When most people think of cancer, they imagine a debilitating illness that drains the life out of its sufferers. But for Dr. Ritu Biyani, a dental surgeon, adventurer, and motivational speaker, cancer has been a catalyst for breaking barriers and empowering others to do the same.
A breast cancer warrior and patient advocate, Dr. Biyani is the founder of the NGO "High>>>ways… Infinite," which has a borderless drive to empower people and impact lives before, during, and after cancer. She is a resource person for pan-Indian cancer awareness, working to step up cancer literacy in the population and navigate patients through their cancer journeys. Her vision is to help reduce the incidence of advanced cancer cases, change the mindset of people towards cancer, and celebrate survivorship.
Three-time India's Limca book of records holder in 2014, 2008, and 2007, Dr. Biyani is the only person in India who travels – often solo – from basties, villages, to urban setups, border towns, high altitudes, socially unrest, and hard-to-reach areas, taking cancer awareness and motivational campaigns to the doorsteps of myriad communities.
After soldiering through breast cancer in 2000, Dr. Biyani found herself equipped with a unique understanding of the illness and its challenges from a patient, social, and professional perspective. In 2006, along with her 14-year-old daughter, Ms. Tista Joseph, the mother-daughter duo conceptualized, pioneered, and led "Project India's first adventure drive with a cancer awareness mission across the country. Among several milestones achieved during Project Highways 2006, Dr. Biyani did a record distinction of solo driving 30,220kms in 177 days, crossing the highest motorable roads to the 4 tips of India, and the mother-daughter duo conducting 140 plus campaigns in 26 states and 4 UT.
In 2010, Dr. Biyani conceptualised and spearheaded "Highways Infinite Attitude and Altitude," the first international cancer survivors' expedition on cancer advocacy and survivorship in India, where she led the Australian team of breast cancer warriors and carers to Ladakh on motorbikes and four-wheelers. To date, she has solo driven more than 2,000 kilometers, educated over 3,000 people about cancer awareness, navigated thousands of patients and carers through their cancer journeys, raised financial and resource aid for needy patients, and inspired many from all walks of life across the world.
Dr. Biyani's other major milestones include being the first cancer survivor or warrior to trek 120 km up and down till Kumar Post of the Siachen Glacier, the world's highest and most treacherous battlefield and longest glacier outside the polar region, and the first breast cancer warrior to drive, compete in, and complete the Raid-De-Himalayas, the world's highest and India's toughest motorsport rally, in 2012.
Beyond her cancer advocacy work, Dr. Biyani is also the first lady paratrooper and mountaineer in the Indian Army Dental Corps, where she served for 10 years. She is a skydiver, skier, and solo driver. In 1981, she became the first lady from the Maheshwari Marwadi Community to join the Indian Army. Between 1981 and 1992, during her army tenure, she was the only lady officer who travelled to many forward areas to provide dental coverage to the troops, at a time when no lady officers were posted in those areas.
During the COVID pandemic, she worked for the home-bound Shramiks (migrants) and COVID patients, and she has also extended guidance and material help in natural disasters like earthquakes and floods to volunteer teams.
A national and international speaker, Dr. Biyani is the recipient of over 53 awards and citations. She has a keen interest in environmental issues, adventure activities, and rural culture.
Dr. Biyani's story is one of resilience, determination, and the power of the human spirit to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Her unique attitude and approach to breaking conventional barriers against many odds, even cancer, is an inspiration to all those she encounters on her journey.
Through her tireless advocacy and awareness efforts, Dr. Biyani is making a real impact in the fight against cancer and in the lives of those affected by it. Her vision to reduce the incidence of advanced cancer cases, change the mindset of people towards cancer, and celebrate survivorship is a beacon of hope for all those facing the challenges of cancer.