Dubai Family and friends of a young Dubai-based Indian suffering from a rare form of cancer have launched a rarer drive to look for a stem cell donor match to save his life.
As Nimesh Joshi, CEO of a travel retail major, battles for life in a US hospital, his friends and family are organising a walk-in drive with Indian NGO DATRI in his ‘hometown’ Dubai to conduct a swab test on residents.
The aim — to find a stem cell donor for a bone marrow transplant in six weeks’ time.
Thirty-eight-year-old Nimesh, who is undergoing his second aggressive chemo at the City of Hope in Los Angeles this weekend has been diagnosed with Hepatosplenic T-Cell Lymphoma, an extremely rare form of blood cancer which affects the liver, spleen and bone marrow, his family told XPRESS.
“Hepeto-splenic T-Cell Lymphoma is very rare and occurs in less than one per cent of all non-Hodgkins lymphomas,” according to Dr Fadi Mikhael, Specialist Oncologist at the Mediclinic Welcare Hospital
“There are less than 100 patients reported in literature. It is very aggressive with a median survival of less than two years. But there are reports of long-term survival after allogeneic bone marrow transplant,” he said without commenting on Nimesh’s case
Nimesh was born and brought up in Dubai and his family, originally from Mumbai, has been here for decades. His mother-in-law Mona Ahuja said he e-mailed her before the first chemo saying: “I am taking the first step to wellness … and with the support and blessings of my family, I will surely fight and come back.”
She said he also sent a special gift to his seven-year-old son Nirvaan with a note: “Here’s a cuddle pillow from your Papa so you can have me close to you every night. You can hug me and sleep, but don’t forget to say your prayers every night.”
In a voice choked with emotion, Ahuja said: “Anyone who knows him feels so connected with him. We appeal to the community to come forward for the swab test. We can save his life.”
Nimesh’s best friend Vic Bageria, who is co-ordinating the donor drive, said it does not involve any clinical procedure. “The registration and testing is very simple. It entails rubbing a sterile cotton swab against your inner cheek. The swab will then be sent for genetic typing and stored in the Datri Blood Stem Cell Donors Registry database. You will be called if you are a match, but there is no binding on you to donate. Anyone between the ages 18 and 50 and is in good health can undergo the test.”
He said the peripheral blood stem cell donation is a three-to-four hour outpatient process with the donor being able to resume normal duties shortly after. He or she will have to take injections for five days prior to the process.
Still coming to terms with Nimesh’s race against time, Bageria said: “I can’t believe that someone like him is going through this. He was so fit and so conscious of his diet and lifestyle. He has been the ideal son, husband, father and friend and above all, a decent human being.”
He said the cancer had come like a bolt from the blue. It began with a sharp pain in Nimesh’s abdomen in November last year when he was diagnosed with an enlarged spleen. Ever since, he shuttled from hospital to hospital across the UAE, India and now the US.
Bageria said stem cells from Nimesh’s immediate kin, including his parents and brother did not match so a wider search was launched. A donor drive in India had also not yielded a match. “There is an urgent need to get more Indian ethnic and other diversified minorities into stem cell registries to give Nimesh — and other patients like him — a second chance at life,” he added.
In a message from LA, Nimesh said: “I want to continue to be a father to my son.”
Nimesh’s brother Chinmay pleaded: “Please help my brother fight his cancer, he wants to live for his son and his family... I urge you to come and test… it’ll be worth your time I assure you.”
Walk-in Stem Cell Testing
Feb 22: 10am-2pm@Al Ahmadiya Office, Satwa; 2pm–10pm@Oasis Centre (Management Office 3rd floor)
Feb 23: 10am-2pm@Sindhi Ceremonial Hall, Bur Dubai
4pm-8pm@India Sports Club