If Vernon's Bollywood Bang Cancer fundraiser is anything like its founder, it will be energetic, colourful and inspiring.
Rather than let cancer bring her world to pieces, Dalvir Nahal, 37, is harnessing her experience to help others. A cancer survivor, Nahal received treatment at Vernon Jubilee Hospital just a few years ago, and is now presenting a local fundraiser to provide assistance for local cancer patients.
"I'm a strong believer in local people giving and local people receiving. I want to see the money stay here," Nahal says.
Profits will be put into a Cancer Centre fund, and the doctors that treated Nahal will be able to use it at their discretion, on a case by case basis, wherever and however it's needed most.
"Each year at the McMurtry-Baerg Cancer Centre, more than 330 people receive the same difficult message that I received: "You have cancer," Nahal says. "I was one of the fortunate ones who has extended health care insurance coverage to pay for expenses not provided by our Medical Services Plan."
Nahal knew fellow patients who didn't have the resources to pay for anti-nausea medications to be taken after chemo. She saw mothers undergoing treatment who couldn't afford a baby-sitter for their kids. Then she began thinking of ways to help.
One night two years ago, while she was under a heavy dose of chemo, Nahal woke up at 2 a.m. with a purpose: $50,000 raised for cancer treatment.
"By 6 a.m. I was already telling my dad how I was going to do it," she says.
Simply by word of mouth, Nahal succeeded in her goal. Largely made possible by friends and family in the Punjabi community, Nahal now wants to involve a wider audience.
"This event is for muslims, hindus, caucasians—everyone is welcome."
She also hopes it will give the Punjabi culture more exposure by introducing the Vernon community to East Indian food, traditional fashions, music and entertainment. Guests are encouraged to dress "Indian style" in garbs donated by local residents. One Punjabi woman donated all the decorations and some saris from her daughters wedding.
"I give huge props to the East Indian community," Nahal says. "As kids, we were always taught to give back."
She recalls watching members of the Punjabi Heritage society making samosas in a Vernon temple and feeling overwhelmed by the generosity. That ethic of giving is what inspired her to follow through with the fundraiser. Now, the fundraiser is what keeps her going. Some mornings she wakes up fatigued by medications she's still on.
"If it wasn't for the fundraiser, I couldn't keep going," she says, blinking back tears.
Nahal has the energy of an entire cast of Bollywood dancers condensed into a single body. Even when she was in treatment, her upbeat attitude persisted.
Family members remember her positive outlook and willpower.
"It was confusing," says her niece. "We knew she was sick, but she didn't act like it."
Nahal can't keep a straight face as she describes the experience of having cancer in a Punjabi family.
"My caucasian friends would always email or call before they came over," she says. "But the East Indians just showed up and came to sit on my bed."
"You don't talk about death in the Punjabi culture." she says, noting that she strayed from the norm by openly planning her funeral. "I wanted a martini bar and party favours—dyson vacuums because I'm a clean freak."
She says her journey between the two cultures was a unique and eye-opening one. "It kept me balanced," she says.
Through the event, Nahal hopes to prove something to people.
"There is life after cancer. It's not the end of the world."
The Bollywood Bang takes place on March 23 at the Vernon Rec Centre, which will be transformed into a Bollywood movie set. Tickets are $85 each or tables of eight are available for $680. The evening will feature platters of East Indian delicacies, dancing, music, and a fashion show. For information or to reserve tickets contact Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation at: 250-558-1362.