When Ayesha Hakki, publisher of Bibi Magazine was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this summer, the first thing she did was jump on the internet to find information about the disease and how it pertained to her South Asian genes. Strangely enough, the majority of the research she found was coming out of England with little to negligible resources here in the US. While other ethnic groups have visible support systems for cancer patients, South Asian-Americans do not, which is especially surprising as South Asians are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups with a particularly high amount of members serving in the medical fields.
Regarding the event, she shared,
“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 BibiMagazine.com 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.”
As a first step to opening the dialogue and raising awareness, Hakki decided to host a fundraiser for breast cancer. Joined but a number of her close friends, Hakki hosted Mischief Night, a Halloween-themed party that raised money for the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.
The purpose of the event, according to Hakki, was to encourage people to make wiser choices in their food supply and with the personal and household products that they use. Additionally, she suggested for people to get regularly tested for high-risk cancers. During her speech at the event she stressed,
“Early detection is key! It’s the reason that I am here at the party rather than in some hospital bed.”
The fundraiser was well attended by over 100 costumed guests some of whom were survivors themselves or had a family member who had been affected by cancer. The event’s sponsors included The Kati Roll Company, Devi Restaurant, The Masalawala, Chocal8Kiss, WineBar34 and Wine Chateau. Sonia Dhaliwal of Elegant Celebrations donated her services to manage the event 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. The party continued with DJ Shilpa keeping guests dancing late into the night.
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 that 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.”
Hakki’s next project is to create a PSA about early detection and healthy lifestyle choices to help educate the South Asian-American community.