The Rider

May 6, 2010

Recruiting Huntington’s Army of Riders

Filed under: Rider Profiles — The Blog @ 6:01 AM

This is the first of a 2-part series about Nighat Bukhari, a Huntington colleague whose mom has beaten cancer four times. Nighi also leads the bank’s financial – and riding – commitment to Pelotonia.

Part 1: Talat’s brave battle

Part 2 (tomorrow): Huntington teams with Pelotonia

At the inaugural Pelotonia ride, Nighat Bukhari was one of the thousands of people who lined the route to cheer on the 2,265 riders.

“In my heart I knew I wanted to get more involved, that I should have done more,” said Nighi, who donated money to several friends who were riding. “I thought maybe I should be riding.”

Nighi is riding in honor of her mom, Talat, a 4-time cancer survivor

And now, as the second Pelotonia ride approaches, Nighi is indeed doing more to support the ride and cancer research – a lot more.

In February, Nighi was named Huntington Banks’ vice president, Private Financial Group. One of her duties is to help lead and organize the Columbus-based bank’s huge financial and peddling commitment to Pelotonia.

Huntington recently announced it will donate $2.5 million to Pelotonia over the next five years to help assure the ride goes on and on – and that every dollar raised by riders goes toward cancer research at The James. Nighi will also help put together a Huntington peloton that could number as many as 1,000 riders!

For Nighi, this is more than a job – it’s a mission. Her mother, Talat, has made it through four bouts with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

If it wasn’t for all the research being done at The James and other medical institutions, Nighi said, well, things could have been a lot worse for her mom – and many, many others.

Unfortunately, she has lost three aunts to cancer, evidence that even more research is necessary.

Nighi grew up in Dallas with her parents Talat and Hassan and brother Rizwan. Talat is a psychiatrist, Hassan and Rizwan are surgeons.

All this medical knowledge was a double-edged sword when Talat was first diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma about 12 years ago.

“What they all do for a living is heal people,” Nighi said. “And they couldn’t heal this – and it just devastated my father (a vascular surgeon). He couldn’t go in and cut it out or reattach it or make it go away, which is what he does for his patients every day. We all really understood what could happen (to Talat) – and that made it so much harder.”

Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma is a blood cancer that starts in the lymphatic system – which is the body’s immune system. Tumors develop from lymphocytes — a type of white blood cell – and spread.

Here's Nighi taking a break from recruiting riders for Pelotonia

Back then, standard protocol called for massive doses of chemotherapy, powerful drugs that destroy cancer cells – and cause a wide array of side effects.

“The first time it was like she might die from the chemo, if the cancer doesn’t kill her,” Nighi said. During treatments, Talat was weak, sick, unable to eat – and had to be pumped full of IVs for her nutritional needs.

But recently, when her cancer returned for the fourth time, Talat was given a new treatment, one Nighi calls “a magic bullet.”

The new treatment begins with laboratory-produced monoclonal antibodies, which attach themselves only to the malignant cancer cells – and not the healthy cells. Radioactive isotopes then kill the bad cells – and do not harm the good cells.

“This time, the treatment wasn’t so devastating,” Nighi said. “It didn’t interfere with her life the way the chemo did; she was just a little tired for about a month, like she had the flu.”

And best of all, Talat’s now in remission.

Non-Hodkins Lymphoma is a chronic cancer disease, Nighi said, which means her mom may one day have to deal with it for a fifth time. Maybe even a sixth.

“But better treatment is coming out all the time and because of all this research, we now know that cancer isn’t what’s going to kill her,” she said.

And this is why research – which is quite costly – is so important, and why Nighi is so passionate about Pelotonia. She’ll be riding in honor of her mother – and in memory of her aunts.

“I’ve become part of the cure now,” she said, adding everyone who rides in Pelotonia, whether you’re in Huntington’s 1,000-rider peloton or riding on your own in support of someone you love, is part of the cure.

10 Things about Nighi…

Favorite ride

Riding around Dallas with her best friend when she was a child

This is one of Nighi's favorite athletes

Dream ride

The French Alps

Current Pelotonia bike

An old Schwinn that’s still in Dallas

Dream bike

A Giant from roll:

Favorite movie

Out of Africa

Favorite TV show

Dancing With the Stars

Favorite Book

The Koran

An artist's rendition of Herb's famous spaghetti and meatballs ... yummy!

Favorite musician/group

Ravi Shankar

Favorite athlete

Emmitt Smith and her dog Maxwell

Favorite post-ride meal

Herb’s spaghetti and meatballs


1 Comment »

  1. I am so glad that you are sharring your story. I pray that you get stronger.

    Comment by Ron Milner — May 13, 2010 @ 1:23 PM

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