A Dubai-based breast cancer survivor is just back after cycling from Thailand to Cambodia to raise funds for cancer research.
Briton Jenny Waite, 49, who undertook the trip with her daughter Amber Waite and friend Shrey Sureen, said they covered 250km between June 22 and 26, a feat that has so far yielded nearly Dh40,000.
The amount will be donated to the breast cancer support group Brest Friends which works closely with the Al Jalila Foundation for Cancer Research in Dubai.
Jenny said she was diagnosed with breast cancer in both breasts during a routine mammogram in October 2016. “I was lucky the malignant cells were discovered before they could become lumps,” she said. The mum of two, who underwent two mastectomies, got a lymph node removed and both breasts reconstructed, said she was able to get back to an active life within three months thanks to the early detection.
“Around this time, we lost a family member to cancer. So Amber, who happens to be a sports enthusiast with a love for community welfare, came up with the idea of a cycling trip, to raise awareness about the imperative need for early screening, besides generating funds for research.” She said Amber wanted her to undertake the cycling trip between two countries they had not visited before. “We zeroed in on Thailand and Cambodia as the flying time from Dubai was not too much and also because we felt awareness about cancer in these countries is fairly low.”
When the duo began to firm up their plans, Amber’s best friend Shrey also joined in the cause. “One would have thought as Year 11 students who had just finished their exams, they would just want to party. But it was heartening that they wanted to do something like this,” said Jenny.
Amber said, “I was really motivated to raise awareness and money for Brest Friends after our family’s personal experience with cancer. The trip was amazing and rewarding and allowed us to sample different cultures. It was fun and a great challenge. I am so proud of my mum.”
Shrey too is thankful he went. “It was an incredible and diverse experience packed with amusement and appreciation - and an accident or two. Before the trip started, I hoped to cope with the cycling and above all immerse myself in the new countries and try as many new things as possible. I’m glad I had the opportunity to do it while raising money for charity.”
The trio said they spoke to a lot of people in the two countries as they rode from Bangkok, down the coast to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. “The second day was particularly hard as we cycled through Thailand, crossed the border and were met by one long hill to our hotel in Cambodia. But I was happy I could do it.”
Equally important, said Jenny, is the need to stay alert. As with most survivors, she wished she knew more about cancer before her diagnosis.
“It helps to watch what you eat and drink and also to exercise regularly to boost your immunity. Following a rainbow diet is good and we must, to the extent possible, cut out sugar and processed foods. We need to pay attention to the environment we are in and to the products we use on our hair and skin.” She said the signs of breast cancer can be subtle and not necessarily involve lumps as it was the case with her. “I would notice a thickening of the skin under the arm and experience a sharp pain in both breasts, besides internal itching, but I ignored them. Thankfully the mammogram picked up these signs.”
Sulaiman Baharoun, director of partnerships and sustainability at the Al Jalila Foundation, said, “We hope Jenny’s journey inspires more people to devote their sporting challenges to shine a light on important causes and make a difference to patients’ lives.”
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.