Cancer that struck her twice doesn’t stop her but the stares she gets on the street do. Smile please, says Yana, determined to fight stigmas and abuse against women
Struck in her 20s by lung cancer, the young mum recovered to bake support for poor, abused women. Hit again by the dreaded disease years later, she was moved by “amazingly positive and caring” community in Oman.
What remains unchanged all along the way, and forever, is her passion to help less fortunate women.
We got to know about the inspiring tale of this wonderful mother and her brave battle and solemn vow to devote the rest her life to offer a helping hand to hapless women through Matvey.
Matvey is Yana’s son, aged 10. He wrote a beautiful poem that put together the life and struggle of his “mummy my dove” who is “soaring in the air” despite her “chemo and cancer” and sent it to the Y magazine.
That was not the sort of emotion the panel of experts who were judging the entries to the Mother’s Day contest organised by Y in association with Puck was expecting from children who were asked to design posters expressing love for their mothers.
Yana was diagnosed with a rare type of lung cancer a few days after she gave birth to her son. Amid the distressing treatment process, she took an oath to find a better purpose in life if she got cured.
She was in her 20s when doctors successfully removed the tumour. She then embarked on a journey to support less fortunate women who suffer from abuse.
Fuelled by goodwill and her love for baking, Yana started Tamu Bakery, a project that aimed at fighting gender-based violence through the power of baking.
“When I got lung cancer I made a vow that if I survived I would dedicate my life to helping poor and abused women. So I set up my own charity, Tamu Bakery, to empower vulnerable women around the world,” she explained.
Tamu is a Swahili word that stands for sweet and gentle.
Tamu Bakery works in partnership with grassroots organisations in the forefront of the fight against gender-based violence, running training in human rights, delivering consultancy in media campaigning and advocacy techniques, and running baking therapy workshops.
Yana fought against practices such as female genital mutilation, early forced marriage, bride kidnapping, domestic violence, and human trafficking in many countries.
“(I) can say that the first step is to realise that these are human rights abuses, not cultural traditions, and must be challenged rigorously,” she said, adding that “educating communities is the key to prevention. Knowledge is power”.
Years later, Yana was diagnosed with lymphoma, another form of cancer. However, it did not stop her from doing what she loves the most.
“These things can come as a shock. My advice is to take things a step at a time, stay optimistic, and have faith,” she said, while praising the medical team at the Royal Hospital who “have been amazingly positive and caring”.
She added: “They even took the time to carefully explain things to my son, and reassure him that his mum would be fine after the treatment.”
Asked about how the poem made her feel, Yana said: “I was really touched. It has been a very worrying time for him with me being sick so I am glad he has put his energy into something positive. I am blessed to have such a thoughtful and compassionate son.”
“The community here in Oman has also done all they can to be helpful, which has given me a lot of faith in human kindness,” she added.
But what bothers Yana and Matvey the most is the looks they get from people as she wears a scarf to cover the baldness that she got from chemo therapy.
“Unfortunately I do get stares, which is upsetting for all the family. It would be better if people didn’t do it – an encouraging smile instead would help. There is a lot of stigma attached to this illness. More often than not, cancer is not a death sentence, just a fact of modern life. I am on the road to recovery, and can’t wait to ditch the headscarf and go travelling with Matvey!”
Mummy My Dove
Matvey’s poem to his mother Yana that was sent to Y for the Mother’s Day contest. It won him a special prize and loud cheers from the gathering at the prize-presentation ceremony
Mummy my dove
soaring high above
despite your chemo and cancer
you’re still in the air
like a ballet dancer
an inspiration to many
spreading hope and love
where there isn’t any
you are the best
to have you in our lives
we are truly blessed.