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Dragon boating originated in China around 2,500 years ago. Today the sport is making a unique comeback for breast cancer survivors as a way to stay active and connect with others.
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.
One of the first breast cancer survivor dragon boat teams was formed in 1996 at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Researchers studied the survivors during and after three months of participation and found that contrary to the prevailing medical thinking at that time, strenuous exercise actually provided positive benefits in that none of the women had developed lymphedema.
Today, many survivors participate in the sport. It is estimated there are about 150 breast cancer teams around the world. In Minnesota and Arizona, local teams include breast cancer survivors from the community as well as corporate paddlers from Mayo Clinic who were inspired to get involved in the sport. Throughout the year, teams get together to compete in local and national races. It is a winning concept that includes exercise and the spirit of support and friendship, as well as increased public awareness of breast cancer.
If you would like to get involved with a dragon boat team in your area, check out the U.S. Dragon Boat Federation website (www.usdbf.com) or the International Breast Cancer Paddlers' Commission website (www.ibcpc.com). For more information on the Mayo Clinic dragon boat teams, send an e-mail to Toni Kay Mangskau at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would love to hear from readers who have been involved in the dragon boat experience. Please add to this discussion!
Follow me on Twitter at @SherylNess1. Join the discussion at #livingwithcancer.
Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.
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My name is Melissa Adams. I am the current coach for the Abreast in the West Dragon Boat Team here in Arizona. If anyone is interested in trying out and learning more about this awesome sport, please get in touch with me at Melissa@TeamTrue2You.com
I would like to get involved in rowing with breast cancer survivors, I am a breast cancer survivor and want to get involved and don't know how?
Breast Cancer Survivors (BCS) from Portland, Oregon and SW Washington are invited to learn more about Pink Phoenix Dragon Boat Team. We've been on the water since 1997! Our season starts in February or March (weather and river conditions permitting) after a kick off meeting in January. New members welcome - no experience necessary! Coaching and mentoring provided. Practice 2-3 times a week and six to ten races per year.
We're more than a sports team as we have a mission! We aim to enhance breast cancer awareness and to demonstrate that there is quality of life after breast cancer. The team balances their competitive spirit with core values which welcome all breast cancer survivors with respect and regard to life balance. Each spring the Pinks celebrate the lives of our Pink Angels with a flower ceremony. We follow this by hosting an exhibition race which includes non-paddling survivors during Portland's Rose Festival and features Taiwan-style boats. Portland's Row for the Cure, a unique 2000 meter event around some of the city's bridges, typically ends the race season.
An update on Motor City Dragons Team, started Nov. 2012 in the Detroit Metro Area in Michigan. Founding the team has been a great inspiration, and wonderful journey! We've learned to paddle with the help of 4 teams in the Detroit area:
1. The WonderBroads of Windsor (Ont. Canada)
2. Breast Buddies (Wallaceburg, Ont. Canada)
3. Anahata Dragons (Lancing, Michigan)
4. A Breast or Knot (Windsor Ont. Canada)
The 4 teams have taught us to paddle & steer and participate in 3 Dragon Boat Festivals in:
A. Lake Orion, Michigan
B. Toronto, Canada
C. Cleveland, Ohio
Combining teams to fill 2 boats (BCS & Supporter) at each of the races we've brought home a medal from each Festival: bronze, silver, gold by our Survivor Team!
It is wondreful to see the interaction between the teams, and the positive energy generated! THANK YOU MAYO for having a link to Dragon Boating for me to get this off the ground. I only found out about Dragon boating via link under Recurrent Breast Cancer - last Sept. 18, 2012.
I am a 7 year survivor, and have been BCS dragon boating for 6 years. It has brought confidence and passion back into my life. The exercise alone would be enough to keep me coming back. But leading these women has brought me to the most powerful time of my life. The comradery and sisterhood has made the pain of BC worth it.
I am the co-chair for the 2014 IBCPC Participatory Dragon Boat Festival, Sarasota, Florida, USA. We will be hosting an expected 100 teams representing 12 countries, Canada, USA, Australia, France, Italy, Scotland,Ireland,south Africa, New Zealand, Israel , Great Britain. Sarasota will be the place to be October 24-26,2014. Our website will go live some time in February 2013 www.sarasotabcs2014festival.org. This is the 4th time the festival has gone on, and the first time it will be in USA. Hope to see all you new and all teams there. For more information - Info@teamsosmiami.com
I'm 39 y/o and a 4+ year BC survivor and a member of Save Our Sisters DBT in South Florida. We are lucky in that the fabulous weather allows us to practice year round. I echo the sentiments made before me...unique women sharing a commonality...all in the same boat. We are survivors!
SOS is cohosting the 2014 IBCPC Dragon Boat Festival with the Tampa Pink Dragon Ladies DBT. All those interested, please come. There will be representation from a number of countries and this is an event held only once every four years! Location of the festival is Sarasota, Florida in October 2014. Details forthcoming on the IBCPC website or for more info send us an email through the SOS website at www.teamsosmiami.com! The more, the merrier...We're All In It Together!
Hi, Csilla. Congratulations on forming a new team. This is a wonderful sport to meet others and have some fun. Best wishes and Paddles Up! Toni Kay Mangskau
Detroit Dragon Boat Team - is off to a GREAT start! Plan is to have both: BCS Team & Team of Supporters! Call-out was in Nov, and now I'm having a working meeting scheduled for 12/7/12!
THANK YOU for posting this note on Dragon Boats!!
Tomorrow we name our team! The boat will be named after my friend Patty for whom I'd hoped Dragon Boating would help with recovery!
If anybody has an interest in joining a BCS team in the Detroit area, please contact me at email@example.com! Thank you!
After a few days of reading & looking at the Dragon Boat Racing sites & info, I've decided I'd like to start on in Plymouth/Detroit, Michigan!
Two wonderful friends of mine were diagnosed Sept, 2011 and I can't think of a better way to heal: team spirit, friends, outdoors, water, exercise!
Please share any words of wisdom with me! I love the water, and have been going on canoe & kayak camping trips for years. This should be more exciting - as it is a TEAM - which I miss so much after playing soccer in the Ford Club!
In July 2010, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy since there were 2 tumours in my left breast... they also took 8 lymph nodes; luckily all were clear and I did not require chemo or radiation. It was a huge shock to my system &to my self-esteem; however, the love and support of my husband, my family and my friends, as well as my deep faith, helped me to deal with the changes to my body and to my feelings. I was fortunate that a neighbour knew first hand what I was dealing with. Before I knew it, I was off to a local support group, sponsored by the Cobourg's Survivor Thrivers Dragon Boat team. The women I met shared first hand experiences. I received acceptance and true understanding. So in the spring of 2011, I joined the Dragon Boat team. My life has never been the same. The friendship, support, fun and great exercise we experience together has been life altering. In fact, I have just returned from our third festival of the summer. We were in Barrie Ontario for a fabulous event. 8 Breast Cancer teams were there. To experience first hand the pink carnation ceremony remembering those who have left us is so very moving. Even though we didn't medal, we always finished first in our lane. Our coach works us hard and we benefit from the strength building and determination that it takes to reach the finish line. I truly know that there is life after breast cancer. I hope that if you are able, you too will find your way into a dragon boat. PADDLES UP!
Dragon boating is popular in AustraliaI had a friend who was very involved as a breast cancer patient.She loved the sport and won many medals. Sadly she lost her battle a few years back but she was an inspiration to many people.
We need to get this up and going in N.California (Chico) many would benefit and
participate. Lets connect all of you breast cancer survivors!
Abreast in the West has been 3 years in the making. We made our debut at the 7th Annual Dragon Boat festival in 2007 with only a handful of AZ paddlers joined with our guests from Canada, Alaska, and Oregon. (need 18-20 to race a boat). This year we finally had enough paddlers to merit a once-a-week practice time slot! We've trained and certified our very own steer lady. We are actively looking for sponsors, and continuously recruiting more paddlers. Most exciting however,the crown jewel of our acheivement this year is attending our first out-of-town race The Long Beach International Dragon Boat Festival in CA and as mentioned below-winning a gold medal!!
Dragon boating is an extremely affordable sport. The oneness with the team, the boat and the water is elating. The support and cammaraderie are unparalleled.
We have been having an incredible time building strength and comraderie on the water at Tempe Town Lake with our dragon boat team, "ABREAST IN THE WEST". Some of us come as far as 50 miles, once a week to participate. We are passionate about it because it helped up gain our strength from the ravages of cancer and the treatment. All of us started with little upper body strength, but our coach worked with us to become GOLD MEDAL winners at the international race that was recently held in Long Beach in July 2012.
Joining a survivor dragon boat team turned out to be the most positive, joyful thing I could do for myself in the 'new normal' after breast cancer. Dragon boating makes you focus on the now- no worrying about next week when you are trying to make sure your paddle hits the water at the same time as 21 other women. And it was such a relief to find a sisterhood who are equally comfortable sharing 'boob' jokes or comparing treatment experiences. No experience needed, you don't need to be super athletic- we range from 40-72 years old on my team.
what a cool idea!!
we should try it per state!!
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