Saima, who was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2018 when she was 29 years old, lost her battle with the disease at the weekend, her family confirmed yesterday (29 June) on her social media accounts.
“Our beautiful Saima passed away peacefully on Saturday evening surrounded by all of her loved ones,” they wrote.
“She is the centre of our universe and we are beyond devastated. She made a lasting impact on everyone she met, and compacted a lifetime of love, work and close connections with people during her 31 years.
“We love you forever. You are our guiding light and always will be. See you soon big sis. Love from your heartbroken lil sisters, your munchkins, Sanam, Ikra, Nafeesa & Mum.”
Saima ran Masala Wala Café with her mother Nabeela with the restaurant’s mission to ‘celebrate Pakistani cuisine for what it is, an art form’. The restaurant serves a small menu of dishes from the Punjab region that changes on a regular basis designed to show the array of ‘intriguing flavours and ingredients’ from the family’s cultural heritage.
Saima had documented her fight with the illness on her social media accounts and on her blog Curry and Cancer and has helped raise awareness of cancer in BAME communities. She said recently that the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic had moved up her treatment.
“It has been crazy – as soon as the virus became a pandemic, I had lots of treatment lined up. I had four days’ worth of treatment in the first week of lockdown,” she told Cancer Research UK.
She also spoke out to the charity about her fears for clinical trial being stopped as a result of the pandemic. “I am stage 4 – to hear of trials being stopped, that is alarming. I need those to keep running to give me hope,” she said.
“It’s very worrying to hear of anything which might hold up any new cancer treatments being developed.”
The news of Saima’s death has been met by grief and sadness by those who knew her. Food writer Sudi Pigott wrote on Twitter: “I'm so very sorry and feel fortunate to have known Saima and admired her for speaking out, her compassion and strength as well as her culinary skills. RIP Saima.”
Saima had set up a funding page on website GoFundMe.