Inspirational spirit of Stoke Newington artist kept alive by health charity launch

Maya Shamji, who died of stomach cancer aged 29

Maya Shamji, who died of stomach cancer aged 29 - Credit: Archant

The spirit of a 29-year-old who died from cancer is being kept alive through a foundation set up to help other patients.

Friends and family of Stoke Newington artist and graphic designer Maya Shamji have set up a foundation in her name to provide alternative treatments and boost the wellbeing of sufferers.

Miss Shamji died last July shortly before her 30th birthday after a two-year battle with stomach cancer.

Her fiancé Andy Raingold, 31, of Green Lanes, Stoke Newington, said: “She was an incredibly inspirational person.

“She dealt with her illness with a huge amount of strength, courage and determination.

“Everyone who knew her and visited her was completely bowled over by her immense positivity.

“She hardly ever complained. She was innately a very positive person and made people feel good about themselves.

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“If she had visitors she would focus on their problems. Last March we went to a wedding in India and travelled round Rajasthan.

“She was dancing and partying, she always kept her spirits up.

“The medical staff who treated her in Parkside Hospital in Wimbledon said that Maya taught them the huge healing powers that positive mental attitude can have. She was the biggest inspiration to everyone.”

He added: “I set up the foundation because cancer does not just affect the body – it affects the mind through depression, anxiety and a range of other effects.

“The support that cancer patients receive is very much focused on the physical side. There’s much less focus on the mental side.

“The idea is to provide support and improve the quality of mind through meditation, for example.”

Mr Raingold, who is the executive director for a not-for-profit group, met his fiancée through friends while they were both at Edinburgh University.

“We instantly fell in love,” he said. “We loved sharing every minute together we could. She was the love of my life. It’s really hard without her.

“Maya lived life to the full in every possible sense and she packed more into her 29 years than most people can do in a lifetime.

“She was passionate about everything she did and took immense pleasure in everything life had to offer, whether it was music art or travelling. We did conquer the world together on our travels.

“She took part in artist Anthony Gormley’s One and Other project where each person had an hour to do something on a plinth in Trafalgar Square.

“She dedicated the hour to her mum and lit up the square with thousands of pink, orange and blue glow-sticks. She was dancing on the plinth and getting the crowd going.”

The foundation is focused on raising awareness and fundraising and aims to be up and running by autumn, partnering a small number of hospitals and cancer charities. Mr Raingold said he hoped to “make Maya proud”.

n A fundraising classical, jazz and motown concert will be held on Tuesday (May 21) at Rosslyn Hill Chapel, Hampstead. For more information, visit