Author pledges book proceeds to charity to honour uncle who died of cancer

TRIBUTE: Zain Rizvi (right) with his late uncle Syed Ali
Rasheed
TRIBUTE: Zain Rizvi (right) with his late uncle Syed Ali Rasheed

by LAUREN CODLING

A DENTAL graduate who is giving away all sale proceeds from his new book to a blood cancer charity has revealed the motivations behind his donation.

Zain Rizvi, 25, from Walton-onThames, will donate any profit from Know the drill: How to succeed at dental school to blood cancer charity DKMS to honour his late uncle Syed Ali Rasheed. Syed sadly died last year from acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).

Admitting to Eastern Eye that it “felt like the least (he) could do to contribute towards this great cause,” Rizvi is also keen to raise awareness of stem and blood donations in the Asian community.

During his illness, Syed received a blood stem cell transplant from his sister – Rizvi’s mother – which gave the family some additional time with him. However, Rizvi is aware that not all patients easily receive a transplant. Roughly, only 30 per cent of people find a matching blood
stem cell donor from within their own family. Many others have to
look beyond their families.

“The importance of finding stem cell donors for those with blood cancers cannot be understated,” Rizvi said. “I hope that this book will help make a difference for those who find themselves with little to no hope.”

Zain Rizvi is keen to raise awareness of stem and blood donations in the Asian community

People from black, Asian or other minority backgrounds have a 20 per cent chance of finding the best possible stem cell donor match, compared to 69 per cent for northern European backgrounds. It costs £40 to register one potential blood stem cell donor, and DKMS relies on monetary donations to help cover this cost. The funds from the book will go towards causes such as this.

Rizvi does not believe the Asian community concern themselves with issues surrounding blood or stem cell donations as they are considered taboo. He stressed how vital it is to educate communities on the topic, insisting it could save lives. “I believe that this narrative should be forthcoming from a variety of sources: our doctors, religious and community leaders,” he said. “A lot of people within our community have misconceptions regarding the process involved in stem cell donation and we must clarify these in order to prevent barriers to donation.”

Describing his beloved uncle, Rizvi said he was a “larger-than-life character, who was generous, charming and entertaining, leaving an impression on everyone who knew him”. “His passing has left a hole in our hearts with just the happy memories left to fill it,” Rizvi, a King’s College dental graduate, said last month. “We all miss him.”

During his uncle’s battle with ALL, the family looked to DKMS for support and advice on the illness. When Rizvi told his uncle’s family that the book was dedicated to him and all funds from the book would go to DKMS, they “were brought to tears”.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the love and support my family and friends have shown me regarding this book,” he said. “It’s been a really positive way of reflecting upon his life and the effect he had on us.”

It only took Rizvi 25 days to finish writing his book, when the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown began in March. Rizvi admitted he had always dreamed of writing his own novel but felt intimidated by the time and effort it would take to do. However, during lockdown, he watched a video which explained how a book can have value regardless of how many pages are in it.

“The video gave some examples of popular books that were only 30–60 pages long which motivated me to write something even if it wasn’t substantially lengthy,” he said.

Once he began noting down his experiences at dental school, his writing began to flow easily and he found it an enjoyable process. “It was immensely satisfying when I finished writing the manuscript
as it felt a real sense of accomplishment and ownership over this piece of work,” Rizvi said.

Looking back at his journey in dental school, he admitted it was the most challenging time of his life. This is down to various personal reasons, as well as his uncle becoming ill during his first year in school.
Despite the hardships, he is optimistic to start his career and has high hopes. “I’m pleased I’ve managed to weather the challenges and get through relatively unscathed,” he said. “I’m most looking forward to beginning my career and treating the general public.”

Know the Drill: How to succeed at dental school is available to buy from Amazon now