Roseville dad, daughter forge bond in cancer's shadow
Just like many parents of teenagers, Nasir and Jeanne Moloo affectionately ribbed their daughter about getting a summer job as the school year came to a close.
"We've been trying to get her to find a job," Nasir Moloo said recently, in the living room of his Roseville house.
His 16-year-old daughter Sarah Moloo could only roll her eyes and remark on her paid swim coaching gig at the Johnson Ranch Racquet Club.
"I'm a coach," she said. "That's a job."
The pair has a typical father-daughter relationship with plenty of bickering and joking. But Nasir Moloo thinks he's had a relatively easy time with his teenage daughter because Sarah is responsible for her young age. In some ways, she hasn't had a choice but to grow up fast.
Nasir Moloo, 49, has lymphoma. His illness, originally diagnosed 10 years ago, has marked much of his children's young lives. Sarah has lived with her father's illness since she was 6 years old.
As the eldest of three children, Sarah - who has two younger brothers - has been tasked with helping clean the house, make dinner, wash laundry and administer her dad's injections.
"She can do it all," Nasir Moloo said. "She's learned to manage all these kinds of things that normally you wouldn't expect of a 13, 14, 15 year old."
Sarah was in first grade when her dad was diagnosed with lymphoma at age 39. She doesn't remember understanding what cancer was all about until several years later. Initially, he didn't need treatment and the cancer went into remission.
In September 2007, the cancer returned.
"It came back with a vengeance," Nasir Moloo said. "It was difficult to get it back under control."
After chemotherapy and experimental treatment, he had a bone marrow transplant in September 2008. For more than four months, he and his wife lived in Palo Alto while their kids stayed in Roseville under the care of relatives.
"It's definitely been a challenge," Sarah said, of her dad's battle. "It's hard to describe. It's hard to relate to your friends who don't have that. ... In our society, there is nothing that exists (for us). There is support for children who have cancer, but not a lot for kids whose parents have cancer."
After the bone marrow transplant, Nasir Moloo got very sick. His health is slowly improving, he said, but he's suffered dozens of complications from the procedure.
"Sarah has had to adapt with all the complications," he said. "We've all had to adapt."
Nasir Moloo, a gastroenterologist for 15 years before his diagnosis, hasn't practiced medicine for the past four years. Instead, he's relegated to house-bound activities. If his wife and kids go skiing or hiking, they do so without him.
Over the past few years, he's spent months in the hospital, sometimes in semi-isolation. He spent 10 days in a coma.
"I definitely missed out on things ... but now as I've gotten better, I'm making up for it," he said.
He spends as much time as possible with his children, doing homework together, playing board games or just hanging out.
For Sarah, her dad's battle has inspired a sense of activism. She and classmate Amanda Ursano, both seniors at St. Francis High School in Sacramento, recently took second place in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's annual Man, Woman and Student of the Year fundraising campaign. They raised $21,400.
"It was an amazing experience," she said. "It was such an honor to do it. I was amazed at how generous people are, too."
Sarah is now beginning to research colleges. She plans to eventually become a doctor, just like her dad.
Sena Christian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.