Battling breast cancer is no easy feat. One survivor not only fought the disease but also took it upon herself to raise awareness about breast cancer so that women, especially those in countries where there is less awareness, understand the value of early detection.
Briton Jenny Waite, 49, her daughter Amber Waite and friend Shrey Sureen cycled 250km over four days from Thailand to Cambodia and raised Dh41,000 to fund research and treatment for patients with breast cancer.
They donated the money to a breast cancer support group called Brest Friends that works closely with the Al Jalila Foundation for Cancer Research in Dubai. The funds will also go towards supporting breast cancer patients with financial difficulties.
Waite was diagnosed with breast cancer in both breasts during a routine mammogram in October 2016. “My world tilted and my family and I were frightened and devastated,” she says. “I think the initial period is particularly traumatising. All you can do is wait and hold on to the support you receive from friends and family, until all the tests are done and doctors tell you the road map ahead. Once I decided the medical course to take, I pulled myself together, gathered my strength and decided to fight the disease with all I have.
“I was very lucky the malignant cells were discovered before they could spread to other parts of my body. That’s why I am such a huge advocate for regular screening.”
The mum of two, underwent two mastectomies, got a lymph node removed and had both breasts reconstructed.
She said that early detection and treatment prevented not only the spread of the disease but also helped her recover faster. “Three months after the surgery I began exercising again. Exercise helps me stay positive and it is now a part of my everyday routine.”
Conversations about awareness with her 16-year-old daughter led to the idea to cycle across two countries to raise funds for those in need. “My daughter is a sports enthusiast and this was her idea,” says Waite. “We zeroed in on Thailand and Cambodia as they were countries we hadn’t visited before, they have a rich culture and most importantly there is a low-level of awareness about cancer and early screening.”
However, the road ahead was not easy. Waite had just managed to get her strength back but she was determined to support the cause. “Sometimes you just have to do something even if you’re not sure you can. Your body can do so much more than you think. Once I set my goal, I was on track.”
Waite began training on her own and cycled down Beach Road. After that she began cycling around the Meydan track with her daughter. She also started training sessions at the gym, specifically targeting her legs. She then packed her bags and took off with her daughter and their friend for an adventure of a lifetime, despite all that she had endured.
Away from the hallways of hospitals, Waite and her team cycled between hills and lush green fields of Thailand and Cambodia. “The hospitality we received was overwhelming,” says Waite. “When women understood why we were doing this, it made me feel that the effort I put in was useful. We cycled through various terrains, but the hills in Cambodia were the toughest to cycle through. I loved passing through farms and fruit orchards, where farmers gave us freshly harvested Mangosteen. It’s my favourite fruit and apparently it’s got anti-cancer properties!”
Waite now lives her life with a deep awareness of her health and wellbeing. “It was not as if we were a family that led an unhealthy lifestyle but post this experience, I value health and well-being much more,” she says. “This is my second message to women out there — take care of yourselves and your families and make sure meals are nutrient-dense and that the family is living an active lifestyle. Of course, my first message is early detection.”
The Al Jalila Foundation has so far invested Dh5 million in seven breast cancer research studies and supported medical treatment for 27 patients of various nationalities in the UAE.
Al Jalila Foundation — Breast Cancer Awareness
According to the World Health Organisation, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime and about 1.4 million women worldwide are diagnosed each year. In the UAE, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women and studies show the average age of diagnoses is 10 years younger than the national average. These statistics reaffirm the critical need to continuously support breast cancer research. The cost for breast cancer treatment is very expensive and often patients’ medical insurance is insufficient.
You too can be part of #TeamAlJalila and raise funds to improve lives with Al Jalila Foundation. Dedicate your sporting challenge to charity by setting up an online fund raising page at www.hopasports.com and rally your family, friends and colleagues to sponsor your challenge. 100 per cent of funds raised are invested in healthcare programmes to benefit those in need.