That Scary Six-Letter Word


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The Fob Four band Samrat Chakrabarti, Ranjit Arapurakal, Konrad Payne, Shiv Puri with Ayesha Hakki

The Fob Four band Samrat Chakrabarti, Ranjit Arapurakal, Konrad Payne, Shiv Puri with Ayesha Hakki

Chasing Cancer with Mischief Night

(Photos: Andy Chang)

It was the night of spooks and ghouls, of ghosts and vampires. But it was also the time to bring into the open a fear, a nightmare that women rarely talk about – breast cancer. Aysha Hakki, editor and publisher of Bibi magazine, who recently survived her battle with this most feared of adversaries, organized a fundraiser to raise awareness through a partnership with Avon

“Cancer is a roller coaster, I have oft heard it been said,” wrote Hakki in the C-Diaries. ” While you are comfortably navigating the undulating rails of an expected life, you suddenly find yourself dropping in a deafening speed that jerks and rattles you to your very core. The only difference is that unlike the carnival line you willingly join, waiting to board the ride, analyzing and preparing for its every loop and dip, this ride is murky, unexpected and you never really know how it will end until you reach the other side. All you can do is hang on and hope you’ll arrive safely back at the platform.”



It's all about community - friends and supporters who form a wall of strength

It’s all about community – friends and supporters who form a wall of strength


Mischief Night & Avon Breast Cancer Crusade

After all, how can we fight our fears but by bringing them kicking and screaming into the open? Hakki hosted Mischief Night, a Halloween-themed party that raised money for the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade. Her  friends and supporters had come up with donated performances, music and food to build a gathering, a barricade of strength for cancer survivors. Helping to organize this event were well-known names within the South Asian community including Samrat Chakrabarti, Joya Dass, and Mani Kamboj.

“I realized there is not a lot of information or resources out there. Instead we have a lot of mystery and secrecy surrounding cancer in our community. I decided to be public with my story by blogging about it on because I figured if I had to have this disease, then I want to make it count. As soon as I did, so many people began reaching out to me saying that either they or a family member had been affected by cancer. It was amazing how prevalent this health condition is in our community yet you only hear it about it in hushed tones.”


Meetu Chilana with The Fob Four

Meetu Chilana with The Fob Four


Getting the Word Out

She adds an important point:  “Early detection is key. It’s the reason that I am here at the party rather than in some hospital bed.”

Mischief Night was made delicious by several supporters including The Kati Roll Company, Devi Restaurant, The Masalawala, Chocal8Kiss, WineBar34 and Wine Chateau. Sonia Dhaliwal of Elegant Celebrations donated her services while DJ Shilpa donated her lights and sound systems. Cirque de Soliel singer Meetu Chilana joined celebrity musicians Samrat Chakrabarti, Ranjit Arapurakal, Shiv Puri and Konrad Payne while dance artist Gary Nesta Pine performed his latest hits. A breast cancer-themed photo exhibition by Jasmine Gonzalez was introduced by TV Anchor Joya Dass.


Rishi Agnani from the Avon Breast Cancer Foundation

Rishi Agnani from the Avon Breast Cancer Foundation

According to the BBC, breast cancer rates are on the rise amongst UK-based South Asians and research shows the same in Canada. Hakki believes that the trend probably holds true for South Asian-Americans, and hopes to continue opening the dialogue within the community. “I will be free of cancer in a few months because they caught it early. I was lucky! I want people to realize through my example that cancer is real, but it doesn’t have to be a death sentence.” Her next project is to create a PSA about early detection and healthy lifestyle choices to help educate the South Asian-American community.


Sonam Sondhi, Lilly Rivera, Anmol S. Budhiraja and Sonia Dhaliwal

Sonam Sondhi, Lilly Rivera, Anmol S. Budhiraja and Sonia Dhaliwal with Ayesha Hakki


The C-Word: Three Questions for Ayesha Hakki

1. What would be your tips for young women who think they are somehow untouchable by cancer?

The first and foremost thing to remember is to get tested. Check to see if you have breast cancer in your family, and if so, then insist of getting tested for the hereditary gene. Otherwise, make sure you arrange for a mammogram once you turn 40. Your health is in your hands and early detection makes all of the difference in treatment and survival. Chances are more that you won’t have it, and it’s better to know that than to ignore it.


2. From your own experience, do you think it’s possible for women to bounce back and pursue their activities.

Yes it is! Cancer changes you both emotionally and physically and learning and growing from this experience makes you stronger. I find that I am re-looking at my life and trying to change my priorities. I know now to slow done and appreciate this life, spend time with my family and friends, to respect my body by feeding it proper foods and to take care of myself more than I did in the past. That’s just the beginning. I am know looking at my bucket list and have decided to start crossing things off sooner than later.


Jasmine Isabel Gonzalez, Joya Dass and Ayesha Hakki

Jasmine Isabel Gonzalez, Joya Dass and Ayesha Hakki


3. What are your plans for raising awareness in the future for the South Asian women and how can the community help.

It’s surprising that our community has so many doctors, but very little in terms of support when it comes to cancer, especially since some many people and families have been affected by it. Each community has something–black, Hispanic, Jewish, etc– but we don’t. I want to change that and the misconceptions people associate with this disease. It’s not a death sentence and with a little screening and care, it’s easier to cure yourself. After this fundraiser, my next project is to do a Public Service Announcement for our community to raise awareness and acceptance of this disease. The bigger goal would be to create a South-Asian specific support group to provide emotional, physical and financial help for cancer patients. Let’s see what the future brings.


Related Articles on Lassi with Lavina

Thinking out of the Box- Cancer, joblessness and saving the environment
Fighting Cancer on the Pink Runway
The Cancer Detective
Siddhartha Mukherjee – Chasing Cancer
Prostate Cancer – A South Asian Cautionary Tale
Take That, Cancer!


About Author

Lavina Melwani is a New York-based journalist who writes for several international publications. [email protected] & @lassiwithlavina Sign up for the free newsletter to get your dose of Lassi!

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