Women Who Battled Terminal Disease & Emerged As Entrepreneurs
You may feel singled out when adversity enters your life. You shake your head and wonder, ‘why me’? So it was with Monalisa Parija, Pushpita Aheibam and Lynda Perpetual Rodrigues when each of them were diagnosed with a terminal disease. But instead of letting life take a backseat, they battled it with positivity and emerged stronger than ever. Today, the three of them have turned entrepreneurs, albeit on a small scale.
While Monalisa runs an online store selling handloom products from Rajasthan and Gujarat, Pushpita makes and sells made-to-order pickles with flavours of the Northeast and Lynda has started an online home decor store where she herself designs and makes the products.
So here’s their story:
It was in 2015 that Monalisa was diagnosed with a rare form of uterine cancer, Stage 1. Monalisa, who was working with Unicef at the time, quit her job to focus on her treatment. After one-and-half-years, doctors declared her cancer-free. All through her treatment, the Jaipur-based woman wanted to do something to help kids suffering from cancer, as she had seen their pain from close quarters. “I started The Renaissance Store with the idea that I would donate 20% of the revenue generated for poor kids afflicted with cancer,” she told SheThePeople.TV.
Believing that the worst was behind her, Monalisa put her entire energy into the online store, setting up a website in addition to a Facebook page. From bed linen, dress materials to home decor, The Renaissance Store has it all. The response was good, slowly picking up after spreading the word among her family, friends and acquaintances. She delivers across India.
“The Renaissance Store has been a dream come true for me. I am on the right track and pray I can generate more funds to help poor children.” -Monalisa Parija
Then the unthinkable happened. Early this year, she fell in the bathroom and fractured her vertebrae. When the fracture refused to heal, the doctors discovered that the cancer was back with a vengeance, Stage 4 bone metastasis. Monalisa was bedridden for four long months. During this time, she closed down the website as it was impossible for her to operate it. However, she continued to sell the goods via the FB page. “It is much easier to handle the FB page.”
Talking about the ordeal, Monalisa, who is in her early forties, said: “Surgery helped. Also, my husband has been a pillar of strength, doing everything from feeding to sponging me. The doctors too have been so human. They have taken such good care. I have recently started walking. So yes, God has been kind.”
Now, in addition to her oral chemotherapy doses, she is also trying out a Tibetan therapy for which she goes to McLeoydganj in Himachal Pradesh. “I am very hopeful,” she says, talking about how the doctor there was once the physician of the Dalai Lama and many have claimed that he can do miracles. She also goes to AIIMS, Delhi, every three months for follow-ups.
The Renaissance Store has been donating 20% of its profits to the Mahavir Cancer Hospital in Jaipur for poor kids who can’t afford cancer treatment.
Her 12-year-old son has also been a source of strength. “He helps me in his own way, writing addresses on envelopes to be sent to customers,” said Monalisa.
“The Renaissance Store has been a dream come true for me. I am on the right track and pray I can generate more funds to help poor children. If I am not here tomorrow, I want my sister or someone in the family to continue this work,” she said, signing off.
For Pune-based blogger and writer Pushpita Aheibam, food has always been close to her heart. Her food blogs, mostly dealing with North-eastern cuisine, have been well-received. Far away from her native Tripura, Pushpita longed for her mom’s indigenous pickles. With recipes taken from her mom, Pushpita then started recreating the pickles of her childhood. Once she shared them with her friends and acquaintances, orders started pouring in. In July last year, she started Pushpita’s — her unique brand of pickles.
“Pickles are deeply connected with my childhood,” explained Pushpita.
However, in a couple of months after she started the made-to-order pickles, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Her life came crashing down.
“I thought if I sit and think of my disease, it won’t help. Only positivity will help,” – Pushpita Aheibam
Amid the treatment at Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, Pushpita got back to making pickles. “I thought if I sit and think of my disease, it won’t help. Only positivity will help,” she told SheThePeople.TV.
My tagline is ‘Homemade With Love’, Pushpita said. Food obviously is very close to her heart.
“I use seasonal veggies apart from some produces sourced from the Northeast. I wouldn’t say it is authentic to the region as I may cook something in one way and my neighbour in a different way,” the 38-year-old explained.
She also makes fresh fruit spreads and edible infused oils. All her products are free of preservatives, colour and flavours.
Today, Pushpita is cancer-free. But the biggest miracle happened when her second son was born three months ago. And she found out about the pregnancy just weeks before the boy came into this world. Talking about how this gives her new hope, Pushpita said: “Both my kids (the elder one is 11) give me the strength to live beyond today.”
She takes orders via her Instagram handle and also on her FB page, Pushpita’s Chakum, and delivers across India. “I am not in a hurry to expand. But I would definitely want to take my brand to the next level when I feel I can handle it.”
29-year-old Lynda has always loved art. Diagnosed with Lupus in 2017, she currently undergoes dialysis three times a week. Yet, the indomitable Mumbai girl has recently started an online store selling home decor items that she designs and makes herself.
Once weighing a healthy 57 kg, her weight has dropped down to 35 kg. With Lupus attacking her kidney, she had to quit working as a teacher. On the waiting list for a kidney transplant, she has been in and out of hospitals at least 12 times this year alone. Talking about her health condition, Lynda said: “I had continuous loose motions and vomiting for eight months.”
“Initially, I used to hate dialysis, but now I have got used to it. Making home decor items keeps me busy and I feel a lot better too.” – Lynda Perpetual Rodrigues
Her mother can’t donate her kidney to Lynda as she is a diabetic.
So what prompted her to design home decor items?
“I used to always win prizes for artwork at school. If you visit my home, there are a lot of DIY stuff that my brother and I have done. So the days I felt better, I would do some artwork,” she told SheThePeople.TV.
“I made a few dreamcatchers and people liked them and asked me to make the same for them.”
That’s when Lynda decided to start an FB page — The Decor-a-tive Stop — showcasing her artwork, coasters, dreamcatchers, photo frames etc.
“Initially, I used to hate dialysis, but now I have got used to it. Making home decor items keeps me busy and I feel a lot better too,” she said.
Clearly, where there’s a will, there’s a way! Wishing these lovely ladies good health and joy and success in all they do.