Al Jalila Foundation
Al Jalila Foundation in Dubai Healthcare City Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: A hospitality industry veteran who beat cancer is set to embark on his one week ‘Cycle Against Cancer’ journey to raise funds for cancer treatment and research in the UAE.

Guido De Wilde, former chief operating officer at Marriott International, will cycle 1,200km across Belgium, France, Switzerland and Italy from May 2 to 8.

All proceeds from the initiative will be donated to UAE-based Al Jalila Foundation who are establishing the first comprehensive cancer charity hospital in the country. The Hamdan Bin Rashid Cancer Charity Hospital will provide cancer care services for those who are unable to afford quality healthcare – including the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of various kinds of cancer. The foundation recently opened the Majlis Al Amal, a community centre for cancer patients.

Cancer survivor

The launch of the cycle challenge follows De Wilde’s own battle with the disease when he was diagnosed with stage four bowl cancer in 2019.

Taking place next month, the self-funded, seven-day journey of Wilde will seen him going from Belgian Waterloo to the Lombardian city Bergamo. The scenic but challenging route will cover historical sites and other places of interest such as the town of Bastogne in Belgium, Verdun in France, Lucerne in Switzerland and Bergamo in Italy – the latter being famous for its cycling history.

Guido De Wilde

De Wilde said: “From the day I was diagnosed with cancer, I had complete trust in the medical team and facilities here in the UAE, which motivated me to start my treatment as soon as possible. A great multi-discipline team of surgeons, radiologist, oncologist, hematologist and gastroenterologist complemented by a caring nursing team took very good care of me. I will be forever grateful.”

He added: “As well as raising money for a worthy cause, ‘Cycle Against Cancer’ sends a message of hope to other cancer patients and survivors that there is a healthy life after cancer. I hope it inspires others to get over the initial shock of the diagnosis and stay positive with an ‘I will get over this’ attitude. For me, cycling allows me to stay healthy whilst also relieving stress at the same time. It played a big part in my recovery.”

Even before being diagnosed, cycling has always been a major part of De Wilde’s life. He co-founded the ‘Road to Awareness’ charity campaign in 2008 during his time with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which he then continued during his tenure with Marriott International. The anchor activity for the campaign was always a cycle challenge and since inception of the initiative, De Wilde and colleagues together cycled more than 6,000km over 13 editions and raised over $10 million (around Dh36.7 million) for UNICEF and various charities in the region.

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‘Redefining cancer care’

Dr Abdulkareem Sultan Al Olama

Commending De Wilde for his spirited challlenge, Dr Abdulkareem Sultan Al Olama, CEO of Al Jalila Foundation, said: “Guido has been a friend and ambassador of Al Jalila Foundation for a long time and under his leadership Marriott UAE raised millions to support our programmes. Guido is a cancer survivor and knows first-hand how a cancer diagnosis can change your life in an instant. We are delighted to be the chosen charity partner for Guido’s ‘Cycle Against Cancer’ fundraising challenge.”

He added: “With the increasing number of cancer cases annually in the UAE, Al Jalila Foundation aims to provide relief in the way of medical assistance to patients in need. Through the establishment of the Hamdan Bin Rashid Cancer Charity Hospital our vision is to redefine cancer care to transform the lives. It is through the support of partners and community members like Guido that we can make this dream a reality.”