How far would you go for someone you love? A typical response would be that the sky is the limit. For a certain group of women, however, reaching the sky is merely one of the ways of expressing their love. Last May, a fellowship of ten Saudi women climbed to the cotton cloud surrounded Mount Everest Base Camp in an attempt to raise awareness about a topic that rose from their hearts. The women wound up swirling mountains and frail suspension bridges, befriended shy-faced yet mirthful children, stepped aside for large yaks that owned the steep and narrow roads, and kept going even when the winds were too brutal and climbing up felt like an endless effort. To them, the difficulties they had to face were but validations of their support for a family or friend who had to bear with bleaker journeys in their fight with breast cancer.

The courageous campaign was titled “A Woman’s Journey: Destination Mount Everest.” An audience that was first introduced to the title usually wondered what the link between the destination and the disease was. The confusion in the campaign’s case was deliberate, because confusion led to curiosity and curiosity helped raise more awareness as to how having a healthier lifestyle might help fight off cancer. Yet, the campaign had an unsubtle philosophy underlying its chosen title. “The journey a woman undertakes in terms of diagnoses and treatment is as difficult and daunting as a trip up a mountain, which was why we chose Everest to represent that journey. Our group had the opportunity to prepare ourselves emotionally and physically, which is a luxury a breast cancer patient doesn’t have.” The woman behind the clarifying statement and mission was HRH Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud, who, on a side note, helped break the Guinness World Record by forming a female pink ribbon chain back in 2010. This year, Reema yearned for a different way of supporting the cause, which was when she joined forces with Hatun Madani, Alya Sa’ad, Mona Shahab, Noura Bouzo, Lina Al Meena, Samaher Mously, Asma Al-Ghalib, Mashael AlHegelan, Raha Moharrak and Hasna’a Mokhtar. The women underwent months of intense physical training in preparation for their trip and had to mentally prepare for the extreme weather conditions and stripped down luxuries for the sake of supporting breast cancer strugglers. Of course, a worthy cause wasn’t going to go unnoticed, which was why the group was supported by the Saudi Ministries of Health and Education, a vast selection of sponsors, and was the reason behind our interest in knowing more about the campaign and an individual who represents these ten females.

Your group members are all females and your campaign raises awareness of women’s breast cancer. Men get breast cancer as well, so why not raise awareness to that?

We chose a group of ladies to serve as a continuation of the Woman’s Stand campaign that broke the Guinness World record in 2010.  While that was a call to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with breast cancer patients and survivors, this campaign is a call to mobilize ourselves.  Movement and fitness are vital to a strong body and that message is universal.

Your mission will not go unwatched since a film crew is accompanied you to shoot a documentary. What is the necessity behind that and where will your documentary be available?

We thought of documenting our trip to allow others to see the hardships that the climbers went through as a mirror to the reality of our lives back home. Furthermore, we wanted to show that if you believe in your cause you can overcome pain and exhaustion. This is not a vanity trip; it is not comfortable and it is also not anything any of us ever thought we would do.  We all went on behalf of someone who suffered and we did this to honor them. 

What is the one thing you were looking forward to doing once you were done with this campaign and what do you suppose your next campaign will be?

Seeing my children was the only thing on my mind. As to the next chapter of our journey, well, we stood shoulder to shoulder and we now walked up a mountain. The important thing is that the message that ties our campaign together is the importance of early detection and awareness of breast cancer. With that, I suppose the sky is the limit.

What are three essential items you cannot live without?
Excluding my children and family, my top three things are Twizzlers, iPhone, and my tempur-pedic pillow.

How did you pass your walking time?
I downloaded some books to listen to and some music, but I had a busy few days before this journey started, so I was actually content with just being quiet and really seeing and experiencing every single thing around me. This was my first and last time up Everest so I wanted to absorb it all.

How did you keep your followeres and families updated?
We had a Nepal phone so we were able to stay in touch by phone and to send updates that were uploaded to our Facebook and Twitter pages on the occasions when we had no internet access. There were few internet cafes in the first towns we visited but we were vying for time with every other climber who wanted to update their family and friends.

The world’s highest bakery is located at your destination point. What was your guilty pleasure when you dragged your aching feet behind you?
I am an equal opportunity eater, so I am always afraid to upset all the other treats by selecting just one!

Your campaign has a mascot, which we saw glimpses of in the photos, would you care to elaborate about her?

We were honored to have Tamra our team mascot take the journey with us. She was designed by the geniuses at TCE (The College Experience – and tells the story of a modern Saudi girl who has suffered a loss in her family due to breast cancer.

Is there a campaign-related question that you keep hoping you might be asked?
I wish people would ask what they could do, to which I would answer, “Please walk for 10-15 minutes a day and encourage someone to walk with you.  Please talk about breast cancer and be aware and make someone aware with you.  Early detection is one of the best defenses against this disease, as is physical fitness.”
For more information about Zahra Breast Cancer Association:

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