Crusading against Cancer through awareness and medical care

Laleh Busheri — CEO, Prashanti Cancer Care Mission

Hailing from the royal family of Iran (a direct descendant of the Qajar dynasty), Laleh Busheri is a cancer crusader, an editor, a lawyer by education and a trained Bharat Natyam dancer. With so many titles, Laleh is definitely a multi-faceted and talented persona. Laleh Busheri is the CEO of a Prashanti Cancer Care Mission, a non-profit NGO working in Pune since 1996. Prashanti Cancer Care Mission began because there were patients who quit treatment midway or didn’t start at all simply because they couldn’t afford it. (www.prashanticancercare.org)

To pursue her true passion and acumen for social work, Laleh started counselling and helping needy cancer patients and families at Prashanti Mission in 2009. She has been able to expand the outreach of Prashanti Mission activities to a much larger and wider scale. Today, she is a friend-in-chief of this well-established and reputed NGO that provides free or affordable diagnosis, medical treatment (surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy), patient support and rehabilitation to cancer patients and their families from various social and financial strata.Laleh also heads the Research wing at Prashanti Cancer Care Mission. This research group has undertaken interesting projects in various topics of Breast Cancer research with include epidemiology, community health, novel breast imaging techniques, genetics, molecular biology, innovations in breast cancer surgery, chemotherapy, exploring Ayurvedic interventions in cancer and material science aspects in better implant design for breast implants used in Breast Oncoplastic surgery. Prashanti Mission touches the lives of close to 30,000 cancer affected families in Pune and its surroundings every year.

In 2010, Laleh established Orchid’s Breast Health Center in Pune and she is involved in its day-to-day operations.  Under the auspices of Prashanti Mission, Laleh was instrumental in starting the first breast cancer marathon in Pune. In 2011, this annual marathon was well attended with over 15,000 people running for the Breast Cancer awareness. She has also led to the creation of a one-of-a-kind Mobile Breast Cancer Screening Van fully equipped with mammography machine and facilities for biopsy and Pap smear procedures. With the help of this van, Prashanti Mission has been able to screen over thousands of women and will be screening approximately 40,000/- women this year.

Laleh is also the founder member of the first Pink Ribbon Club in Pune, a support group for breast cancer patients that hand holds them through the bewildering maze of challenges that the disease brings in its wake. With the help of her large network of friends, well-wishers and empathetic individuals, this club conducts local workshops, annual scientific symposia and fund raising activities to spread awareness about breast cancer in local communities.

Laleh has been applauded nationally for empowering woman for breast care and cancer and has
been richly felicitated by many awards some being,
2012 : “Ray of Hope” Award by the Asian Breast Cancer Congress
2014 : Tejaswani award by the Rotary for her exemplary services
2015 : The Citadel Award for excellence in the field
2015 : Femina Powerlist woman of the year for Maharashtra
2015 : Premium Award Inner Wheel for exceptional work in the field of Cancer
“God has given me a chance to answer prayers of a suffering soul and I am blessed to be in a position to help or arrange help in any way I can. It is humbling to counsel a poor, lonely woman undergo her surgery or first chemotherapy session when she cannot even find words to articulate her apprehensions and mental turmoil. While it may make a world of difference to her life, in some ways, it makes a difference in my life too because it teaches me each time the infinite power of love. Thanks to Prashanti Mission, my life is unimaginably enriched as I sleep and wake up every day with a renewed sense of purpose”, says Laleh.

She is also Indian Editor-in-Chief for an International Magazine ”Prive Asia”. Laleh has been trained as a Bharatnatyam dancer trained for ten years under the tutelage of legendary danseuse Guru Satyawati. In her spare time, Laleh loves to travel and enjoy the company of her friends.

High point in career

“Only answer to this is – I mostly deal with Breast Cancer. Breast Cancer has been growing younger over the years and the largest killer of women cancers patients in India. India lacked a center of dedicated affordable excellence. Hence, I decided to put a standalone center for Breast Health and Breast Cancer in 2009. In 2010, I started building this dream into practice. Within approximately a year the centre was put together which is called Orchid Breast Health. This unique facility has gained reputation as being a one-of-a-kind integrated Center of Excellence for Breast Cancer in India for its unmatched medical expertise, sophisticated infrastructure and treatment protocols. A multidisciplinary team of Oncosurgeons, Medical Oncologists, Radiation Oncologists, Radiologists, Physicians, Nurses and patient counselors work together to provide internationally established standards of medical care to Breast Cancer patients. Of the approximately 10,000+ women visiting the center every year, close to 850 patients undergo Breast Cancer surgery and subsequent treatment. Orchids Center has unmatched technological capabilities for faster and effective detection of Breast Cancer in the most-affected middle-aged women (age 35-50).

At Orchid’s , we also have a homeopath and it has an active Pink Ribbon Club, a support group for cancer conqueror’s that meet regularly and have fun filled activities such as yoga, picnics , movies etc. A huge program for early detection for women cancers has been set, where we have large scale buses, that are fully equipped with mammography,  blood work, Biopsy procedure and papsmear, that go into the community for free testing. Apart from this, I have realized that the need of the hour is to control cancer & that can only be done by creating awareness in the community by early detection and preventive methods. This large screening program along with Breasts symposiums, Marathons & conferences are held throughout the year so as to sensitize lakhs of women every year for early detection and prevention.

My motto is – Losing is not an option — losing your breast or your life to cancer.  At Orchids center, we have been Pioneers in starting a Breast Oncoplasty Program, where annually an international conference is held where surgeons from all over the country attend this workshop, where live surgeries and training programs are conducted on Breast reconstruction. Thus enabling a women to know that the gold standard of treatment is “no mastectomy “and mutilation but maintining a complete body image.

Thus this has been another high point in a woman not losing a Breast.”

Most challenging assignment so far

“Setting up the Orchid Breast Health Center of Excellence in the city the challenge’s that came with it & the second one has been, that last year I have embarked on the country’s largest screening program in India for early detection of women cancers in Pune.  Lakhs of women will be sensitized annually. Women cancers will be picked at very early stages and we will hand hold them through their treatment & their challenges which come with the disease, & preparing the women to lead a normal life after cancer. This assignment has been extremely challenging because of the mammoth size of the implementation & the challenges that preceded it.”

Greatest inspiration

“Without doubt, my husband – Dr. Koppiker simply because he guides through example. He is a onco surgeon and he realised in 1996, when people came to him who quit treatment midway or who did not start treatment because they could not afford it, that many of them could have been successfully treated. Therefore he started a Foundation called Prashanti Cancer Care Mission, a non Profit NGO, which was born to help poor patients through free ships for surgeries, chemotherapy & Radiation. This fledging organization over the years has grown to be able to treat thousands of women with full free ships or major concessions to the entire treatment. There has not been a single person, who has come to his door in need of help & has been turned away.  In an extremely materialistic world, he is my greatest inspiration due to his dedication to humility.”

Most important milestone in life

“I think the purpose of my work is to reduce & bring down & control the rate of cancer. I think over the years, I have been greatly able to achieve this through my work. It has created a huge awareness in the community and also another milestone has been putting up a centre of Gold Standard Treatment for Breast cancer which has a holistic approach blended into it.  Women from all over the country come here for free treatment. It makes me very happy to see them to return to normal lives.”

Women are the better halves. What does it mean?

“I don’t agree that a woman is a better half. In some cases women are better halves and in some men. Each one has his / her strengths and weaknesses. If a person is able to realize the strengths of other half & let it grow & at the same time work on the weaknesses, both will complement each other.”

Experiences on being a woman entrepreneur

“Firstly, I don’t see myself as an entrepreneur but as a valuable part of the community and I have realized the need of the hour to help control the disease and that is the only way to tackle it in the future and can only be done by creating an awareness through my programs and helping the lesser fortunate in the society get free treatment and thus save lives.”

How do you believe in making dreams come true?

“I have always believed that whatever you give attention to is bound to grow’’ I believe that a dream comes true when you have a vision and by working towards that vision with commitment, ethically, being humble and giving it all you have.  According to me if you are dedicated, your dreams are abound to realise.”

Setbacks and Lessons learnt

“Yes, there were lots of challenges initially while sensitizing the women to come for detection and to make a woman realize that her health is as important as her family and she must pay attention to her health. Second major challenge was that in India where most of the women with breast cancer are given only a choice of mastectomy, educating them that a Gold standard of treatment for breast cancer is reconstruction & Oncoplasty. In this single surgery, the cancer is removed, the skin & nipple is retained and the breast is reconstructed.  Thus, she wakes up from anesthesia having her breast intact and most often, a better looking one than she had before the surgery.  Thus she avoids social problems, such as low self-esteem, sexuality issues etc.”