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CURRY AND CANCER | Saima Thompson speaks with us about her diagnosis aged 29 and cultural challenges she faces

“Cancer. Not a word I thought I’d have to deal with at 29 years of age.”
We talk with inspirational Tonic Tribe member Saima Thompson. She was diagnosed with stage four non small cell lung cancer in April  2018. She’d always been fit and healthy, active, ambitious and career-driven. And then she began experiencing upper back pain in March that year. So many of us suffer with back pain and Saima put it down to the usual reasons.
“Within a couple of weeks, my upper chest was visibly swollen; this is when I knew something wasn’t right”.
This was when she intervened and her GP sent her immediately to A&E. She was soon diagnosed, which as you can imagine came as a complete shock to her, her family, everyone around her.

What’s your story so far to bring you to this point in life?

I have been running multi award winning restaurant Masala Wala Cafe in south London since 2015 which I started with my mother Nabeela, an entrepreneur and thanks to a recent cancer diagnosis now writer/blogger and public speaker.
After being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer at 29 years old my life changed forever, now a cancer patient I was determined to bring my worlds of food and health together.
Proving to myself and others that palliative care isn’t the end of living.
I suffered mentally after the news, but through sheer determination I worked through life’s traumas with coping strategies and looks to carry the diagnosis forward with me.
My focus has been to raise awareness in BAME communities as there is a total lack of conversation around disease let alone cancer, this is due to taboo and lack of education, integration especially with elders.
I have written for my blog www.curryandcancer.com Refinery 29, Huffington Post, Vice and featured in national campaigns for Macmillan Cancer Support, Cancer Research UK & Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. 
Saima has also appeared in The Metro and many other publications spreading the word and awareness.
I am currently working on a cook book, expanding BAME cancer support community whilst undergoing active treatment.
You can follow me on Instagram @curryandcancer

In our eyes, you’re a bit of a superhero… If you were Wonder Woman, fighting for your rights in your satin tights, what rights would those be?

For everyone to be at peace externally and internally


What would be your ideal superhero outfit?

Anything Beyonce pulls out the back of the wardrobe, I literally saw a lion outfit on her instagram and guess what… IT WORKS ?


What would be your tagline?

It’s not how long you live it’s how well you live


You have started the BAME Cancer Support . What cultural challenges have you faced since being diagnosed with lung cancer?

I have faced a lot of confusion, taboo and shame from family members being British Pakistani, cancer let alone illness is something that isn’t openly discussed in BAME communities hence the desperate need for awareness and support.

Search on facebook ‘BAME cancer support’ or ‘BAME cancer caregivers support’  both closed groups on Facebook


What do you love?

I love my family, food and the outdoors


What can’t you tolerate?

Timewasters, negative energy, bland food


What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?

Don’t try to understand what you can’t understand


Who holds your hand the hardest through darker times?

My husband Gareth is my soulmate

What would you say to your younger self to guide her, knowing what you know and what you’ve experienced?

I would tell little me that everything is going to be OK even when what’s percieved as ‘the worst’ has happened


What turned you to the Tonic CBD?

I have been trying different brands and so far The Tonic is something that has truly worked for me to help me with sleep, anxiety and pain management


Would you recommend it to others in similar situations as yourself and if so why?

Absolutely – it’s good to have some natural high quality remedies to counter any of the synthetic drugs you may be taking to treat chronic illnesses, lots of exciting studies and evidence are showing the wonders and effectiveness of CBD products and I’m here for it


Your family run award winning Masala Wala Cafe, serving up an ever changing and inspiring menu of Pakistani home cooking. What’s your go to dish/recipes for; 

~ Comfort eating ~

Sabzi masala – any seasonal vegetables such as cauliflower, potato, peas anything you got going cooked in masala spices, this is home to me, the everyday dishes from my childhood, quick, affordable and nutritious.

~ Cleansing  ~

Dal – lentils are packed with protein, vitamins and minerals, cooked in garlic, ginger & spices this is naturally cleansing but with lovely unforgiving flavours, my personal favourite lentil is channa dal – yellow split chickpea lentil

~ Pure glutony ~

Kofta Masala – no matter what culture you come from there is always a comforting meatball dish that makes you think of your mother and this one never fails to cheer me and my belly up!

Masala Wala Cafe

Curry and Cancer
From the bottom of our hearts, thank you Saima for taking the time to speak with us, for sharing your brave stories and inspiring others, especially those who are diagnosed so young and those from BAME communities facing similar responses to their conditions.

About the author

Kate is an experienced Mountain Biker and Wild Swimmer and has found CBD the ultimate, natural solution to injury recovery, fitness and health maintenance including deepened sleep and staying calm. But more recently, relies on CBD to balance out those hormones and symptoms of the peri-menopause.

As Kate’s exposure to CBD has grown, so has her passion and belief in the product and her desire to create a community around CBD and set the wellbeing revolution in motion.

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