy when talking about breasts, and that cancer is curable especially if detected early,” says Neeti, who fought and won against cancer in 2012.

In 2014, she started a not-for-profit called Yes2Life (Yes2life.in) that promotes breast cancer awareness, screening, and patient support (financial, emotional, rehabilitation). As part of their work, the organisation that now has four people and works with volunteers too, gives out what they call a Saathi Kit to women from lower income groups. This contains a prosthesis, two mastectomy bras, a cotton headscarf, and a pair of earrings.

The idea for the video sprung from the mandate of Yes2Life, keeping in mind October is celebrated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “We do a lot of talks around breast cancer, where we broach the subject of inhibitions, and a lot of people say, ‘Of course we’re open’. And then we ask where they hang the women’s underclothes in the house — is it behind the other clothes, on the last line, or is it in the first line along with the men’s underwear,” says Neeti.

She and the team at LezFly, a company that creates content, came up with the concept, and roped in the others. “I knew Shruti (Sharma) would be game, but I needed to make a few calls to get the others on board,” she says, adding that the women who agreed did so immediately, without saying they would think about it, or ask someone at home what they thought.

The women are derived from Happiness Surrounds Us, a breast cancer winner support group that operates on WhatsApp and has about 125 people from across the country on it. All those on the video — Riti Ahluwalia, Sumita Kohli, Sonu Saksena, besides Shruti and Neeti herself — have overcome the disease in the past decade.

Sumita, who lives in Faridabad, says she has a supportive husband and daughter – who turned 18 recently. She would volunteer once a week at AIIMS in pre-COVID times, to distribute Saathi kits and offer support. “I am always super excited to do stuff like this. There’s a satisfaction to know that the message has been sent,” she says, talking of her own mastectomy at 33. “I had missed the signs that were so obvious (an inverted nipple), simply because I was so busy taking care of my children. If I hadn’t, my breast could have been saved. The more we speak about it, the more awareness we will create.”

For details @beyondbreastcancer on Instagram; to be added to the support group, email neeti@yes2life.in

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2020 6:32:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/unhookthebra-challenge-for-breast-cancer-awareness/article32676509.ece

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