A Challenge – Fighting Breast Cancer by Dragon Boat Racing

I still remember the long walk I went on with my husband along the riverfront downtown with my husband, after meeting with my surgeon regarding my recent diagnoses of breast cancer.  I was pretty upset as Chuck and I talked about what I should do and how to get through it all.  When we reached the Riverside Marina where all the dragon boats are moored I told him that “at least I can join that breast cancer survivor team now”.  His response was, “Really? You have been talking about joining a team for years, bet you don’t do it now!”. Now I had a challenge, because if someone says I can’t do something, I will at least try! 

Six months later I was at the Komen Breast Cancer Issues Conference, wandering around the booths, when I ran into a group of PINKS advertising their team.  A fun, friendly team member, told me how great the team was, not only was it great exercise on the water, but how I would develop some great friendships.  So, I signed up for the three “try it out” practices.  A week later a representative of the PINKS called and asked me when I wanted to start-I hesitated, since I had lost my courage and said “next week”.  I stressed for a week, kept thinking of canceling, but I didn’t.   As I drove downtown, I told myself “if I find a place to park” I will seek the team out.  I found a parking spot first thing!  Then I told myself, “if I can find the team” I will do it.  Found the team right off – and suddenly I was on the water, on the boat, in the sunshine and trying to keep up.

I have to admit, I wasn’t sold on the adventure, I was out of shape, uncoordinated and nervous about suddenly making new friends.  I signed up for the year, but then almost quit, for a variety of reasons.  Too busy at work, too tired, frustrated I just couldn’t get the rhythm and reach I needed to paddle correctly.  I soon discovered another friend of mine had signed up for the “Lethally Blind” team consisting of paddlers who are blind and their sited paddler companions.  She had recently lost her sight and found the team through the Oregon Commission for the Blind where she was taking classes.  She would have to take the Tri-Met LIFT Para-transit bus to and from practice with rides of two hours each way.  Her team changed their practice to the same time we were on the water, so I offered to give her a ride home after practice.  As I whined and complained about how sore I was, it’s raining or too cold, she would keep telling me to stick to it-and boy was she right.  Six years later, I can say I am still paddling almost every practice, and try to get on every race I can.  I have made new friends, taken a leadership position on the board for four years, am in better shape, and have traveled the west coast and internationally with the team.  So fun, sometimes super wet, too cold or hot, but lovely Saturday mornings, seeing herons and sometimes an eagle floating around and wonderful sunsets with a full moon rising in the eastern sky.

What does Chuck say about it all now?  If I say we are going to Italy, Victoria, or San Diego to paddler, he is the first to check out the airfare. We now have a wagon to haul all our stuff from the parking lot for local races, and packable light weight chairs that fit in our suitcases when we fly.  So in the winter months when I say, I don’t think I am going to paddle this season his reply “is no way – you need to stick it out, you are always in such a great mood when you come home from practice or a race”.  And so I re-up.

Try us out!