Submitted by Sandy Cooper
On Saturday, June 13, the local Spirit Warriors dragon boat team celebrated their 20th anniversary of the introduction to dragon boating as a rehab program for breast cancer survivors.
Members of the club held an emotional Carnation Ceremony at Pioneer Park. Family and friends participated from the shore.
In 1996, Dr. Don McKenzie of Vancouver initiated a study to see if vigorous upper body exercise affected lymphedema, a painful and debilitating swelling condition that can be a complication from breast cancer surgery. Being a dragon boater himself, he brought 22 women, post-breast cancer treatment, together as a dragon boat team. They trained in the gym and in the boat, and were monitored for any physical complications. They competed in the 1996 Alcan festival held in False Creek, Vancouver B.C.
The results of this study and many subsequent studies showed that paddling does not increase the risk of lymphedema. However, there was an additional and unexpected outcome to this study. The original 22 women refused to stop paddling and set about organizing their own team called Abreast in a Boat.
Since then, the phenomenon has spread worldwide, throughout North America, Australia, Asia and Europe.
Research has concluded that a physically active lifestyle decreases the risk of breast cancer. Also, the joy, camaraderie and renewed energy women find in this sport of dragon boating all help in the recovery and rehabilitation process.
The Carnation Ceremony honours those women who have lost or are fighting their own battles with breast cancer. They are the “angels” in the boat with us.