Three siblings have already had their stomachs removed after testing positive for a faulty cancer gene following the deaths of their mother and sister from the disease.
Now further members of the family have been found to carry the faulty gene, with several children, who are too young to be tested, under threat of inheriting it.
Walsall siblings Sophia Ahmed, 42, Tahir Khan, 48, and Omar Khan,31 underwent the surgery after a series of tests at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.
The family joined Cancer Research UK’s Familial Gastric Cancer study after losing their mum and sister to hereditary stomach cancer.
Determined to give back to the charity that has given them hope, Sophia, who has recently had her breasts removed as well as her stomach, is joining with four other female relatives to help launch Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life Pretty Muddy events across the region.
Sophia and her two brothers took their radical decision to have their stomachs removed after genetic testing showed they had the CDH1 gene and were at high risk of the same cancer that killed their mother, Pearl Khan, in 2002 at the age of 49, and their sister, Yasmin Khan, in 2012 at the age of 32.
The family team – named ‘Little Hooligans Get Dirty for Cancer’ - is being led by Amara Ismail, 32, manager of the Little Hooligans soft play centre in Walsall, and her mum Tracy Ismail, 51, the only one of the five siblings unaffected by the gene. Joining Amara is her cousin, Farah Khan, 23, whose father Tahir had preventive surgery to remove his stomach.
Youngest of the team is 14-year-old Durrah Khan, whose mum, Yasmin Khan, passed away from stomach cancer in 2012. It was Yasmin’s death that spurred the rest of the family to find out about research being done in the area, and led to them joining the Familial Gastric Cancer study.
Farah has also tested positive for the faulty gene and is taking part in the same Cancer Research UK research study as her father. She is regularly monitored at Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge and may also be offered the opportunity to have preventative surgery.
Sophia said: “Having your stomach removed is a fairly drastic thing to do, but after I had the surgery they told me that the cancer had already started in my stomach and I would have been dead within a year if it hadn’t been removed. I was at very high risk of breast cancer too, so a double mastectomy was the best way to prevent it.
“Research is so important. It’s thanks to research that I’m alive, and that other members of my family are still here too. I truly believe that more research could lead to the complete eradication of this genetic form of cancer.”
The team has signed up for Pretty Muddy Sandwell - a mud-splattered obstacle course that raises money for life-saving research - which takes place at Sandwell Valley Country Park on Saturday, June 25. There is also the chance for boys and girls aged five to 12 to take part in Pretty Muddy Kids - their own version of the fun event.
Amara said: “Cancer research UK is a very close charity to me and my family. My aunt Yasmin was the same age as I am now when she passed away. My surviving auntie and two uncles have all had preventative surgery at Addenbrookes hospital with the help of Cancer Research UK. Their very high risk of cancer was discovered after they had genetic testing which showed they had the CDH1 gene.
“I am very fortunate in that my mum was the only one of five siblings not to have the faulty gene, so it hasn’t been passed onto me either. But the impact on my wider family has been huge and has affected every generation.
“My cousin's genetic tested showed she also had the faulty gene and she is now waiting to find out how it is going to affect her life. We have a further six children, including Durrah who is part of the Pretty Muddy team, who are yet to reach the age where they can be tested.
“We’re so grateful for this research study that is helping all of us stay healthy and avoid cancer. But also, as a family we're invested in helping our future generations.
Farah, who inherited the genetic fault from her father, Tahir, is regularly screened for the disease. She said: “It’s good to know that screening will pick up early signs of any problems and that, like my dad, I can take steps to prevent cancer in the future.”
Jane Redman, Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson in the West Midlands, said: “We are incredibly grateful to all the wonderful ladies from this special family their support. Their story speaks volumes about how important research is and why we need to keep funding it.
“Our Race for Life events are open to all. For some people, the Race for Life is literally a walk in the park. For others, it’s a jog. Some may opt to push themselves harder, taking up the challenge of Pretty Muddy or even pushing for a new personal best time.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming people of all ages and abilities. Race for Life Pretty Muddy in Sandwell will be a fun, emotional, colourful, uplifting and unforgettable event this year.”
To enter, visit raceforlife.org. To sponsor the team, go to fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/team/little-hooligans-gets-dirty