The Cancer Club in Dubai

Expat mum Clare Stokes was just 39 when she was told her cancer had returned

Expat mum Clare Stokes was just 39 when she was told her cancer had returned. She had two young kids, and inadequate health cover. Her dear friends, Julie Adams and Hayley Mac, set up The Cancer Club to help people like Clare and her family.

There is a old saying that goes, ‘Something good always comes out of something bad’.

Something bad did happen in the autumn of 2014. The wife of a well-known chef in Dubai was told that her breast cancer had not only returned, but had spread to her bones and her liver. The shock of then discovering that the family had wholly inadequate healthcare insurance cover, only added to the desperation of the situation. At just 39 years of age, with two young children aged three and six, there was no choice but to find an alternative solution to fund ongoing cancer treatment. This mother was determined to stick around for her family for as long as she could.

Claire Stokes had been initially diagnosed with stage three breast cancer when her baby son Ethan was just three weeks old. There was no lump. In fact, no typical symptoms of breast cancer at all, just a sense of heaviness and that something ‘didn’t feel right’. After enduring three rounds of excruciating chemotherapy and a partial mastectomy, Claire desperately tried to get back to good health, adopting a diet of mainly vegetable, raw, organic, no sugar and no processed food in order to give her body the best chance of fighting her disease. Claire’s belief of optimum nutrition for optimum health was encouraged and supported by fellow chef and good friend, Hayley Mac.

Hayley is the founder and owner of BeSuperNatural and BeStro, a health conscious organic café and super-food retail outlet on the third floor of Galleries Lafayette, Dubai Mall.

Desperate to help Claire and her family get through the crisis of the cancer spreading, Claire’s husband, close friends and the big-hearted chef community all came together to help. Nourish was created to support the family, but to raise awareness of breast cancer and to sample healthy dishes made by Dubai’s top chefs. In October, Nourish held the first Chefs’ United Ball at Fairmont The Palm.

Julie Adams, co-founder of Nourish and Anglo Arabian Healthcare says, ‘Raising awareness for breast cancer is something that Dubai and the UAE does particularly well. However, for women and families living with the effects a positive diagnosis has, there needs to be so much more emotional and practical support. Nourish is not just about raising awareness for breast cancer and educating about optimal nutrition based on Claire’s philosophy, but it’s also about providing emotional support for those affected by this vile disease.’

Throughout her battle with cancer, Claire really felt she wanted to share her feelings, fears, personal experience and also her hopes with other women with families going through the same horror as her. Having attended a couple of breast cancer gatherings, Claire really felt even more isolated – she was fighting this horrific disease and felt very much alone as the majority of women attending the groups were survivors.

Hayley says, ‘One of the things that Claire and I used to talk about was setting up The Cancer Club – for women who were fighting cancer or affected by it. Therefore, in the spring of 2015, I decided to launch The Cancer Club in honour of my friend Claire who was totally inspirational throughout her ordeal. At BeStro, we now regularly hold very informal get-togethers and it’s really where women can come along, make friends, let off steam, share knowledge. Also, if they have any questions about nutrition, as a raw, vegan chef, I’m on hand to answer them. So far, it’s been very well received and I’ve had a lot of compliments from the women that have come along to say how much it’s helped them to make friends who are going through the same ordeal.

‘The Cancer Club is not a charity, it is a group where people who are currently living with cancer can meet and share. It’s open to everyone and anyone who is living with or is being affected by cancer. Claire would have absolutely loved it.’

Although the Nourish Chefs United Ball was a terrific success, it was not enough to save Claire. On the January 18, just a few days before her 40th birthday, Claire tragically passed away, surrounded by her children and the family that love her.

The Cancer Club has now joined hands with Nourish and meets whenever the demand is there. The next Nourish event is being planned for later in 2015, and will help lift the burden on families living with cancer.

Julie says, ‘Having lost three friends to cancer in the last five months, all of whom were under the age of 50. I have seen and experienced first hand the devastation it causes families. I’ve looked into my friend’s eyes and have seen her absolute dread at the prospect of becoming a widow before the age of 40, bringing up two young children alone, having to relocate back to the UK without the man she loved and adored. When I explained the concept of the Cancer Club to her, she was sure that it would bring women together and help them see that they don’t have to face cancer alone.’

Both Hayley and Julie are determined that out of all the bad, something good has to come.
For more information on The Cancer Club, please visit or email or

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