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Cancer Can’t Beat This Oxford Saïd MBA

Ani Haykuni on a tour of Cancer Research UK in Oxford. Courtesy photo


Before she set foot on Oxford’s storied campus, Ani had overcome more than one huge hurdle. As if cancer wasn’t enough, because of Armenia’s limited healthcare provisions for cancer care, she had had to finance her own treatment. “I wanted to be able to handle it myself, but the costs were huge,” she says. “My friends started a fundraising page for me, and that’s when the campaign went national.”

Armenian TV and other news organizations offered to share Ani’s story — an unusual one because in Armenia a cancer diagnosis has traditionally been fraught with negative stereotypes. “It was the first time cancer had been discussed at that level,” she says, “and I received hundreds of emails and letters from people in similar situations. It was as if my battle was their battle — we were fighting cancer together.

“There are many negative stereotypes about cancer, and it scares people,” she says. “These reactions make cancer patients feel ashamed, and I believe this can adversely affect their treatment. My story has helped to combat these stereotypes, and so more Armenians are now talking openly about their battle.”

The experience did even more: It led her, at Oxford, to establish the Ani Haykuni Cancer Treatment Support Foundation, which provides financial and psychological support for cancer patients in Armenia. Ani worked on the foundation with four other students as her MBA entrepreneurship project, “and we had great success putting together the financial and marketing strategies. The MBA program also gave me the opportunity to present the foundation to international organizations in the UK and U.S.”


Next month Ani will collect her MBA; she hasn’t yet determined her next move after that. With a background in environmental sciences and organizational management and an interest in impact investing, she doesn’t plan to make the foundation her full-time occupation. Instead, she says, she plans to build on her passion for innovation using the tools and knowledge she has gained during the program.

“I was really inspired by the impact investment module, and I hope to work within that field,” she says. “However, for me it is not just about the career, it is this question: Are you going to make a positive difference to people’s lives, or not? Whatever I do, I want to be a change maker.”

Looking back, she describes how she had “never felt a moment of unhappiness” during her treatment. “I have always enjoyed solving problems, and I have viewed cancer as just another problem to be solved.” But she is a different person now. “The way I approach life has changed,’ she says. “I always look for the best in people, and I understand that it is very important to let negative things go.

“What matters is how you live,” Ani says, “and I am so grateful that I have been given a second chance to help people in the future.”