Professor cycles for cancer charity

28th Dec 2018
Professor cycles for cancer charity

Sophie Gilliat-Ray

Cancer is often a taboo subject in Muslim communities in Britain. There seems to be a sense of shame about it, despite the fact that more than one in three of the UK population will die from it.

My experience of being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer in 2016 made me realise that awareness and publicity about screening – which can be a life-saver – doesn’t seem to be reaching Muslim communities effectively.

Through my journey, I met Muslim men and women, young and old, and from all ethnic backgrounds, who were suffering from a range of cancers – testicular, breast, ovarian. Many of them found it difficult to mention their illness (sometimes even within their own close families).

It’s surely time to end this taboo. Mosques and Islamic centres need to become places of health awareness; there are enough British Muslim doctors and NHS Muslim chaplains in this country!

Brothers and sisters need to get the message to take up free NHS screening opportunities, and ‘check themselves’ regularly.

In order to raise funds for the charity ‘Women V Cancer’, I went on an all-women charitable bike-ride to India in November.

With 93 other women, I cycled from Agra to Jaipur, on a route of over 450km. Fortunately, much of Rajasthan is flat! But, much of the route was tough and off-road, through tiny villages, sand-dunes, and long bumpy farm tracks.

Navigating our way through small towns meant contending with wandering cows, erratic Tuk-Tuk drivers, lorries (with their blaring horns), and the odd stray dog.

The effort, inconvenience, sacrifices, and compromises were worth it. My group of women collectively raised over £350,000 for ‘Women V Cancer’.

This money will fund health awareness campaigns, and support patients and their families going through treatment. It will also fund on-going support to those whose lives have forever been changed, hearing the words, ‘You have cancer”.

I have been inspired to continue my cycling challenges for charity, and have signed up to cycle from Milan to Venice in May 2020.

You can sponsor me via:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sophie-gilliat-ray1

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