Laurie Kelly | Head of communications ATIC, a two time breast cancer survivor Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Participating in the Jewels of Antarctica Expedition, an 11-day journey to the southernmost continent, a team of breast cancer survivors will travel to the underside of the globe in December to create awareness of the cancer that is still the second-highest killer of women in the UAE after cardiovascular disease.

“We want the journey to show other women out there that breast cancer is not the end. We want to tell them that with early detection, you can overcome the disease and still live to undertake such adventures,” Laurie Kelly, an American resident and two-time survivor of the cancer, told Gulf News.

In addition to raising awareness, the survivors also want to encourage women to live healthier lifestyles.

As part of the expedition, the team will join more than 100 other adventurers in the Argentinian city of Ushuaia, commonly regarded as the southernmost city in the world. From there, they will embark on the M/v Plancius, a purpose-built vessel, that will then travel through the icy waters of the South Pole. They will also go kayaking, interact with penguins and camp on the shores of Antarctica.

The initiative is being organised under the patronage of Shaikha Alyazia Bint Saif Al Nahyan, wife of UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. It is being coordinated by global adventure and retreat organisation firm Mountain High.

“At present, we are looking for further sponsorships to fund the expedition. Any additional proceeds collected will be donated to local breast cancer charities,” said Julie Lewis, founder of Mountain High.

To prepare for the expedition, team members are currently undergoing a variety of training sessions. These include a 5.2 kilometre walk on Tuesday evenings, as well hour-long walks on Sundays.

“To acclimatise participants with the cold weather, we are also training at Ski Dubai, and learning how to go kayaking. Many of the women have also individually signed up for fitness programmes,” Lewis added.

At a recent forum in the capital, some of the breast cancer survivors headed to Antarctica said they wanted to inspire their family members and demonstrate that breast cancer can be overcome.

Morag Cromey-Hawke, a 49-year-old survivor from Scotland who has been cancer-free for five years, said she also hoped to raise money for the charity organisation she heads, Operation Smile.

“At Operation Smile, we provide free corrective surgeries for children with cleft lips. I will therefore donate any funds I am able to collect for myself as part of this expedition towards these surgeries,” Cromey-Hawke said.

The team of breast cancer survivors also includes Emirati entrepreneur Adila Nasser, a three-time survivor of the disease.