New Jersey doctor saves life of Facebook friend from New Zealand he’d never met

Posted at 8:15 PM, Sep 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-26 20:15:06-04

RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — It’s the last place some of us would think to go for medical advice, but a New Zealand woman says it was the advice from a Facebook friend she’s never met that saved her life.

After undergoing months of surgery and radiation therapy for throat cancer, Diana Craig thought she was in the clear. But a routine follow-up with her doctor this past May showed that the cancer had returned.  Her team of specialists in New Zealand, where she lives, gave her six to 24 months to live.

"I just felt in my heart of hearts that this was not right," she told WPIX.

Craig sought a second opinion, so she turned to Facebook.

It’s where she connected with Dr. Sajjad Iqbal, a retired pediatrician who lives nearly 9,000 miles away in Ridgewood, New Jersey. The two met in a Facebook group for head and neck cancer support.

"I said the first recommendation is change your oncologist," Dr. Iqbal said.

Iqbal is a cancer survivor himself, diagnosed with salivary gland cancer in 2002. He was told he had about two years to live. Instead of making a bucket list, Dr. Iqbal managed his own care — a journey he documented in his book “Swimming Upstream” — and he’s defied the odds.

"I think the biggest mistake people make, is that they hear the word cancer and they are half dead already," he said.

After months of recommending tests and treatment for his new Facebook friend that she says her doctor’s initially scuffed at, Craig learned about a month ago that she’s cancer free.

The pair met face to face for the time this week in New Jersey and they're now telling their story in an effort to inspire other patients on the brink of giving up.

"You have to have hope but you have to be determined to take over your own health and your be your own best advocate."