The Pink Caravan Ride horse riders traverse the highway en route to Umm Al Quwain Hospital past noon on Tuesday. Kamal Kassim/Gulf Today
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
Umm Al Quwain (UAQ) Hospital director Dr. Khaled Abdulla Alshehhi said the Pink Caravan Ride (PCR) is a big help.
Alshehhi was interviewed after the volunteers of the 10-year-old nationwide breast cancer awareness drive-consultation, led by 15 horse riders, arrived at the 40-year-old/130-bed government facility at 12:45pm on Tuesday. The PCR state-of-the-art mobile clinic had been conducting lectures and mammograms since 10am until 6pm.
One of the equines was Sheikha Alia Al Qasimi. She has been with the mission since age four in 2011 and among the young volunteers.
One of the Pink Caravan Ride ambassadors, Al Qasimi urged UAE residents to come on board and help continue spread the importance of getting abreast with breast cancer facts and more importantly, avail of the free consultations.
“Join it. It is not only for the joy of the ride but because it is for the common good. I like the team. They make sure that everyone is safe.”
Al Qasimi added among the benefits of being a part of the Sharjah-based Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP) outreach programme is getting in touch and interacting with patients.
Over the weekend and in Dubai, Al Qasimi met an elderly woman taken care of by the FoCP since diagnosed.
From the interview, Alshehhi described PCR as a “good initiative.”
He said the free lectures and screenings throughout the campaign are instrumental in encouraging not only the women but also the men from various classes and ethnicity to become health conscious and take care of themselves.
“The free screenings are helping a lot of the non-locals and even the locals, especially the poor and those who do not have any insurance. The men are getting information that they can also be (stricken with breast cancer) which is good. Everybody has to know about early detection and diagnosis, being very important. Cancer is treatable (but we must all go for early interventions).”
Asked on the extent of breast cancer cases in Umm Al Quwain, Alshehhi said that based on his constant dialogues with the hospital oncologists, the overall rate is the “average number of cases across the country.”
“We have all the screening tools here. But we refer the (positive cases) to the Sheikh Khalifa Specialty Hospital in Ras Al Khaimah or to the Tawam Hospital in Al Ain.”
Two other volunteers Gulf Today conversed with in UAQ were Natasha Van Lavieren from Dubai and Mohammad Ali of Sharjah. Both went through the turmoil of cancer-related deaths with dear family members and friends — the reason they joined PCR.
Van Lavieren is an equestrian. This year is her fourth year after participating in 2019, 2015 and 2014.
“It is a good cause. I want to be part of it. Touching a lot of lives means a full heart for me. It is having people smile. I have family members affected by breast cancer. One of my best friends died of it two years back.”
Van Lavieren skipped the 2016 to 2018 rides because “my horse died and I decided to (step back).”
She rejoined in 2019 “for the good of making everyone aware of breast cancer.”
Ali enlisted as a volunteer five years back after graduating from the university. He is grateful to his supportive employer for allowing him play an active role.
“I had an auntie who died of cancer. We took her to all the hospitals but still she passed away.”
According to PCR-Medical and Awareness Committee member Rawand Al Mously, the 10-day PCR that concludes on Friday in Abu Dhabi has so far conducted 8,184 clinical screenings in Sharjah, Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah, and Fujairah.
“We have suspicious cases which we have referred for further investigations with oncologists in the (seven) fixed clinics we have.”
The 10th edition of annual 10-day Pink Caravan Ride to raise breast cancer awareness, which will start from Sharjah on Feb.26 and run till Mar.6, has evolved into a tradition over the past decade. By offering early detection screening tests for breast cancer and spreading awareness about the importance of self-examination amongst the UAE community, it has wrought many positive changes in the way cancer is perceived and treated.
The 10th Pink Caravan Ride (PCR) reached the halfway mark on Sunday successfully taking the message of the importance of regular screenings and early detection of breast cancer to Fujairah. PCR’s 21 km equine route was flagged off at the Fujairah Beach and ended at the Khor Fakkan Hospital, once again resulting in strong community engagement with the residents of the northern emirate.
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