A LEADING cancer doctor has spoken of his anguish on learning his own daughter had been struck down by the disease – at the age of six.
Nadeem Siddiqui has spent his entire medical career helping thousands of cancer patients battle the illness.
So the consultant was plunged into his own personal hell when his daughter Ayesha was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia.
The family, from Newton Mearns, East Renfrewshire, are now desperately looking for a bone marrow donor as well as raising money for a cancer charity.
Nadeem, 50, who works as an oncologist at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, said: “Knowledge is not always a good thing.
“Never in my working life did I imagine I would have a daughter who had cancer.
“I thought maybe I would get it or my wife would get it but never Ayesha.
“The youngest patient I have ever had was 17.”
Ayesha, now eight, was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia called Philadelphia Positive in April last year.
She was well enough to return to primary school last week but is receiving chemotherapy – administered by her father – and cannot study full time.
Her only hope of a full recovery is to receive a bone marrow donation.
But her mixed race heritage means far fewer bone marrow donors on the register are compatible with her.
Nadeem continued: “We then discovered finding a donor would be very difficult. People from ethnic minorities are not as well represented on the register.
“Ayesha is mixed race – Indian and White British.
“I thought we won’t be able to get them on the register immediately, so now we will raise money as well.”
Nadeem was off work for several months after Ayesha’s diagnoses and his wife Noreen, a 47-year-old lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University, has had to take long periods off work.
Nadeem said: “I’m still working but because of Ayesha I’ve scaled back.
“It’s certainly given me a different perspective on things.
“It’s certainly made it much harder to counsel patients, and it makes it much more stressful for me.
“There’s no relaxation. Previously I used to go home to relax, now I can’t go home and switch off. I have to give my daughter chemo.
“I have more insight into a patient’s cancer journey. Everyone who is diagnosed starts their own journey.
“It’s hard as a parent but not as a medic to know there are impediments to treatment.
“It makes it much more difficult. Knowledge is not always a good thing.”
He added: “My patients are very supportive and helpful, a lot of them know about Ayesha now.
“A lot of my colleagues are helping with fundraising too.”
He continued: “I had to stop for a few months last year after Ayesha was diagnosed.
“The job is stressful at the best of times. But as with everything in life you adapt and find strength from somewhere.
“You have to pull together and get on with it.”
Nadeem, part of a team which used to see around 50 patients a week, has now scaled back his workload.
“She’s a little fighter. She deals with everything that’s thrown at her.
“She wants to be normal like all the other children and have schooling, which unfortunately she can’t be at the moment.
“The main problems are tiredness and her appearance changes. She lost her hair and it’s only now starting to grow back.”
Ayesha was delighted last week when she started primary four at Kirkhill Primary School in Newton Mearns.
Her treatment is going well, and her father spoke of her delight at having her “Hickman” IV line removed earlier this month.
He said: “When it was removed she said ‘I’m normal!’
“I watched the expression on her face and it brought tears to my eyes.”
Though Ayesha still needs a positive bone marrow donor to cure her of the disease, diagnosed as a rare form of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia called Philadelphia Positive.
Nadeem hopes the money he raises will go towards clearing the backlog of donors who aren’t on the database.
He raised the cash through fundraising drives, sponsored walks and generous donations
Nadeem and his wife Noreen have been appealing for donors to come forward within the asian community in Scotland.
The family have added around 400 of new names to the Anthony Nolan donor register.
He said: “Anthony Nolan had a backlog of 3,150 mixed race people who weren’t typed on to the register.”
He said: “We’ve had a lot of philosophical debates on how targeted it should be, but we decided to focus on asians.
“We’ve done targeted drives in Glasgow and Strathclyde university.
“Now we decide where to go from here. Our plan is to continue increasing the register”
Donations can be made at: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Ayeshaappeal.
To apply to join the donor register see anthonynolan.org.