CAIRO: On Saturday’s smoggy and hot morning thousands raced in support of the cure at the historic Pyramids of Giza.
Despite the early hour, participants from all over Cairo – men and women, adults and children, Egyptians and foreigners – gathered to raise awareness about breast cancer.
Organizers estimate that between 7,000 and 10,000 people showed up for the run. Under the gaze of curious tourists, people in white and pink t-shirts ran or walked from the hill above the Pyramids down to the platform between Cheops and Chefren.
For some participants it was the first opportunity to learn more about the gravity of the disease. “It was the first time I hear more about breast cancer. I know that early detection is important, said 22-year old Mostafa.
He along with his two friends Ahmed, 22, and Mohamed, 24, saw the race as a social event for young people. “I came to see the Pyramids, said Ahmed “and to meet new people and help the organization, added Mohamed.
For others, this was an important initiative. “My mother died from breast cancer nine years ago, shared Israa, an English teacher at a private school. She was accompanying 16-year old Sumaya, a student at the school, who despite hurting her leg was committed to crossing the finish line.
“Not enough is done to fight breast cancer in Egypt. We need more awareness in schools, universities, television, added Israa.
On the whole, the event went smoothly, but on that day, the popularity of the Pyramids was seen as a drawback for some participants. “I can’t believe no one stopped the buses of tourists. There was no space on the road for us, and people just ran through the desert, said a dissatisfied Karen, a 22-year-old German student from Ain Shams University.
The event was a joint undertaking of the Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and it was under the auspices of First Lady Suzanne Mubarak and her organization, Suzanne Mubarak Women’s International Peace Movement.
It was also supported by the Ministry of Health, USAID, John Hopkins University, and the Institute of International Education.
“It was a success! Our target was 3,000 people, and many more showed up, said Joanne McEwan, education and patient services director of BCFE.
More than 200 people volunteered their time to help organize the race. The team of volunteers included a few breast cancer survivors. “I had breast cancer seven years ago, and I survived, Ghada, 39, introduced herself. “I’m a daughter of pharaohs. This is a sign of how strong we are, she said, pointing at the Pyramids.
The race for cure was part of a weeklong initiative to raise awareness and open a dialogue in Egyptian society and professional circles about breast cancer.
Egypt is hosting the 15th Annual Multidisciplinary Symposium on Breast Disease, which is conducted for the first time in the Middle East. This week BCFE is also opening the first Breast Cancer Support and Care Center in Egypt. It will be located on 33 Kasr El-Aini St. in downtown Cairo, and will provide subsidized services to breast cancer patients.
There is no recent estimation of the number of women with breast cancer in Egypt. The disease, however, is the most frequent cancer cause of death in women worldwide. The incidence is generally lower in Africa and the Middle East than in Western Europe and North America, but experts say it is on the rise.