The relay will see participants relay - walk in turns - until 4pm on December 11 Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: With the participation of 2,000 people, including 700 cancer survivors and volunteers, the third edition of the 24-hour cancer fundraiser Relay for Life (RFL) kicked off on Saturday afternoon at the Kshisha Park in Sharjah, in the presence of officials and dignitaries in the emirate.

Raising the slogan ‘Ready, Set, Live’, the relay organised by UAE-based Friends of Cancer Patients (FOCP), will continue overnight for 24 hours with various sports, artistic, and musical events until its grand finale at 4pm on Sunday (December 11).

Taking turns in groups, the patricipants will walk on a 650-meter length of track for 24 hours.

Thousands of 'Relayers' are attracted to the event every year Image Credit: Supplied

Sheikh Fahim Al Qasimi, Head of the Department of Government Relations, and Sawsan Jafar, Chairperson of FOCP Board of Directors, led the walk that saw the participation of high-ranking officials from across the UAE, apart from schools, universities, and governmental and private institutions all marching together.

RFL is a 24-hour multidisciplinary relay and “the largest peer-to-peer cancer fundraising event in the world” that gives parents and guardians the opportunity to participate in raising awareness and understanding among children.

Healthcare at heart

Sheikh said: “In Sharjah, all policies, initiatives and activities connect at one point, the human being and his natural right to healthcare, education, culture, and enriching his knowledge. Cities are of two types, one built for mere existence and the other for living life to its potential.”

He highlighted the vision of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed AlQasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, who had said “enough of the concrete revolution and let’s move on to building the human being”.

Sheikh Fahim added: “Building of a vital and productive human being takes place in a social incubator based on science, culture and thought, and founded on a strong education system, an effective health care system driven by one vision, which is a healthy society. That is the difference between the two types of cities. In the latter, the individual precedes everything. A person is built to complete the building processes, not to serve what was built before.”

He concluded: “Today, in this event that expresses the solidarity of the society to support cancer patients by providing appropriate treatment, the vision of life is clearly evident. Sharjah has cultivated noble motives, intentions and values that brought each of you to participate in the RFL today. You are all here to say: We are a society that does not accept to leave the weak, the needy, or the sick alone.”

Sheikh Fahim also took part in the ‘Survivors Tour’, which brought together cancer patients, survivors of the disease, and health care and support providers, in addition to their family members.

People cheered on patients and survivors of the disease Image Credit: Supplied

Access to treatment

Sawsan Jaafar, Chairperson of FOCP, said: “In the past years, more than 10,000 people participated in Relay for life, with each person representing a family, institution, organisation, or sector. More important than the number of participants is the number of lives saved through providing treatment and the number of families whose lives have been changed for the better.”

She added: “RFL is a qualitative milestone in FOCP’s journey, which strives to help patients receive treatment and access the best centres and resources to obtain the best care possible and enhance community participation and advocacy at the local and global levels. Since FOCP’s establishment, we have organised seminars and training courses, cancer awareness campaigns, and cooperation with international organisations to alleviate the burden of cancer on patients and their families.”

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Aisha Al Mulla, Director of FOCP, who announced the event’s details, told Gulf News that Relay for Life stems from noble values and messages to support patients. She said: “As much as we look forward to collecting donations to help patients and ensure that they overcome the challenges of obtaining treatment, we look forward to instilling optimism, hope, and empathy that play a key role in their treatment.” She added that the event includes various sports, arts and music activities.

Opening ceremony

At a special ceremony held at the start of the event, Sheikh Fahim honoured the main partners of the event — Crescent Petroleum, Bank of Sharjah, and Shurooq — for their participation in the noble cause. Sharjah Ladies Club, National Network Communications, Rubu’ Qarn Bee’ah, Sajaya Young Ladies of Sharjah, Sanid by Emirates Foundation, and Qimah Volunteering team were also honoured at the event.

Survivors speak

Lina Fadhal

Lebanese expat Lina Fadhal,52, was suffering from cancer for three years. She told Gulf News that she is participating in the relay for the third time to bring hope to people. “Because of your support, cancer patients and survivors will proudly walk this track, showing the world that cancer can be beaten. [RFL] unites us, no matter where we live,” she said.

She also participates to spread awareness among cancer patients. “Optimism makes life great,” she added.

Fatma Mousa

Fatma Mousa, a 60-year-old Palestinian, also took part for the third time. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and underwent six surgeries. “There should be no frustration or despair from this disease,” she said. “My message to cancer patients is that you must have will and determination. I thank the UAE government for providing the best treatment and health care.”

She added: “Walking is part of my daily routine. I walk for one to two hours daily.”