A Fight for His Life

When retired Ridgewood pediatrician Sajjad Iqbal, M.D., began suffering from facial paralysis, his doctors told him it was Bell’s palsy, a treatable condition that is often a reaction to a viral infection.
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When retired Ridgewood pediatrician Sajjad Iqbal, M.D., began suffering from facial paralysis, his doctors told him it was Bell’s palsy, a treatable condition that is often a reaction to a viral infection. But Dr. Iqbal suspected something much worse. His new book, Swimming Upstream: My Struggle and Triumph Over Cancer and the Medical Establishment: New Hope in Cancer Treatment, details his fight for a correct diagnosis—he had cancer of the parotid (salivary) glands—and the importance of advocating for your own health.

“This is a story about never giving up,” says Dr. Iqbal, who didn’t begin treatment until one year after his initial complaints, thanks to erroneous advice from several specialists. “In our lives, we rarely have control over what happens to us. But we do have control of how we respond to things. And that makes a difference. When my oncologist said there was a 30 percent two-year survival rate for my type of cancer, I said, ‘Why should I be in that 70 percent? I’m going to be in the 30 percent. I’m going to make it!’”

Now 15 years later, Dr. Iqbal aims to inspire other cancer patients. “It’s about having strong determination,” he says. “I encourage people to keep fighting. Persevere. Be your own advocate. It’s very important. I have helped many people around me with that message, and now I’m glad that it will reach a wider audience.” Dr. Iqbal’s book is available now on amazon.com. 

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