Breast cancer survivors have joined together in an activity that focuses on support, wellness and competition as way to recover from breast cancer. The diagnosis of breast cancer has brought survivors from around the world together in the unique paddling sport of dragon boating.
Paddling in colorful dragon boats offers an active, health-giving, life-affirming option for breast cancer survivors. Dragon boat racing is a relatively new but rapidly growing international activity. A dragon boat is a long, colorful wooden or fiberglass boat adorned with a dragon head at the front and tail at the back — with room for about 20 paddlers and a drummer. Teams of cancer survivors and their supporters paddle in harmony to the beat of a drum. The sport of dragon boating provides the benefit of vigorous exercise and may help prevent or relieve the symptoms of lymphedema — a common side effect from the effects of breast surgery or radiation.
I recently had the opportunity to coach a group of breast cancer survivors from the Dragonheart Vermont club that plans to send a crew to the U.S. National Championship in September. These contestants will compete to win a chance to represent the U.S. at the 2014 Club Crew World Championships in Ravenna, Italy. The championship has a division for breast cancer survivors and it’s estimated that there are about hundreds of dragon boat breast cancer teams around the world.
Cancer research and treatment has made dramatic strides in the last 10 years. Thousands of activities publicize the ability for survivors to recover from this previously debilitating disease and live normal, active lives. However more research is needed, which is why we all need to support additional research to develop new detection methods and treatments for all forms of cancer.
Please visit the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission if you would like to get involved with a local team. The rewards are many!
We would like to hear comments from readers who have participated in these types of events. When did you first hear about dragon boat races and what benefits have you received from being on a dragon boat team?