Saudi health campaigners think pink for breast cancer awareness month

Known to be the most common cancer in women worldwide, it is the leading cause of death among Saudi women, according to a retrospective epidemiological study conducted in 2012. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 01 October 2020
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Saudi health campaigners think pink for breast cancer awareness month

  • Regular checks are a must to detect and fight the disease in its early stages

JEDDAH: Breast cancer, once a taboo subject in many Saudi social settings, is now openly talked about thanks to years of awareness campaigns led by an organization bearing the name of a victim of the disease, Zahra.

As Breast Cancer Awareness month gets underway, campaigners in the Kingdom will be urging people to think pink, the internationally recognized symbol of October and a color adopted by the Zahra Breast Cancer Association in Saudi Arabia.

The association was one of the first bodies in the country dedicated to raising awareness about the disease and providing support to patients and survivors. And its mission is far from over, with more outreach programs and initiatives in the pipeline.

While most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to follow the vital steps toward detecting the disease in its early stages, but the association is leading the fight to highlight the need for regular checks.

Known to be the most common cancer in women worldwide, it is the leading cause of death among Saudi women, according to a retrospective epidemiological study conducted in 2012.

The findings showed high-incidence rates occurring at an earlier age in Saudi women than in those in Western countries.

More than 25 years ago, Dr. Suad bin Amer, the head of breast cancer research at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, struggled to understand the disease which her mother, Zahra bint Ali bin Harfash, suffered from.

In order to comprehend her mom’s grave situation and treatment, that went on for several years, Amer went on a hunt for information and was able to answer the questions of her ailing mother, who succumbed to the disease years later.

Since early 2003, awareness workshops and seminars have been conducted in a number of institutions in Riyadh, and awareness campaigns run in shopping centers were later expanded throughout the Kingdom.

With a mission to provide a clearer understanding of the disease, support patients, and help them to live a pro-active life after recovery, Amer co-founded the Zahra Breast Cancer Association in 2007, named after her late mother.

In carrying out her awareness work, she took to heart the words of her mother who said: “Women must be made aware of this disease, must seek knowledge and information about it by themselves, and should undergo screening.”

With this message in mind Amer began her journey of spreading awareness in the Kingdom about the importance of early detection with a team of dedicated co-founders and members.

CEO and co-founder, Hanadi Al-Outhah, told Arab News that breast cancer awareness month would go ahead despite the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, using digital means to reach out to as many people as possible, even beyond Saudi  borders.

“This year, we’re focusing on the four main pillars of thought, priorities, behavior, and gratitude toward health and how the events of the year were able to change the mindset of patients and survivors. We’re focusing on their growth and providing them with the support they need after recovery,” she said.

Al-Outhah added that the organization would be participation in the upcoming Civil20 (C20) event at which the importance of supporting cancer survivors, post-treatment, would be discussed.

“It’s an area that we are falling behind on in the Kingdom and regionally. It’s never been discussed before and the aim is to target the G20 countries and encourage them to support them after their treatment, while activating their roles as survivors after. The result would be more impactful as many NGOs are founded by survivors themselves,” she said.

Hala Aseel, a co-founder of the association and a mental-health counselor, said: “I, like everyone at the time, was oblivious to what breast cancer was but understood it with time as I am a daughter of a cancer survivor.

“I believed in the goal of Zahra because people needed to change their view of the disease with survivors who can live to tell the tale. With enough support they can, and they’ll find a wider support group that also includes survivors to help.”

Another co-founder and clinical psychologist, Haifa Al-Shamsi, said: “We went from knocking on people’s doors to people knocking on ours. With the help of the Ministry of Health, this was achieved. With the help of Zahra, we aim at empowering women, survivors, to go out and advocate about the screening process and talk about their journeys.

“With support, we’ll be able to do more to help and ensure that patients and survivors receive proper moral and psychological support that will ensure their continued journey in life.”

Public acceptance and acknowledgement of the importance of screening has encouraged many and helped in generating a better understanding of the risk factors relevant to patients.

“One of the main goals now is to fill in a gap and calculate the impact measurement, to ensure that there are enough people to continue providing psychological and social support by training specialists in the Kingdom, support research projects and empower members of the medical field, and provide them with the needed education,” said Al-Shamsi.

Zahra’s plans for the future include establishing a constant presence at specialist hospitals with cancer treatment centers and recruit community figures to help bring a local flavor to initiatives.

Al-Outhah noted that support would continue to be needed from all levels.

Breast cancer survivor, Awatif Al-Hoshan, who is a member of the board and a Zahra ambassador, said women were often confused and found it daunting to inquire about the disease, sometimes fearing the worst.

“When cancer patients and survivors see other women come forward, it brings a sense of ease and comfort. Zahra ambassadors follow a simple and important therapeutic path, to lend a helping hand,” she said.

“It’s a scientific fact that early detection saves lives and we’ve come a long way as we’ve cooperated with many health organizations to try and complete the circle, health-wise, mentally, and physically.

“The support I had while getting treatment wasn’t what I needed. I understood that and learnt from the experience. I am now a proud Zahra ambassador helping out patients and creating a community of caregivers with hopes to expand and have more people join,” Al-Hoshan added.

The association’s mission is far from complete, but its outreach has expanded throughout the Kingdom, and participation in this year’s C20 will provide a platform for its message to be heard around the world.

“Working with various entities throughout the years has helped to spread awareness at unprecedented levels. But support is everything,” said Al-Outhah.


Saudi border guards foil smuggling attempts near Jazan

Updated 23 June 2024
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Saudi border guards foil smuggling attempts near Jazan

RIYADH: Border Guard land patrols have foiled an attempt to smuggle 135 kilograms of qat in Al-Dayer sector of Jazan Region. 
Also in Jazan region, border police thwarted an attempt to illegally transport 160 kilograms of qat in Al-Ardah. 
Legal procedures were followed, and the seized items were handed over to the concerned authority.
Meanwhile, two Pakistani residents attempting to sell 4.7 kilograms of methamphetamine in Jeddah. The individuals were referred to the Public Prosecution for legal action.


KSrelief continues humanitarian activities in Lebanon, Sudan

Updated 23 June 2024
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KSrelief continues humanitarian activities in Lebanon, Sudan

RIYADH: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center’s (KSrelief) philanthropist works in Lebanon and Sudan continues with its latest provision of medical support and basic food requirements for needy individuals.

In the Miniyeh region of northern Lebanon, the Souboul Al-Salam Social Association ambulance service being funded by KSRelief completed 56 emergency missions, which involved the transport of patients to and from hospitals as well as the provision of first responder services to individuals involved in traffic incidents.

In Sudan, the Saudi aid agency distributed 620 food packages to displaced families staying at the Shelter Center in Blue Nile State, or about 6,131 individuals receiving the subsistence items under the third phase of the Food Security Support Project for the country.


Saudi woman Sondos Jaan set to climb the highest peak in the Arab world

Updated 22 June 2024
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Saudi woman Sondos Jaan set to climb the highest peak in the Arab world

  • Adventurer tackles Mount Toubkal in Morocco

DHAHRAN: Sondos Jaan embarked on the journey to the highest peak in the Arab world on June 20.

It is the latest episode in Jaan’s love for mountain adventures, but to understand the fascination it is important to take a look back at her childhood.

She told Arab News: “I am from Madinah. I was born in a city where I could see a mountain from my bedroom window, and as I walked the streets I would see mountains.”

A picture of Sondos Jaan aged about 5 on the top of a mountain with her father. (Supplied)

Those peaks were an important part of her early childhood. There are pictures of Jaan aged about 5 on the top of mountains. She said: “I call these pictures ‘Sondos between two mountains,’ the real mountain carved in nature, and my father.”

During family camping trips, she would sneak away the moment her family was not paying attention in order to climb a mountain.

HIGHLIGHTS

• For her latest adventure, Sondos Jaan is climbing Morocco’s Mount Toubkal, which is a height of 4,167 meters.

• The climb has two routes: The first takes three days of climbing, and the second takes two days but is more challenging.

She added: “I would hear my father calling me, telling me to stay put and to wait for him. My dear father would come to me and we would then climb together, step by step, him telling me where to place my feet until we reached the summit, and then we would descend together, just the two of us.”

Sondos Jaan from Madinah hopes that young Saudi girls reading about her adventures will feel encouraged to take up sports and hobbies they are passionate about. (Supplied)

Her father was the first adventurer she knew. He was always prepared, she says, and “his car was always ready for a trip.”

She said: “He would tell me stories when he returned from hunting trips, whether on land or at sea. I would imagine the stories as if he were the hero in one of the animated films I watched. Sometimes he would take me with him, and I felt like I was part of the story.”

Sondos Jaan from Madinah hopes that young Saudi girls reading about her adventures will feel encouraged to take up sports and hobbies they are passionate about. (Supplied)

Her love for adventure was instilled in her by her father from a very early age. And it seems mountain climbing is in her DNA.

Jaan said: “My father is my primary mountain-climbing coach, and I certainly inherited the spirit of adventure and love for travel, experiences, and camping from him.

Sondos Jaan from Madinah hopes that young Saudi girls reading about her adventures will feel encouraged to take up sports and hobbies they are passionate about. (Supplied)

“He taught me swimming, horse riding, hunting, fishing, and the basics of camping.”

For her latest adventure, Jaan and a friend are climbing Morocco’s Mount Toubkal, which is a height of 4,167 meters. The climb has two routes: the first takes three days of climbing, and the second takes two days but is more challenging.

A file photo of Sondos Jaan when she was about five years old. (Supplied)

They started the climb early, continuing for about nine to 11 hours, followed by an overnight stay at an elevation of 3,200 meters above sea level.

She believes that elements of nature are instilled within each of us and it is our duty — and a privilege — to find and channel those elements.

She said that climbing to Everest Base Camp was the hardest trek she has yet attempted. It was a two-week journey and she added that she was not able to sleep, eat well or breathe properly due to oxygen deficiency in the two days leading up to arrival at the base camp. However, those were not the main factors behind it being her most difficult climb.

She said: “The (main) reason was simply managing expectations. I was emotional after walking all that time and reaching what was supposed to be the summit for that trip, only to realize it wasn’t even the summit.

“It was the main camp where climbers camp for two months every year before attempting to reach the Everest summit, allowing their bodies to acclimatize to the oxygen deficiency, training, and waiting for the right time to climb the summit.”

The experience taught her a valuable lesson, and she added: “I remember descending and as soon as we settled in one of the tea houses, I cried.

“They asked me why. I said I wanted pizza, crying real tears. The owners of the house tried hard to make pizza for me. I ate one slice and gave the rest to their dog. I reflected on my feelings and asked myself, ‘Why did I act that way?’ And the simple answer was, we didn’t reach the summit, we just saw it up close.”

She considers the thrill of the journey, and not only the destination, to be one worth embracing. She now believes that the feeling of almost giving up happens during every climb; she sees it as a healthy sign.

She added: “It is a reminder that I am human. It is also a reminder that I am capable of doing things that might seem impossible, not because I have superhuman strength, but because I am a human capable of overcoming challenges. This gives me the motivation to complete the climb.”

She believes her latest adventure also serves a greater purpose. Seeing Saudi women participate in various fields, especially sports, helps encourage her to keep striving for the highest heights.

She hopes that young girls reading about her adventures will feel encouraged to take up sports and hobbies they are passionate about, and that her experiences will help to push them to their limits to break stereotypes and barriers along the way.

She is to continue her climb, whether it be a mountain to conquer, or toward the goals of her gender.

For those starting out, she advised: “(You must) start with small, achievable goals and gradually increase the difficulty level. Ensure you have the right gear and training: it’s important to be physically and mentally prepared.

“Join a community or group of climbers for support and motivation. Most importantly, believe in yourself and enjoy the journey.”

 


Migratory birds bring ecological balance to Saudi Arabia’s Northern Borders region

The Aman Environmental Society has launched awareness campaigns and created water basins to support and sustain migratory birds.
Updated 22 June 2024
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Migratory birds bring ecological balance to Saudi Arabia’s Northern Borders region

  • Nasser Al-Majlad: “They contribute to plant reproduction and diversity through pollination, while also helping to control pests by consuming insects, reducing the need for harmful pesticides in agriculture”

RIYADH: Every year, nearly 300 bird species use Saudi Arabia’s Northern Borders region as a migration path. The area’s diverse landscapes and balanced ecosystem create a natural sanctuary for these avian visitors.

Nasser Al-Majlad, president of the Aman Environmental Society in the Northern Borders region, highlighted the crucial ecological and cultural role played by migratory birds.

FASTFACT

The migratory birds have a positive impact on soil health and ecosystem balance by aiding in soil aeration and seed dispersal near bodies of water.

“They contribute to plant reproduction and diversity through pollination, while also helping to control pests by consuming insects, reducing the need for harmful pesticides in agriculture,” he said.

According to a report by the Saudi Press Agency, Al-Majlad also emphasized the positive impact birds have on soil health and ecosystem balance by aiding in soil aeration and seed dispersal near bodies of water.

NUMBER

300

Every year, nearly 300 bird species use Saudi Arabia’s Northern Borders region as a migration path, Saudi Press Agency reported.

He also stressed the necessity of protecting migratory birds from poaching and environmental problems. The National Center for Wildlife has enacted strict anti-poaching legislation, he noted.

The Aman Environmental Society has launched awareness campaigns and created water basins to support and sustain migratory birds.

 


Saleh Al-Shaibi, senior caretaker of the Kaaba, dies

Updated 22 June 2024
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Saleh Al-Shaibi, senior caretaker of the Kaaba, dies

  • Funeral prayers held after Fajr on Saturday at the Grand Mosque
  • His responsibilities included opening and closing the Kaaba, cleaning, washing, repairing its Kiswa (covering), and welcoming visitors

MAKKAH: Dr. Saleh bin Zain Al-Abidin Al-Shaibi, the senior caretaker of the Kaaba, died in Makkah on Friday evening. Funeral prayers were held after Fajr on Saturday at the Grand Mosque.
Al-Shaibi, who held a doctorate in Islamic studies, was a university professor and an author of several works on creed and history. He was the 77th key holder of the Kaaba since the conquest of Makkah.
His responsibilities included opening and closing the Kaaba, cleaning, washing, repairing its Kiswa (covering), and welcoming visitors. He took over the guardianship after the death of his uncle, Abdulqader Taha Al-Shaibi, in 2013.
His son, Abdulrahman Saleh Al-Shaibi, told Arab News that saying farewell to his father was one of the hardest and saddest moments of his life. He added that the family accepted Allah’s will for a man who was always close to everyone and dedicated his life to serving the family.
He went on to say that his father had been suffering from illness recently but had remained patient and steadfast. The entire community shared in the family’s grief and expressed their sorrow and pain for the loss of the Al-Shaibi family’s pillar.
Al-Shaibi chaired the Department of Creed at Umm Al-Qura University for over two decades. Known for his scholarly approach and love for knowledge, he explored religious and doctrinal issues deeply. An academic at heart, he left a significant and lasting impact.
King Fahd bin Abdulaziz appointed him to the Saudi Shoura Council, and Al-Shaibi served as the deputy to his uncle in the guardianship of the Kaaba until becoming senior caretaker.
His son Abdulrahman added that he had served as his father’s deputy in the guardianship of the Kaaba for five years, after which his cousin Abdulmalik Al-Shaibi had taken over.
He said that his father had wished him to hold the guardianship and the key to the Kaaba after him. However, if this wish is not honored, the guardianship and the key will be handed over to his uncle Abdulwahab Al-Shaibi.
Nizar Al-Shaibi, the cousin of the deceased, told Arab News that it was a sad day for the family. However, the outpouring of love, solidarity, and support from all segments of society, who had rushed to offer their condolences, had helped to ease the burden of their grief.
They had expressed their gratitude for the life of the deceased, who had dedicated his life to the guardianship of the Kaaba and enhancing its reverence.
The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque mourned the death of Sheikh Dr. Saleh bin Zain Al-Abidin Al-Shaibi.
It said in a statement: “With hearts content with God’s decree, the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque and all its employees extend their deepest condolences to the family of the deceased, Sheikh Dr. Saleh bin Zain Al-Abidin Al-Shaibi, the senior caretaker of the Holy Kaaba.”
Khaled Al-Husseini, a writer and expert on Makkah’s affairs, expressed his deep sorrow over the death.
Al-Husseini described Al-Shaibi as a man of knowledge and learning, who, alongside his honored role in the guardianship of the Kaaba, was a scholar, academic, and lecturer at Umm Al-Qura University. He had generously shared his knowledge with successive generations which had benefited from his expertise over 20 years.