Healing is different from cure, conveys Pirates Of Chemotherapy

Bobby Ramakant *

 'Pirates of Chemotherapy' , a dramatic comedy on breast cancer
'Pirates of Chemotherapy' , a dramatic comedy on breast cancer

When we first heard of a dramatic comedy theatre play on breast cancer, it was difficult to comprehend how will the three go together? Comedy, theatre and poignant theme of breast cancer! Glad we went for the preview show of this play because it did justice to comedy, theatre and breast cancer issue in a very compelling way. One of the most throbbing messages that resonates within me, is: healing is different from cure. It is important to mention that this play was staged by outstanding artists, few of them are breast cancer survivors (including one male actor) themselves.

Toni Cacioppo, director of this powerful dramatic comedy, Pirates of Chemotherapy (written by Paul Schutte), explained in an exclusive interview with Steve Mellow: "Not only ‘Pirates Of Chemotherapy’ is funny and well written with rich and well-developed characters, but it also has a message that needs to go out. And that message is importance of early detection of breast cancer - sooner your breast cancer is caught higher your rates of survival.”

'I hated when people preach to me'

“One of the characters in the play says, ‘I hated when people preach to me’. So, this play gets the message out in an entertaining way and you do not feel that you are being preached” points out Toni Cacioppo, underpinning why it is vital to ensure entertainment and education go hand-in-hand.

This play, Pirates Of Chemotherapy, was staged in Chiang Mai, Thailand (14-17 February 2019) and live streamed online on 15th February 2019 ( This 'dramedy' is about six women (and one man) who share a diagnosis of #breastcancer, all of whom are in various stages of treatment, recovery, and remission. They bond and band together in touching and often hilarious support of one another, pledging to live life to the fullest!

When life takes a permanent detour

The play begins how a positive diagnosis of breast cancer and disclosure, impacts people and life takes a permanent detour thereon. The counselling systems (if) in place, are rightly providing information, but are affected people able to grasp and absorb all the information bombarded to them? Are our health systems giving space enough for people to better cope with the therapy? Life-changing impact of cancer diagnosis is coupled with deep rooted concerns of losing body parts, such as breast, and intertwined with a matrix of human interpersonal issues.

Dr Rita Banik, who has not only courageously fought breast cancer but also bravely survived other cancer recurrences, joined the live streaming of Pirates Of Chemotherapy. "Even cancer diagnosis creates a big havoc in our mind. Cancer related fatigue starts from our mind, then the fatigue grows through the long treatment, surgery, chemotherapy etc, and drains all our energy. Besides the looming danger of cancer spreading in the body which happened to me. I was a normal person having a good life, and with one stroke of cancer diagnosis, everything changed – it changes the life dramatically." said Dr Banik who now leads 'Race To Rein In Cancer'.

Break the silence!

For me, it is important to share how this comedy play successfully breaks the silence that surrounds intimacy and sexuality related concerns of breast cancer patients.

Thankfully this play has one male breast cancer survivor along with six female survivors. Women face the majority of the burden of breast cancer as well as are at higher risk, but men and transgender people have breasts too and do get affected by cancer of the breast, although the rates are much lower compared with women.

Jokes apart, mammogram procedures are painful. This truth is so rightly brought out in the play too. We need better diagnostics that is convenient, patient-friendly, affordable and accessible to all those in need. If we truly want people to get mammography done regularly when indicated, then we have to ensure it is patient-friendly and not painful. People's needs should set the research agenda.

"It is hard to laugh with well ones. They do not know how it feels" is a line from the play that still echoes in my heart. Perhaps that is why affected communities connect so intensely with each other and help one another as they move ahead in their journey to heal and cure. May be people who undergo similar experiences find it easier to be vulnerable enough to share with each other with empathy and dignity.

Human relationships are so central especially when the going gets tough. Data shows women have been abandoned by their husbands and thrown out of homes when infected with tuberculosis (TB) disease (over 100,000 women with TB in a year were abandoned by their husbands in India, as said by India’s then health minister Dr Ambumani Ramadoss).

Travails of women with breast cancer multiply if their relationship with their partner goes through a rocky phase. “My husband left me”, “I was withering away, he won’t even touch me”, “ I wonder what he truly feels about me”, “I have a chest of a boy”, “I cannot stand to look at you”, “He married a whole woman”, “this is about intimacy, about being a woman”, “Do you still find me attractive? My breasts were first thing that attracted him to me – he wants to hold me tight, but he is afraid he may hurt me” were some of the dialogues spoken by characters in the play that still are etched in my mind. “We are more than couple of breasts” rightly said the survivors in unison!

A character in the play goes through divorce where her husband has cleaned all bank accounts leaving her on the edge of bankruptcy. This character rightly remarks “He said I looked like a pirate but he was a pirate all the while”.

“Why anyone else will love you when you don’t love yourself” is another life influencing dialogue during a conversation between survivors in support group.


Towards the end of this play, a character dies as her breast cancer could not be detected early enough and had spread too. Before she passed away in the play, how "healing" happened in the support group despite she had incurable cancer, is so powerfully yet subtly brought out. Resurrection was the name of the store she ran, and is also the name of the sequel of this play which is currently being developed, shared Toni Cacioppo.

“Educate in a way they don’t get to know they are being educated” is another value this play embodies!

Pirates Of Chemotherapy was live streamed!

Breast cancer was among the two most common cancers globally in 2018. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), two most common cancers last year, were lung cancer (2.09 million cases and 1.76 million deaths in 2018) and breast cancer (2.09 million cases and 627,000 deaths in 2018), said Dr Pooja Ramakant, noted breast cancer surgeon and researcher with the King George’s Medical University (KGMU).

Dr Pooja Ramakant, Associate Editor of prestigious Indian Journal of Surgery, who joined the live streaming of Pirates Of Chemotherapy play ( said: “I agree with Toni Cacioppo, as preaching does not help much but we have to effectively communicate in local contexts to encourage health seeking behaviour. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, and in developing countries it is also among the deadliest cancers. Women present late to us unfortunately as 50-70% of patients who present to us are already in advanced stage or metastatic when they are first diagnosed. If breast cancer is picked up early, then survival is much better. All women and men must self-examine their breasts every month - neither it costs anything, nor any equipment is needed. If in any doubt people must seek medical checkup without any delay.”

Dr Pooja Ramakant, who is former member of Editorial Board of Indian Association of Endocrine Surgeons (IAES) added that patient support groups play a key role in helping people with breast cancer. Those who have gone through the journey of seeking treatment for breast cancer are best placed to help support each other. Quality cancer care includes dignity, respect, support and love and considers not just the physical impact of cancer but respects the emotional, and social wellbeing of each individual and their carer.

Dr Chanchal Rana, breast pathologist from King George’s Medical University (KGMU), also joined the live streaming of Pirates Of Chemotherapy. She said "Breast cancer can be diagnosed at an early stage and is a treatable malignancy. In developing countries like ours many times patients are coming at a very late stage where they have to go through more extensive surgery, chemotherapy and other treatment modalities. Good sign is that more women are self-examining their breasts. We must remember that cancer of the breast is treatable if diagnosed at an early stage."


One of the after thoughts of seeing this play three times, was, how people who come across often as “indestructible”, may be tanking up issues that may make them vulnerable as human beings. Being invulnerable and indestructible also perhaps prevent them from accepting love and empathy.

When the live streaming of Pirates Of Chemotherapy play ended, Shobha Shukla, noted gender justice advocate and Executive Director of CNS (Citizen News Service) commented: "What I learnt today is that while cancer is nothing to laugh about, but one can choose to laugh at it. Just like pirates of the sea, you really did spit in the wind against all odds and made it change its direction. And like pirates, despite the missing parts, you fought a formidable battle, and reminded us of how the relentless human spirit responds to love and also that healing is different than cure. The play was like an infomercial for early cancer detection and convinced me that along with chemotherapy, the curative powers of laughter and fortitude should not be discounted."

* Bobby Ramakant, CNS (Citizen News Service) wrote this article for
Bobby Ramakant is a WHO Director General’s WNTD Awardee and Policy Director at CNS (Citizen News Service). Follow him on Twitter @bobbyramakant or welcome to visit
This article was webcasted on February 24, 2019.

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • Laichombam Sapana @ JNMDA : Gallery
  • Chingkhei Nganba, Amom :: eMing
  • Rise & Fall of Cachari Kingdom #1
  • Modi once again- Reading Election result
  • Function of Nampou of Zeliangrongs #1
  • Job Openings at Raj Medicity
  • Tatmadaw initiate forced labour on Chin
  • State BJP : Set to look beyond 2022
  • Return of Modi-Shah combo
  • Zhaoshomai, indigenous religion of Liiyai
  • Fashion by Kumarjit Laishram #2 : Gallery
  • Dams as a death trap in Manipur
  • Raju Bista (Kangpoki) is MP of Darjeeling
  • Sufferings from trust deficit
  • Bamboo charcoal.. for bamboo flowering
  • The NAMO, Amit Shah magic
  • A take on India's Act East Policy
  • Pakhangba Cheng-hongba #1 : Gallery
  • Better Selfie with Smarter Technology
  • Repeal AFSPA enacted on 22 May 1958
  • Cry of a Dying River - 77 :: Poem
  • Biodiversity : Why humanity should care ?
  • Research Officer at Amethyst Research
  • The Terrace Open Mic - II : Report
  • NPF exposed in public domain : NDPP
  • End of the largest democratic exercise
  • Stop faking and face the facts
  • Future Hindu Culture of Meitei is magificient
  • International Day of Biodiversity 2019
  • The Trunk that life of a Soldier moves on
  • MCS/MPS through lottery ? :: WJ
  • Job Vacancies at Leima Traders
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • 'Double standard' politics of NPF :: NDPP
  • Exit polls : Not the final verdict
  • Poll result prediction
  • Mary storms into semis
  • Glory Days of Manipur in the 18th Century
  • Alternate Rationality: Its Possibility : Book
  • Does burning of school reflect larger malady
  • RIST Talk 39 : Year of Periodic Table
  • Manipur : A woman's world
  • Paramedical courses as career options
  • Revoke suspension for NPF Office Bearers
  • Class X results : Best in 10 years
  • The wrath of Mother Nature
  • Poumai Purul Paoki Fest : Gallery
  • AEgi KoHcY :: Seireng
  • The Tamna Tamna Video: Critical Analysis
  • 'NDPP's child like attitude for meddling'
  • Rejoinder to NDPP by NPF President
  • Amazing beauty benefits of coconut oil
  • Urge Nagaland govt to review security
  • Pull out threat from the NPF
  • Myanmar launches ops on NE militants
  • Myanmar jails 24 from Assam, Manipur
  • 2019 HSLC Exam Toppers :: Gallery
  • HSLC Toppers share thoughts, aspirations
  • CFP on 'Photoacoustics' at IEEE TENCON
  • Arrival of Fall Armyworm in Manipur
  • Youth and Contemporary Issues #4
  • No Escape from Real World :: Poem
  • Civil & Structural Engineer at R-Square
  • Architectural Designer at R-Square DCS
  • 'NPF Manipur is directionless leadership'
  • HSLC :: Top 25 Rank Holders
  • HSLC :: Subject Topper
  • HSLC :: Statistical Abstract
  • HSLC :: Full Roll No Listing
  • HSLC :: Compartmental
  • Dairies of 2 Tours in Naga Hills : Book
  • Kohima Press Club (KPC) elects new team
  • Manipur : The unsung fashion capital
  • Brain Stimulation for Parkinson disease
  • 2nd Foundation Day of NDPP
  • Changing face of the North East
  • 129th Birth Anniversary of Ho Chi Minh
  • Understanding performance of Govt school
  • Amazing Folk-tales of Koireng Tribe
  • Fashion by Kumarjit Laishram #1 : Gallery
  • Cry of a Dying River - 76 :: Poem
  • Plastic Pollution & its effect
  • Significance of Nurses Week celebration
  • Legal Assistance to Prisoners' Family
  • Talk on 'Alliance - Biblical Perspective'
  • Shorthand/Stenography Typing Course
  • Fissures with a coalition partner
  • 4 plus 4 is always equal to 8
  • Mukna Kangjei Tournament : Gallery
  • Socio-cultural significance of Gudui-Ngai
  • Diesel auto vs Traffic control :: Artwork
  • Future of Moreh: Development partnership..
  • An alarming stay in a hotel
  • Naga Students Delhi Admission help Desk
  • Need to focus on the average students too
  • The politics of rumours
  • Phayeng Koubru Haraoba #4 : Gallery
  • ELVEEGO : Top 10 Promising Companies
  • Myanmar Refugee Problem : Report
  • Mother :: Poem
  • Minerva Punjab FC to conduct trials
  • Represent the people, not only party
  • When vegetables slowly poison us?
  • Hr Sec Exam 2019 Toppers #2: Gallery
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2019 #2: Gallery
  • Dear Mother :: Poem
  • Youth and Contemporary Issues #3
  • Why are Govt schools lagging behind ?
  • Career option in Veterinary Science
  • Saluting Mothers of the world
  • Will Sharmila have a Third Life ?
  • NE for efforts to address illegal influx
  • Rs 10 coins not acceptable in Manipur!
  • Agri Fair @ CAU #2 : Gallery
  • Khomlen Manglanda - A Play #2 : Gallery
  • AMWJU new terms 2019-2021
  • Run for Raisina Hill
  • Happy Mother's Day
  • Mother's Day
  • Aspiration in Medical Career
  • MPSC : Wallowing in dirt
  • Why the 1st Bird Sanctuary in Thinungei
  • Purnima Moirangthem : 5th in Commerce
  • Respect for a mother
  • Academic excellence is not everything
  • Indo-Naga & other peace talks #6
  • A Dwarfish Whole :: Poem
  • Takayasu Arteritis treated at SKY Hospital
  • Mercury rise: Is it common men fault
  • Ajit Ningthouja :: eRang Photos
  • Had not there been ILPS agitation ? : Story
  • Dance & folk songs of natives of NE #2
  • BJP for NE Community Campaign in Delhi
  • Serou dam-Atypical structure in Chakpi river
  • Benefits of automation in medical laboratory
  • Civil Servant from Matupi hospitalized...
  • Madness on the roads of Imphal
  • Root of peoples' anger to doctors
  • Jiribam Bazaar :: 360 Panorama View
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • Cry of a Dying River - 75 :: Poem
  • What Yoga is & is not ?
  • Rio at General Conference of NSF
  • Make right choice in selecting your campus
  • Suspension Order for 19 NPF Members
  • Festival of marks and more marks
  • worry on condition of Govt Schools
  • Thailand Princess @Kangla #2 :: Gallery
  • Kadigampou, Akeng :: eMing
  • Ningombam Tampha :: 3rd in ISC Exam
  • Our Grammy goes to Thangmeiso Shinglai
  • Call for application from youths
  • Life is not about how far you hang on
  • NERIST admission notice : PG & PhD
  • Seminar at MU : Material Engineering
  • Class XII : Looking beyond Imphal
  • Understanding Consumers' rights
  • HSE : Candidates securing Highest Marks
  • HSE 2019 : Science Stream Result
  • HSE 2019 : Arts Stream Result
  • HSE 2019 : Commerce Stream Result
  • HSE 2019 Toppers : Science
  • HSE 2019 Toppers : Arts
  • HSE 2019 Toppers : Commerce
  • HSE 2019 : Result Abstract
  • HSE 2019 : District Wise
  • Solid waste management in Imphal
  • Naga Ancestral Freedom Movement
  • My franchise for Mom's Primary
  • Bamboo based industries in Manipur
  • Is sugar ageing you
  • Competition among schools
  • Will modification help in solving traffic chaos
  • Cheiraoba Chak Katpa #2 :: Gallery
  • MANFETE 2019 at MU :: Gallery
  • What is Change ?
  • The integrity of Manipur
  • Dance & folk songs of natives of NE #1
  • Indo-Naga & other peace talks #5
  • Understand kids with developmental delay
  • Meet with Fortis Hospital, Delhi
  • Understanding idea of NE
  • Mr. Edn Min, please act like Manish of Delhi
  • Ibudhou Oknarel & Khudithibi
  • May Calendar for Year 2019 :: Tools
  • Facts & fakes of poll prediction
  • Sketches & Notes of Summertime :: Poem
  • The other Face of 'May -Day'
  • Check-up for new born- Split Spine Defect
  • Retaining Walls & Flooding in Moirang
  • Gearing up for counting day
  • Religion profile of Manipur: Impact study #2
  • Andro Girls won Doon Cup :: Gallery
  • Rajbans Huidrom : Topper CBSE XII
  • Nongdol Leima- Dance Drama #1:: Gallery
  • Human Trafficking to SE Asia via NE
  • Tributes on Khongjom Day #2 :: Gallery
  • M Diana: National Women Social Award
  • Handloom show : Robert Naorem & Soma
  • Urmila Shagolsem: Miss India 2019 Finalist
  • Thang Ta @Sangai Fest #5 :: Gallery
  • Indo-Naga & other peace talks #4
  • Yaoshang Halankar #2 :: Gallery
  • Demand for ILP :: Articles/Photos...
  • Anglo-Manipur war from military point of view
  • Yubi Lakpi :: Gallery
  • Peeshumlei : Book Release :: Gallery
  • Significance of festival: Nanu-Ngai
  • Onetwo Okram - Singer #1 :: eRang
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Tributes on Khongjom Day #1 :: Gallery
  • Shajibu Cheiraoba @ Pune : Gallery
  • Romita Yumnam : Mrs India Queen
  • Meekap Thokpa Numit #2 : Gallery
  • Shivaratri Shopping List #2 : Gallery
  • Tributes to PLA killed #2 : Gallery
  • A talk with Ajit Ningthouja :: eRang
  • LS : Voting for Inner : Gallery
  • Ibendhou Kounu Haraoba #2: Gallery
  • The Killing Fields 2013-18 : News Timeline
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba at Mysore #2: Gallery
  • Voting (PC) @ Kangpokpi #3: Gallery
  • Mittong Khunou: The Battle Honour of INA
  • Thabal Chongba @Khurai : Gallery
  • Manipuri Calendar for 2019 : Download
  • List of Restricted Holidays for 2019
  • List of Public Holidays for 2019
  • List of General Holidays for 2019