Mahima’s Fightback, Inspires Her School

One student, through her fight against cancer, has be­come an inspiration to one of Lautoka’s leading high school. Mahima Dewan Pillay, a Year 13 student, has galvanised Tilak High School
02 Oct 2017 15:43
Mahima’s Fightback, Inspires Her School
Mahima sitting for her Year 13 Exams at Tilak High School on September 29, 2017. Photo: Charles Chambers

One student, through her fight against cancer, has be­come an inspiration to one of Lautoka’s leading high school.

Mahima Dewan Pillay, a Year 13 student, has galvanised Tilak High School to a new level where her unwavering fight against the sick­ness was having a positive effect on teachers and students who have now created a strong awareness programme on cancer.

The ever smiling Mahima was only 12 years old when she was di­agnosed with Alveolar Soft Part Sarcoma (ASPS).

ASPS is a rare type of cancer called a sarcoma, which is a ma­lignant tumour affecting soft tis­sues like fat, muscle and nerves. It occurs mainly in children, but can also appear in adults.

This type of tumour grows slowly but spreads and returns easily. It generally starts in the limbs (legs and arms), as well as the head and neck. Sarcomas make up about 15% of all childhood cancers. Only 1% of all sarcoma cases are ASPS.

“It started as a lump on her arm.”

She underwent her first operation in Fiji in 2010, the same year it was diagnosed.

“The surgery at Lautoka Hospital did not fully remove the tumour and soon after, it started to grow again so I had to undergo chemo­therapy.”

“I went through a lot and was in a coma for three days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).”

“For a year, I could not walk prop­erly as the effect of the medicine had taken its toll on me.”

Mahima recovered and went back to sit her Class 8 examination – for the second time.

Last year, the tumour re-appeared with Mahima ready to sit for her Form Six exams but by now, she was ready for the fight and feeling despondent was the last thing on her mind.

“I said to myself why is this hap­pening at this time when I am studying so hard but decided the sickness will not dampen my en­thusiasm and strive to achieve good results.

It worked – she scored 367 out of 400.

In August this year, Mahima un­derwent her second operation for that tumourin Melbourne which removed the entire tumour and a chemotherapy programme for her was being worked on.

“The doctors have recommended scans so that a proper treatment programme could be worked out.”

Her mum Sumintra Devi had to leave her job some years ago to care for her daughter while dad Vinesh Pillay is employed at Tourist Gar­ments.

Being the eldest of two girls in her family, Mahima instilled in herself that, rather than living a life of a recluse and be engulfed by the sick­ness; she would take the fight head on and become an inspiration to her younger sister and the frater­nity at Tilak.

“This has made me a stronger per­son than anyone I know. You just have to pick yourself up and carry on and not let things like cancer spoil your dreams as I aim to be­come a medical laboratory techni­cian one day.”

Her parents and the faculty and students at Tilak have been her pil­lar of strength through a massive fundraising drive that got all stu­dents involved.

“When someone asks you for help, help them no matter who they are and for that I thank the princi­pal and his staff and students of Tilak.”

Sumintra Devi said she has never seen a person with so much fight and strength like her daughter.

“The school has been amazing with their fundraising activities for Mahima and for me and my hus­band; we will be with her everyday of her life.”

School principal Sashi Bhupendra Singh said it was good to have Ma­hima back in school following her operation in Melbourne.

“There are lessons to be learnt and that is the virtues of a family play an important role in our lives. When I heard she was sick, I want­ed to help right away but initially Mahima, with the stigma of having cancer playing on her mind, was hesitant to ask for help.”

“This has brought about a lot of awareness amongst the students and has showed them that whatev­er it is, with the right support, we sometimes tend to forget the caring part.”

“She has shown us the will to sur­vive and we wish her all the best for a full recovery.”

“Our Tilak family has become more caring and this was through Mahima. We can conquer cancer.”

For Mahima, Tilak was her first choice after finishing class eight at Lautoka Arya Primary School.

“I am so happy that I chose Tilak as the support I received has been overwhelming.”

Mahima wanted to convey a mes­sage to students who have been hit by sickness or facing difficulties: “No matter how hard it is, you can overcome anything and do well.”

Edited by Rusiate Mataika


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