Millions of women worldwide suffer from breast cancer, a disease that has dramatically changed their lives and those of their families forever. Regardless of the suffering and pain, many women refuse to succumb to cancer and with strength and positive thinking, they have undertaken a difficult but ultimately successful journey of treatment and recovery.
In the UAE, survivors have underlined the support they received from the Pink Caravan and Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP), who stood by their side from the initial diagnosis, providing them with the financial and moral support to conquer one of the world’s most devastating diseases.
One woman, who has beaten cancer twice, Nawal, said: “It was not easy for me to accept at first but the early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer in 1999 gave me a better chance of effective treatment and led to my full recovery.
“When the Pink Caravan launched its first ride in 2011, it seemed natural to me that I should get examined again. After a mammogram, the medical team told me that I needed further medical investigations and referred me for a sonar screening. It was then that I was diagnosed for the second time.
“The enormous encouragement I received from the Pink Caravan team and FoCP staff increased my resolve to defeat cancer again. Doctors decided breast surgery (mastectomy) was the best option this time due to the spread of the cancer, followed by chemotherapy. Throughout that long and difficult path of treatment, I was supported with the utmost care by my family and FoCP – it was a vital part of my recovery. And now I can live a normal life filled with hope for a better tomorrow.”
Nawal urged girls and women to self-examine regularly as well as attend official medical check-ups, saying: “As the Pink Caravan team informed me, early detection of the disease increases survival rates by up to 98%.” She lauded the immense efforts by the Pink Caravan, which offers free screenings to everyone, as well as the FoCP’s practical and emotional support.
Nadia, another breast cancer survivor, spoke of her disease and recovery: “When I found a large lump in my breast, I went immediately to get screened, which was around the same time as the Pink Caravan Ride in 2011. I approached one of the Pink Caravan’s clinics and took the x-ray with me. The medical staff saw the image and took a biopsy to establish the nature of the tumour.
“I was then diagnosed with breast cancer and referred directly to FoCP, which oversaw my case. Shortly after, I underwent a lumpectomy and thankfully had a fairly swift recovery.
“Ironically, my husband developed breast cancer, so I understood some of the steps which he needed to take. I cannot overstate the importance of a patient’s positive mental attitude in recovery. I constantly relied on my faith in Allah and clung to hope, trying to imagine the disease as a temporary condition that must disappear.”
Nadia commended the Pink Caravan’s role in providing free screenings for all community members and providing the moral support for patients that raises both their spirit and their resolve.
Dr. Sawsan Al Madhi, Director General of FoCP and Head of Pink Caravan’s Medical and Awareness Committee, said: “The stories of breast cancer survivors are a source of great inspiration to women, girls, and men as they are true role models who succeeded with faith, strength, and a will to live in beating cancer. Today, they stand on the front line in our fight against the disease.”
She added: “Since its inception in 2011 through to March 2017, the Pink Caravan has offered free medical check-ups and clinical examinations to 48,874 people, including 32,093 expatriate residents and 16,781 Emiratis. Out of that total, 9,643 have been men. These figures demonstrate the immense efforts being exerted by the Pink Caravan to reduce the incidence and increase the treatment of cancer in the community.
“In the run up to the 8th Pink Caravan Ride, which will travel across the emirates from February 28 – March 6, we will welcome breast cancer survivors to be a part of the Pink Caravan Ride and the volunteer team to inspire, motivate, spread hope and highlight the importance of regular medical examinations.”
The FoCP Director General has called on medical experts and healthcare professionals to join the medical team accompanying the 2018 ride to help increase medical and awareness outreach. Registration is open to male and female medical professionals covering general medicine, family medicine and radiology, X-Ray technicians and nurses.
Registration is open until February 11 via http://www.pinkcaravan.ae/dr-registration.php
Over the past seven years, the Pink Caravan Ride has travelled 1,640 kilometres across the country’s seven emirates with almost 500 riders and more than 700 volunteers dedicating more than 200,000 hours, which is the equivalent of working every hour for 23 years, to make the humanitarian initiative a success. Also, many awareness lectures and workshops were conducted at numerous schools across the country.
Breast cancer affects both men and women of all ages, but is one of the most common cancers in women worldwide. It comprises 16% of all cancer types that affect women. However, 98% of cases detected in the first stages can be treated and patients fully recover. Approximately 1.1 million women are diagnosed with breast cancer worldwide every year.
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