Sharjah: Riding across the country to combat breast cancer, a group of equines accompanied by medical and community volunteers on Saturday embarked on a seven-day journey that will see them travel 154km to raise awareness about the importance of regular screenings and early detection in successfully tackling the disease.
Starting from the Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club, the ninth edition of the Pink Caravan, was flagged off by His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, in the presence of Shaikha Jawaher Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, Wife of the Ruler of Sharjah, Founder and Royal Patron of the Friends Of Cancer Patients (FOCP), the force behind the campaign.
Speaking ahead of the launch, Dr Shaikh Sultan said: “Nine years have passed with people exerting their efforts to spread breast cancer awareness in the UAE. Many people’s lives have been saved due to these efforts. Today, all you brilliant rays of hope have come together, once again, to ensure this march continues to safeguard the health and well-being of our community.”
Dr Shaikh Sultan added that this year the campaign is stepping up its efforts with the introduction of genetic testing.
56806clinical examinations have been conducted since 2011
Addressing the gathering, Shaikha Jawaher said: “It is difficult to surmise in a few words the essence of this nine-year journey that is driven by the collective passion to further human well-being and preservation. It is an example of the selfless efforts of thousands of socially driven individuals who aim to build an aware and cancer-free society, and ensure no one is left suffering.”
Dedicating a day each for an emirate, the annual campaign has so far provided free treatment to 5,000 cancer patients apart from reaching out to more than 56,000 UAE citizens and residents.
Over the past eight years, the Pink Caravan’s free early-detection examinations have helped diagnose 61 cases, all of whom have been offered free treatment by FOCP.
Driving home the importance of early detection and the role of civil society in making this possible, a panel of experts urged the UAE community to help save lives by fighting the taboo around getting screened.
5000cancer patients have been provided free treatment by the pink caravan so far
“As much as the government reaching out to the community through campaigns such as the Pink Caravan, it is important for the families to help the girls and women come forward and get themselves screened. Cancer affects not just the person who is diagnosed with the disease but also the entire family. Thus, civil society mobilisation is a must because awareness wins half the battle,” said Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman Al Rand, Assistant Undersecretary, Ministry of Health and Prevention and the leader of the Higher National Committee on Immunisation, UAE.
Hailing the UAE’s efforts in combating the disease, Dr Ibtihal Fadil, Chair, Eastern Mediterranean NCD Alliance said that other countries in the region should closely look at the experience of the emirates in tackling breast cancer and emulate the model.
Day One — Sharjah
On day one, the pink brigade made its first stop at Coral Beach Resort before cantering along the Coral Beach Resort and Souq Al Jubail. After riding for 37 kilometres, the leg of the journey was wrapped up at Al Majaz Waterfront.
The day’s activities came to an end with a series of family edutainment events held at Al Majaz Waterfront.
Day Two — Ajman
On Sunday, the ride will set off from Ajman Municipality at 9.30am, marching through Ajman Marina and other areas to finally end its second day of campaigning at Khalifa Hospital at 2pm, covering 15.8 kilometres. A host of awareness events will be organised at the Ajman Corniche from 2-8pm.
Free check-ups and screenings will be available for women at three clinics in Ajman including Ajman University, Ajman Specialty General Hospital, and Al Hamedia Health Centre. A fourth clinic in Al Madina Health Centre will receive both men and women.
Additionally, free consultations and screenings will available every day from 4pm to 10pm, till March 2 at a special clinic at Ajman Corniche.
Women can also get free check-ups and screenings at mobile clinics riding along the Pink Caravan throughout all the seven days of the campaign from 10am to 6pm, while each emirate will also have a regular clinic offer free screenings till March 2.
‘This cancer survivor was twice lucky’
For many, beating cancer once is fortuitous, but to do that twice in a span of a few years can only be called miraculous.
Nawal Ragheb Mohammad did just that when she underwent a breast cancer surgery in 2011, after surviving another surgery a few years back.
In both cases, the 74-year-old Iraqi says early detection was the key.
“I had my first breast cancer case in 1999 and I detected it myself and even the second time around I began suspecting something so I approached a doctor who directed me to the Pink Caravan. In both cases, I believe early detection was the key in getting timely treatment. As a woman one has to be conscious of changes in your body and there should not be any delay in getting yourself screened if you notice anything unusual,” said Mohammad, speaking to Gulf News following the launch of the ninth edition of Pink Caravan at the Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club.
A UAE resident since 2007, the septuagenarian who was one of the panellists at the opening event of Pink Caravan dedicated her survival to the annual campaign that is helping women combat breast cancer.
“I owe my survival to the Pink Caravan, they took really good care of me. I was one of the first women to line up for a check-up when the Pink Caravan launched its campaign in 2011 and after undergoing treatment for around a year I was transferred to Tawam Hospital in Al Ain where my second surgery took place,” she said, with a broad grin that clearly showed how grateful she was for having combated the disease twice.
The grandmother urged young girls and mothers to come forward and get checked every year, in order to help prevent cases of breast cancer.