Jennifer Wright and Charlotte Robineau, both cancer survivors, take part in the 7th Pink Caravan Ride and wave the flag of ‘Hope’ across the UAE
Sharjah, 05 March 2017
The Pink Caravan Ride is an initiative that brings breast cancer awareness and understanding to thousands of women and men across the UAE. It educates and provides free medical support to as many residents as possible and, as it enters its 7th year, it once again brings together a wonderful team of volunteers and horse riders who help to extend the essential message of early detection.
Horses are synonymous with the Arabian way of life and the supporters on horseback have become paramount to the success of the event, each making their own contribution to the ride, either as a neutral supporter of a noble cause or as a more personal participant in such a meaningful experience. In the past six years, more than 400 riders have taken part in the Pink Caravan Ride, many whose lives have been directly affected by breast cancer. For some it has been a way to help themselves as well as others, and provided an opportunity to make a real difference.
Now living in Dubai, Australian expat Jennifer Wright is a survivor of breast cancer for five years and will be taking part on the Pink Caravan Ride for the first time on March 7 – 17. For her, the message of awareness is crucial.
“I was a fit and healthy person and when I reached 40, I went for a mammogram and everything was fine but then we had an extremely busy time in our lives including moving home and I skipped a few years. I went for another mammogram when I was 44 and found that I had three tumours. After a biopsy, I was diagnosed as having breast cancer. It was a huge shock, but then I went into a sort of ’get practical’ mode,” said Jennifer, aged 51.
“Following the initial treatment I went into depression – it’s very common to become depressed either when you are told you have cancer or when you have been treated. It became quite severe and they said to take up something that I really loved. Horse riding had always been a passion of mine when I was younger and so I thought I would try again to see if that could help. I got back into the saddle after 20 years and it has been fantastic in terms of both therapy and sheer enjoyment. I even ride competitively against younger riders.”
Jennifer believes that the primary Pink Caravan Ride message is the most important: awareness is the key and early detection is paramount to survival.
“Without screening, people just don’t know whether everything is fine or not. You never think it is going to happen to you. You may have the early stages of breast cancer and not know it – it’s like chipping a nail, it doesn’t hurt. The treatment makes you sick, not the initial cancer.
“I went for my second mammogram purely because of the November International Breast Cancer Awareness month. It encouraged me to go and thank goodness it did. The Pink Caravan Ride does the same thing and I would urge everyone to take advantage of the free screenings.”
The typical cost of breast cancer screenings offered by government and private hospitals and at medical clinics is between AED 250 – AED 1,000, but the Pink Caravan’s examinations provide the opportunity and the means for the public to attend a session for free. Over the past six years, AED 24 million worth of medical examinations, check-ups, mammograms and ultrasounds has been provided to more than 41,000 people.
Charlotte Robineau, 43, from Yorkshire in the UK, is saddling up for day 15 on the Pink Caravan Ride – Regatta Day in Dubai. Charlotte, who describes as “confident but not competitive” on a horse was diagnosed with rapidly developing Stage 3, grade 3 cancer just 18 months ago.
“My body felt as though there was something wrong. I had an itch on my nipple and I went to seek some advice, but nothing was found. Something still seemed wrong to me. I went for another test and then finally took myself to hospital where I was immediately treated as an emergency case and had an oncologist, a breast surgeon, everybody – it was two weeks of hell to be honest.
“They decided to remove my breast because the chemo wouldn’t work to save it at that stage. I thought it was either going to destroy me or I could simply get positive; I could either give in or kill this beast. It is incredible how your attitude can actually have a tangible effect on your recovery. People who are positive genuinely have fewer side effects, so one of the most important things to remember in recovery is not to think of yourself as a victim. I didn’t know much about breast cancer before I was diagnosed, but I would urge anybody to listen to their own bodies, their own inner voice and if they feel there is something wrong – get checked out straight away. Early detection is vital and Pink Caravan is doing an amazing job in helping that. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
The itinerary of the 10-day horseback expedition includes the equine route, medical route, fundraising initiatives, and awareness events to continue its mission to promote breast cancer awareness, spread the importance of early detection and organise free screenings across the UAE, regardless of age, sex or nationality. The Pink Caravan’s Organising Committee believes that educating the public about the dangers of breast cancer is a national, community and humanitarian responsibility. Therefore, every organisation or individual must take part of this responsibility.
The Pink Caravan Ride 2016 saw a number of milestones, foremost of which is the inauguration of the mobile mammography clinic in collaboration with the University Hospital Sharjah, and the Institut Gustave Roussy, a leading cancer research facility in Europe. The state-of-the-art mobile mammography unit is being equipped with the latest technological devices and medical equipment to offer free breast cancer tests throughout the year and across the country’s various emirates and cities, including remote and low-populated areas. The AED15 million mammogram unit was announced in the Pink Caravan Ride 2015.