IT IS five years since a stranger saved Ayesha Siddiqui’s life.

The 16-year-old was diagnosed with leukaemia when she was seven, and doctors told her family she would need a stem cell transplant to survive.

When the Glasgow Times first met the Siddiquis, Ayesha was on her 30th cycle of chemotherapy.

She had lost her hair (for the third time) and her chances of finding a match were considerably reduced because of her ethnicity – she is half Caucasian and half Middle Eastern.

Currently, patients from ethnic minorities only have a 20 percent chance of finding an unrelated stem cell donor match, compared to 69 percent for patients from northern European backgrounds.

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At the family home in Newton Mearns back in 2014, Ayesha’s mother Noreen – a Glasgow Times Scotswoman of the Year finalist - spoke movingly about her daughter’s situation.

“When Ayesha was diagnosed, I didn’t want to go public, or put my family in the media spotlight - all I could think about was my daughter, and how we were going to get through this,” she said.

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“But as I learned more about the disease, and the charity Anthony Nolan, I realised it went beyond me and my family. There are so many families out there, waiting and hoping, living with uncertainty, just like us.

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“Anything I can do to raise awareness of the bone marrow donor register, I will.”

Noreen and her husband Nadeem worked tirelessly to raise awareness and funds for the blood cancer charity, and the Glasgow Times backed their campaign to find more donors from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Looking back, Noreen explains: “We found out that if you’re from an ethnic minority background, you have a much lower chance of finding a donor. It’s an extra hurdle you have to get over, to catch up with everyone else. It’s bad enough that you have to deal with your child having leukaemia, but this just adds an extra layer of worry.”

Backed by the Glasgow Times, Noreen’s appeal resulted in recruitment drives which signed up more than 500 potential donors at local mosques, universities and festivals.

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Noreen, Nadim, Ayesha and her little brother Saif rallied their friends, family and community to raise an astonishing £200,000 for the charity.

They joined with volunteers and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, who have worked in partnership with Anthony Nolan since 2009. Last week, SFRS reached a significant milestone - 70 people who have been recruited to the Anthony Nolan register through their education programme have now gone on to donate. The 70th donor was recruited at an event at Glasgow Central Mosque in 2012 as part of Ayesha’s campaign.

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In 2015, Anthony Nolan found a match for Ayesha and she had her transplant at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow. She is now a happy, healthy teenager, who is taking her exams next year and has finally started horse-riding – a dream she has had since childhood.

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Noreen says: ‘Our life now is so different. It was very difficult when Ayesha was ill. We never allowed ourselves to look more than six months ahead. Even now, we’ll always be aware. Ayesha’s been very good with it - she is aware of her health issues and during Covid-19 she’s been careful about shielding and letting her friends know if she can’t do something.”

Amy Bartlett, Anthony Nolan’s development manager for Scotland and Northern Ireland, says: “Every single person who signs up to the register has the potential to give hope to someone like Ayesha, who was in desperate need of a life-saving transplant.

Noreen says the impact of the transplant has been “the most amazing thing ever.”

She adds; “It was hope. That’s what I always say to people about Anthony Nolan - they give you hope, when nobody else can.

“Without Anthony Nolan, we would not be here as a family, end of story.”

For more information or to join the register visit