A doctor left his three-year-old son as a heartbreaking final gift before he died from a brain tumour.
Aria Nikjooy, a paediatrician from Manchester, wrote two children’s books for Eliyas after learning he was diagnosed with the malignant brain tumour at the age of just 27.
But despite having the tumour removed, the cancer returned several times before spreading to his spine and the doting dad died on February 8 at the age of 30.
Before Aria died he wrote a book called Eddie and the Magic Healing Stone to explain illnesses in parents to his his son while he undergoing chemotherapy in 2019 after being diagnosed in November 2018.
The book was published last September and Aria was able to read it aloud to Eliyas which was a bittersweet moment for him and his 33-year-old GP registrar wife Naomi.
Aria’s second book ‘Eddie and the Last Dodo on Earth’ explains the importance of family and will be released soon.
His widow Naomi said: “I am so proud of Aria. Lots of people dream of writing books and always talk about it but never get round to it.
“He was in the worst state he could possibly be in, but he was still motivated to write books for our son.
“When I read his second children’s book, I cried – it was so beautiful.
“It will be emotional reading it to Eliyas without Aria here, but I’ll be doing it for him.”
Aria started suffering terrible headaches after working night shifts as a paediatric doctor on the neonatal ward at Saint Mary’s Hospital in the city.
However the devoted dad put them down to the pressures of his job, coupled with the stress of Eliyas, who was then one, being admitted to hospital overnight with an infection in September 2018.
But at the beginning of November 2018, his headaches became so severe he had to go home during a shift so they sought help and were given the devastating diagnosis.
Naomi said: “No amount of medical training could prepare either of us for that news. It was just pure shock.”
Aria had the large tumour on his cerebellum removed on November 9 – the day before his birthday – in a seven-hour operation at the Salford Royal Hospital.
Doctors had removed all the cancer and for the next three months, Aria was sick every day and lacked any balance because of where the tumour had been in his brain.
Aria had to relearn how to walk, talk, eat and write, so after being discharged from hospital in early 2019 he decided to pen a children’s book for Eliyas to recover his writing skills.
It was written at home as Aria was undergoing four rounds of chemotherapy and explains the concept of sickness in a parent.
Naomi said: “Aria knew that one day we would have to explain cancer to Eliyas and this would make it a lot easier.
“I thought it was such a great idea so I encouraged him to do it. I knew Eliyas would love it.”
A year after his Aria was diagnosed he was well enough to return to work, on the paediatric rheumatology ward at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.
But after four months, his fragile normality was snatched away from him and his family when the cancer returned in March 2020 – days before the first lockdown began.
Naomi said: “He was finally feeling himself again when he got the news following a routine check-up. It was so cruel.
Due to the pandemic, Naomi had to drop Aria at the front door of the hospital for his second operation on March 29 to remove the tumour – which she described as ‘incredibly hard’.
He had further surgery on July 31, just five days after Eliyas’ third birthday.
Naomi said: “Because Eliyas was just 16 months old when we got Aria’s cancer diagnosis, we had managed to shield him from what was going on for quite a long time.
“But by the second and third operations, we started to talk about daddy being poorly because he was seeing him vomiting and sleeping during the day when he wouldn’t normally.”
After approaching ‘thousands of publishers’, Aria’s determination was rewarded when The Endless Bookcase agreed to publish Eddie and the Magic Healing Stone.
Naomi recalled: “It was very emotional, watching him reading the book to our son.”
In early December, the family received the devastating news that the cancer had returned and spread through Aria’s spine.
Since his death, Naomi said, reading the books to Eliyas had been a huge support in helping him understand what has happened.
She has been keeping busy organising the publication of Aria’s memoir Broken Brain: Brutally Honest, Brutally Me, aimed at adults, which she hopes will give strength to others affected by cancer and could be used as a manual for doctors to help them understand what it is like to be an NHS patient.
Naomi said: “After losing my husband, having this positive focus on Aria’s books has helped keep me going. If I know I’m getting Aria’s words out there, I’m happy.”
Proceeds from all of Aria’s children’s books will be going to four organisations that supported him and his family – Brain Tumour Research, the Royal Medical Foundation, the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund and the Society For Assistance Of Medical Families.
Naomi, Aria and Eliyas will also be among the faces of Brain Tumour Research’s Wear a Hat Day, which takes place on March 26 to raise money for crucial research.