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Pink Phoenix: Quality of Life After Breast Cancer

Pink Phoenix: Quality of Life After Breast Cancer

Portland Dragon Boat Race 2018
Portland Dragon Boat Race 2018

Pink Phoenix™ is the United States' first dragon boat team comprised solely of breast cancer survivors. Our mission: empowering breast cancer survivors through the sport of dragon boating. Our purpose is to demonstrate the quality of life breast cancer survivors can have; to promote wellness, fitness, fun and camaraderie through dragon boating; and to provide social, emotional and spiritual support for breast cancer survivors. Pink Phoenix™ strives to provide hope to those newly diagnosed and to serve as a reminder to women to have mammograms regularly and to do self-exams. Early detection is important and recent research indicates that exercise can also keep cancer from recurring.

The Pink Phoenix Story

If you have seen the Pink Phoenix™ Dragon Boat Team during the Portland Rose Festival Dragon Boat Race or at other races, you probably couldn't help but notice us; few other teams wear pink life jackets. The team is made up entirely of breast cancer survivors.

Our name is inspired by the pink ribbons worn by breast cancer survivors and from the mythical bird that consumes itself in fire and rises from its own ashes-a triumphant symbol of rebirth and renewal of human spirit, not unlike the renewed commitment to life after surviving cancer or any life threatening disease.

Pink Phoenix is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization with a volunteer board and no paid employees. Pink Phoenix is a member of DragonSports USA, the Pacific Dragon Boat Association and the International Breast Cancer Paddlers' Commission

The team was not founded by a breast cancer survivor, but by an avid dragon boat paddler, Dorothy Atwood, who was inspired by a team of blind paddlers. In November 1996, with help from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Dorothy sent letters to all survivors who registered for that year's Race for the Cure®. Picking the 1997 team was easy - the first 29 to pay dues became the founding members.

None of the women had ever paddled before. They ranged in age from 29 to mid 60s and they were in different stages of physical fitness. For some it was the first form of exercise that sounded interesting enough to try. Some saw paddling as an exercise that would prove that they still had control over their bodies and that they could conquer this disease. Some were just finishing treatment so their physical strength was compromised. If that wasn't enough, various types of surgeries left some members with limited upper body movement. This didn't stop Dorothy. Her desire to share the sport she loved so much had her out several times a week from February through the end of summer teaching and training this new team.

The team has grown from those first 29 members to more than ninety! Pink Phoenix™ has raced in Rose Festival every year since our first appearance in 1997. In 1998, the Gorman Cup Race was added to the Rose Festival races. The race is named in memory of Pink Phoenix™ founding captain Michele Gorman, who died that spring. The Gorman Cup attracts other breast cancer survivor teams to Portland and is an exhibition race. Every year, Pink Phoenix™ invites non-paddling survivors to join us on the boat as we race across the Willamette River.

Since Pink Phoenix™ was formed, the team has raced in venues around the world. We continue to compete with our sisters around the world while sharing our enthusiasm for life and for our new found sport.