The Warrior Experience
Competitive dragonboat racing is extremely challenging. My endurance has vastly improved through dry-land training (weights) and race practice. Women who have undergone chemotherapy before menopause (10 years in my case) are especially at risk for osteoporosis, and weight-bearing exercise is helpful in preventing the loss of bone mass. Exertion is also very useful in relieving stress.
Being part of our team gives one a tremendous sense of solidarity and moral support. We truly are “all in one boat”!
I am not particularly hopeful that dragonboat racing will help prevent recurrence of breast cancer. However, it seems evident that strenuous upper-body exercise, when properly trained for, has no adverse effects regarding lymphodema, and can be successfully undertaken by women who have undergone a radical mastectomy.
It is a great feeling to know that we can participate in, and even excel, in such a demanding sport, Dragonboat racing gives a boost to the self-confidence and self-esteem of women living with breast cancer.
I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in April 1993 and underwent a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy.
- In 1999 my life changed for the better. Four hardworking and dedicated volunteers started a dragonboat racing team for Breast Cancer Survivors in North Bay. Our first season on the water was the year 2000, when we had a chance to participate in dragonboat festivals in Toronto, Stratford and Ottawa. In the year 2000 there were 22 teams across Canada and in the year 2007 there are 53. In Ontario alone there are 18 teams.
- In August 2002 I took part in “Paddle to a Cure,” a week-long kayaking trip on Georgian Bay to raise funds and awareness for Breast Cancer.
- In March 2003 I joined a National Team called Canadians Abreast and with this team which included breast cancer survivors from across Canada, we competed in the Inaugural South Pacific Breast Cancer Regatta in New Zealand.
- In September 2003 I participated in Outward Bound, “Quest for Life”. Outward Bound is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Physical challenge is one of the many tools used to help explore your personal potential. The only prerequisite was to be a cancer survivor. It was a true test of our spirit. A week in the mountains north of Calgary, camping on the ground, climb a mountain peak, a solo for one night with only your sleeping bag and a tarp, and rappelling down a mountain. I finished the week exhausted, unwashed and exhilarated, truly a “ Quest for Life”.
- In April 2004 I traveled with 43 breast cancer survivors to Capetown, South Africa to bring our message of hope and awareness to women there. (They have since started their own dragonboat team)
- In July 2005 I traveled to Berlin Germany to paddle on the Spree River, with a 2 week trip after our paddling to visit the beautiful countries of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
- In 2006 I traveled to Singapore and paddled in the harbour there against teams from England, Italy, USA, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada ( 5 teams) and of course Singapore.
Remembering back to the day I heard the words, “you have breast cancer,” I realize they changed my life.
I have seen and experienced so much, meeting wonderful people from around the world, and have learned to “seize the day”, experiencing life to the fullest. Because of four hardworking individuals and a generous donation from Scotiabank, participating in dragonboating and showing the world there is life after breast cancer has become my life. Thank you Scotiabank!!
On the Abreast in a Boat (Vancouver B.C.) website there is the title “Why We Paddle” –
Through the strenuous demands of dragonboat paddling, we have learned that we can push the limits of our physical endurance and have fun doing it. We have grown stronger as individuals and as a group. We began as strangers with only our disease in common; now we are best friends and an emotional support network for each other, our friends, and our communities. Our dream is to continue to encourage all those living with breast cancer all over the world to live full and active lives.
Our dragon boat experience is helping our healing:
It helps us regain control of our lives
It shows our family and friends that we can live our lives the way we choose
It reminds us to make the most of every moment.
It creates a new state of wellness in each of us.
It demands the best of us both physically and mentally.
It helps us to overcome the loneliness of cancer.
It creates a safety net in the event of a recurrence.
It gives us pride in our accomplishments.
It shows us we can undertake strenuous exercise without developing lymphedema.
It enables us to move on with our lives.
It creates a new balance in our lives.
It encourages us to share our experience with others.