Ashika Maharaj was captured by Sean Baker Photography. Her make-up was done by Kezia Myatt from Nixon Make up and was dressed by Carol Clark Designs.
Ashika Maharaj began her personal fight against cancer in May 2008. “My life was just taking off on a new and positive direction, having just moved into our new dream home and my husband’s health back on track,” Maharaj said.
It was in the late evening when Maharaj’s husband alerted her of having a lump on her breast. Santosh insisted that his wife go and have the lump checked out.
Maharaj and her husband consulted her gynaecologist, who reassured them that it could not be cancerous as the lump was too big, too deep and movable to be cancer.
A mammogram was then scheduled, which led to a biopsy. “I never thought it will be anything serious,” she said.
On Tuesday, May 6, 2008, Maharaj sat in the surgeon’s room with her husband, expecting to be out within a few minutes.
Maharaj’s worst nightmare unfolded when her surgeon looked at her and uttered the words, “I am sorry, but I have bad news for you. You have a grade 3 cancer. It’s aggressive and can spread fast.”
She recalled, “While my surgeon explained to my husband in detail as to what treatment I was to undergo,and how soon the operation needed to be done, I sat there in total shock. I was trying to digest the news. I felt sadness, bitterness, anger, hatred and resentment. How was I going to break the news to my then 10-year-old daughter and six-year-old son?”
Maharaj’s mastectomy was scheduled two days later.
She described her state of mind as being in turmoil as she had to pack for the hospital, inform the rest of her family, prepare dinner, sort out her children’s school uniform and show her husband where everything in the house was kept, because her mind had registered ‘Ashika, you are dying.’
The God-fearing Hindu woman had been taught from a tender age to follow every Hindu ritual, fast and prayer.
“I have always followed and obeyed whatever my mother said to me without fail or question, but this was my last straw,” she said.
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After the mastectomy, Maharaj found herself in so much pain but she soon found her peace, when she opened her eyes to her knight, her husband.
“My husband, Santosh, was there with his infectious smile and tears in his eyes. He held my hands and said we will face this together, one day at a time,” she added.
Maharaj recalls yelling at the nurses when her husband was asked to leave after he had overstayed the hospital’s visiting hours.
She felt as if she was dying and could not bear being alone after the mastectomy. She was delighted to get discharged on Mother’s Day, after a short stay at the hospital.
Maharaj found herself being overwhelmed by hugs, kisses and tears after her arrival at home from hospital. She then excused herself to have a shower which, her husband assisted her with.
She had also noticed that her hair had started falling because of her chemo sessions, as soon as she arrived home from the hospital she asked her husband to shave her hair off, in the presence of their children.
It was in the shower that she started crying uncontrollably, allowing the tears that were wrestling within her to flow.
With her daughter standing in front of her, she said, ‘Mum don’t cry because you are so beautiful.’
With those simple but profound words my heart was touched.
As the weeks of treatments passed by, she became more comfortable and positive about my situation.
As a Hindu woman, she loves wearing saris. Her confidence had withered and she wondered how she would look in a sari with no hair and just one breast.
“I had to make do with punjabis and a scarf wrapped around my bald head. Once my hair grew back, I started wearing a sari,” she said.
Ashika faced her battle and is on the road to recovery.