A beautiful warm sunny afternoon in Sarasota, Florida and 2500 survivors are now all wearing the same flamingo pink tee shirts for the opening ceremonies. Try finding your crew mates when everyone is dressed the same!! The dragon boat I am standing beside is about to be filled with ice to chill the cocktails….now that’s a novel use for a dragon boat at your next crew party!
No sooner are we all seated for the opening ceremonies and everyone starts jumping up and down, standing on chair seats and waving shirts and flags as 2 mini drones fly overhead filming us all….wow have we gone high tech…I think I’ll put one on my shopping list as they can’t be any more complicated to use than my iPhone, or can they? lol…
Pink Fireworks Sarasota
Dr Susan Love gave a very captivating key note address on her plans to have an “army of women” – like us…help to eradicate breast cancer. Please visit her web site and signup for the surveys at www.armyofwomen.org
And the evening ended at sunset with some amazing fireworks….Tomorrow racing begins….stay tuned!
Saturday, Oct 25th
After our 3rd place finish in our second race of the day we are celebrating in the beer garden! The team is pumped! Pink fire trucks, lots of great shopping and a full buffet lunch round out a perfect day. Dr. Don arrived today and we all got hugs, and yes… he stills knows many of our names! So nice to visit again with so many paddling sisters from previous trips to Singapore, Australia, Peterborough, Israel, London, England, Malaysia and Dublin.
Prior to the Parade of Nations we have my spouse guy to be our goalie in the Hyatt lobby and we practice our hockey moves and singing….you all know it….”it’s the good old hockey game, the best game in the land”. We are bused out to the Lakewood Ranch area where we stand around for well over an hour before the parade starts in this new residential area with a small town square. We are the Canadian Women’s Olympic Hockey team, wearing red and white shirts, carrying hockey sticks, waving white towels and flags. The parade is a very short 20 minute route with family and supporters lining the way. After the parade is was total mayhem to find somewhere in the village to have some dinner, watch some of the street bands and then back on a bus to the Hyatt.
The best hotel story that we dare put in print so far….goes to Eleanor. While showering in her 3rd floor room in the lovely Hyatt hotel she encountered a new friend in the shower….a little frog somehow found its way up to their room! I’ll bet it hitched a ride in one of Lenki’s many shopping bags! lol…Off to bed for me….bus leaves for the race site at 7am sharp!!
Sunday, Oct 26th
Abreast In A Boat – Sarasota Team
On site at Nathan Benderson Park just as the sun comes up. The weekend has gone by way too fast. Our composite crew is in the “C” division semifinals and we have 2 races today. Karen and Lenki will be representing our AIAB crew in the Sandy Smith Global Race later in the afternoon. Meanwhile it’s tent city madness…everyone running around to find the perfect team shirt that they want to swap for, some last minute shopping and picture taking. Our Capt- Cathy Marr along with the crew pays a visit to the 2 host teams to present some thank you gifts from all of us. Kim Bonomo and Save Our Sisters from Miami and Paula Jennings and Pink Dragon Ladies from Tampa have put on the best participatory regatta to date and were most appreciative of our gifts.
The final A division races are completed and Knot Abreast from Lake Ontario is the winner! Way to go Canada! These 8 boats are now sitting at the end of the race course ready to join the 10 mixed crews taking part in the Sandy Smith Global Race. Our first AIAB president Brenda H. is giving the commentary on the history of the SSGR while all the teams and supporters line the white sandy beach to watch and listen. Who knew at the time that the mini drones would capture this precious moment with a beautiful photo taken overhead capturing the 18 dragon boats and onlookers on the shore line and it’s gone viral around the world in minutes!
Off to the closing ceremonies and the afternoon sun is beating down on us. Our founder, Dr. Don is the guest speaker for the closing ceremonies and congratulates us all on being survivors, warriors and athletes that have really made a difference in how those diagnosed with breast cancer can go on to lead active healthy lives. Dr. Don reminds us again to look to other parts of the world to spread our message.
It’s a wrap…we are all tired out and heading back to the Hyatt for a quick swim before our final wrap party at Florida’s oldest restaurant, the Columbia on Lido Key. Tonight is our last night together as a team as many are flying home in the morning and others are off on new adventures along the beautiful Gulf Coast of Florida. It’s been a truly amazing few days with a beautiful group of “sisters” from our crew and those from around the world that continue to live life to the fullest.
PS- Rumor mill has it that the 5th participatory regatta will be in Ravenna, Italy in 2017 or 2018……any bets???
It’s been a long 2014 season and a summer filled with practices. Our crew, Abreast In A Boat – FORT-itude packs up our paddles and on Aug. 28 we board the plane to Venice, Italy. After a 5 hour bus ride we are in Ravenna, where the CCWC dragon boat races are to be held. Our hotel is on the outskirts of the beautiful old town of Ravenna, about 30 minute walk. Perfect for staying in shape and getting some exercise!
After two days of exploring the town, we are ready to be on the water.
Day 1 – It’s the morning of our first practice, and we wake up to howling winds and pouring rain. We did not anticipate this type of weather! We arrive at the race site and are greeted by many teams who are leaving. We are told all practices have been cancelled. The water is too rough, two boats have already been swamped and at least one steers has gone overboard. What a huge disappointment!
Day 2 – The wind is still blowing, but the rain has stopped. We are able to get on the water for a one hour practice; we practice our “starts” and our “turns” as we have our 2000 metre race the next day. What a rush! The first stroke away from the dock and we are in whitecaps with water splashing into our faces and bodies.
FORTitude’s Own CCWC “Opening Ceremonies”
Tonight is the opening ceremonies, but we are in for another disappointment. The bus system organized by the Italian Dragon Boat Federation is simply not ready for the number of teams in attendance, and has not calculated the number of buses needed to get us back and forth to the race site where the opening ceremonies are to be held. After two hours of waiting in the parking lot of our hotel, we realize we are not going to be attending the ceremonies. We make the best of something we cannot control and have our own parade in the parking lot. Our supporter’s take a video and photos with our Canadian flag and AIAB banner.
CCWC Bronze medal winners in the 2000 meter!
Day 3 – It’s race time! We are so ready! Nervous, but ready! The weather still looks bad, the wind is still blowing, and we are told we can only have 16 paddlers in the boat. After making some difficult decisions, we ask 6 paddlers to sit out. We’re in the marshalling area and ready to load when we’re told that we can have 18 paddlers in the boat. Joy! We love the 2000 metre race. The teams are sent out every 15 seconds, and we are the last team to start. We know what we need to do. Stay aggressive as though we are paddling 4 – 500 metre races. Stick with our strategy. We need to paddle past some of the other teams in front of us. WE DO IT! It’s not until we get to the dock and unload that we learn we have come in 3rd place, and have won Bronze. Gail Bonner, our manager is on shore, jumping up and down with 3 fingers in the air! Canada wins 1st and 3rd, with Australia coming in 2nd.
Day 4 – We have the 200 metre sprints today, with the preliminary races to start. The top 6 teams move onto the Grand Final. We’re in! The races are so close, the Rowbust team from London, Ontario is amazing and so strong; it’s hard to believe they once travelled the same road of breast cancer surgery and treatment as all of us. Rowbust, Dragons Abreast, Australia and Dragonheart, Vermont, U.S.A. seem to be our closest competitors with all of our times being very close. Despite having our best time ever, 58 seconds, Vermont edges us out for 3rd place in the Grand Final.
Abreast In A Boat – FORTitude at Ravenna War Memorial Gravesite
We have a day off between the 200 metre and 500 metre races so ten of our crew visit the Ravenna War Cemetery. One of our unique outreach opportunities presented itself before we left Langley. It happened when a Langley veteran, 92 year old Bill Nicholson, saw an article in the paper about our upcoming trip to Ravenna. He contacted Carol Short & Cheryl Watson to ask if they might place a poppy on the grave of a Langley soldier who was killed in Ravenna during World War 2. Carol & Cheryl met with Bill and his wife, (who was a breast cancer survivor) the week before leaving Langley to learn of his story and to get his poppy. Seeing the cemetery with its rows and rows of crosses is a very emotional experience, but we are happy to fulfil Bill’s wish. We take photos and a video which we will take to Bill.
The next day we are racing the 500 metre event. The waters are a little calmer today, and as we back our boat into the start line, we are nervous; we know the competition is strong. The first race will determine if we get into the Grand Final. Our families and friends are watching, as are two other women’s crews from our Fort Langley Club. The venue is perfect for spectators; they can see the entire race from the stands lining the course. It isn’t our best race, but we make it to the finals. We need to be more focused in the next race. We are ready to put it all on the line and paddle with passion. It is a really close race and we don’t know where we finish. It takes at least 10 minutes to get waved to the dock to unload. Gail is there with a very big grin on her face. It’s a Bronze Medal!
There is such a good feeling of instant friendship amongst the breast cancer teams. By chance, we meet some of the paddlers from the Florence Dragon Ladies team on the street in Ravenna, (one is wearing a CIBC Run For The Cure shirt), and we have found a home for the paddles that we do not want to take back on the plane. We plan to meet the “Ladies” after our final race to give the paddles to them. We learn after arriving home that the team has 11 new paddlers, and our paddles will go to them.
CCWC in Ravenna, all breast cancer crews celebrate!
During the 10 days we are in Ravenna and at the race site, we spread our message. We have been on trains, planes and buses and we hand out our AIAB brochures which we have had translated into 2 dozen different languages. We speak with mixed and women’s teams, with senior and junior teams, all from many countries, including Holland, Israel and Dubai. The 13 breast cancer teams attending the CCWC belong here. We make our presence known on the world stage, and prove beyond a doubt that there is a full life after breast cancer surgery and treatment. We are strong, and healthy and with regular exercise we can reduce our chance of recurrence. It’s been a great 10 days in Ravenna. We’re proud of the difference we made.
Almost twenty years ago the threat of breast cancer related lymphedema was a very serious concern to all breast cancer patients and influenced decisions regarding lifestyle. At that time, the recommendations for physical activity were quite limiting and restricted all forms of vigorous exercise for fear of causing lymphedema. The pathophysiology of this condition was not known and the restrictions did not pass the test of common sense. The first Abreast in A Boat team was formed to defy the myth that exercise would cause lymphedema and we remain indebted to the original 24 women who tested that hypothesis in their first season. The success of that year and the accomplishments of Abreast in A Boat since are legend and in my opinion they have played a significant role in changing the way society thinks of breast cancer and chronic disease.
In 1995 a search of the literature on breast cancer and exercise yielded very few useful recommendations, ones that were supported by good science. Indeed, it was data from the first year team that was published and raised the notion that perhaps some of these patient recommendations were incorrect and should merit more research. As the number of breast cancer dragon boat teams increased, initially in BC and Ontario, the media was attracted to this story as the idea of challenging breast cancer with exercise was noteworthy and unique enough that it received a lot of attention. It was about this time, partially due to this media attention generated by Abreast in A Boat, that the medical profession slowly began to recognize that there was a link between physical activity and health, and that exercise had merit as a form of treatment as well as prevention. This has continued and there are currently “Exercise is Medicine” programs in USA and Canada. Ironically, this program is not new- I have an Exercise is Medicine t-shirt and poster circa 1985- it has just taken this long for traditional medicine to take exercise seriously.
A review of the literature in 2014 reveals an exponential growth in articles on breast cancer and exercise. Many of the myths have been dismissed by publications in the top journals in medicine and cancer. The ‘cancer gym’, which some of you will know very well, continues to do research and now every woman with breast cancer who is cared for at the BCCA is referred to the gym. We consider physical activity ‘standard of care’ and need to make ‘a cancer gym’ available to every patient, not just those in Vancouver.
The gym continues to provide a rich environment to study the interaction between breast cancer and physical activity. It is clear that modest levels of regular exercise can change the course of the disease. That’s right; fewer cases of lymphedema, less morbidity, less mortality and protection from other diseases- all from ~3 hours of physical activity each week. Research needs to address the mechanism responsible for this important observation.
It has been a long ride from the day the original team cautiously slipped into a dragon boat in 1996 and silenced the critics that felt that this was a dangerous course to take. Who could imagine that this would start a movement that now involves thousands of women (and a few men) on four continents? It is changing the way the world views breast cancer; you lead by example and all members of Abreast in a Boat can be proud of the role that they are playing. There is still some distance to paddle in this race against breast cancer so dig deep, don’t slow down- paddling is medicine.
Another perfect day at Harrison. The weather and setting were both spectacular, giving a real holiday feel to the event. And what a successful day it was for Abreast In A Boat crews.
FORTitude Italy Crew 2014
FORTitude set the standard by winning their heat in the qualifying 200 metre sprint, setting themselves up to eventually compete in the Division A Championship…..which they won in very exciting style. Way to go FORTitude!!! It shows how much your dedication has paid off. We know you’ll bring that same spirit to the races in Italy and do us all proud.
Abreast Warriors Composite Crew 2014
Deas Warriors, a composite team with members from Deas, Richmond and Rocky Point, competed in the Division B Consolation. They showed how a varied group of ladies can all work together for a common goal…….a first place finish!!! Well done Warriors.
Jon Artano, a Spanish Journalist paddles with Abreast In A Boat
Bev Dagg, from the Abreast In A Boat FORT-itude crew, met Jon Artano last summer through mutual friends. Jon is from the Basque area of Spain and was planning to visit Canada for an extended period. Bev was extremely keen to meet him because she considers the Basque people to be an indigenous group in Spain. Bev is First Nations – Cree – from Saskatchewan. Jon is also very interested in indigenous people, and when he discovered Bev’s age (72), and that she was a breast cancer survivor, and dragon boat paddler, he became very intrigued about Abreast In A Boat. Jon contacted Bev this season and said he wanted to do a magazine article about us. The rest is history!
Jon was invited to join us at the Women’s Regatta in May, where he got to experience not only the beauty of False Creek, and magnificent sky scape, but also the breast cancer challenge race, and our very moving Flower Ceremony. We connected Jon with Adriana Bartoli, from the Deas Divas who speaks Spanish, and who is actively interested in promoting dragon boating in Latin America. (The Basque area has its own language but we understand it may be translated into French and Spanish as well. Thank you Adriana for offering to translate the article into English for us).
What a better way to give Jon a true feel of what we are all about than to invite him out to a practice to ride along in the coach boat, or to actually climb in a boat to experience paddling. Jon joined both the FORT-itude and Deas Divas crews at one of their practices and became “one of the crew” for an unexpected experience.
Visit to FORT-itude: by Cheryl Watson
Jon Artano, a broadcaster and journalist from the Basque area of Spain came to visit our crew at our Wednesday night practice. Along with a friend, Amanda, an amateur photographer, they joined us on the water. They were in the coach boat, as we were put through our rigorous paces. They had an opportunity to talk with some of the crew members in our warm up and cool down. What an awesome outreach opportunity for us. Just like our song says, “our message of hope is increasing, and we are proud of the difference we make”.
Visit to Deas: by Adriana Bartoli
Deas Divas with Jon Artano
Jon and a friend came onboard with the Deas Divas during a warm sunny evening in May. Jon not only talked and asked questions about our activity, but he warmed up and paddled as well. He was amazed over the amount of effort required to paddle and manoeuvre these magic dragon boats. He asked if the interview could continue on Sunday morning so he could a get a more in-depth perspective about the personal aspects of breast cancer, survivorship and paddling.
Thank you to Bev for the connection, and to all the AIAB members who made this outreach opportunity possible. We look forward to reading the article, and working with Jon in the future to promote dragon boat teams in Latin America.
Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival – June 21 & 22, 2014
Could it get any better than our weekend at Rio Tinto? The sun shone for three glorious days and the temperature was perfect for paddling. Just enough sun and warmth to dry off after fast paced races where paddles slashed through the choppy waters. It is hard to believe that those little water ferries could make such a swell!
Although we didn’t have our traditional Flower Ceremony this year, we did get to experience our sense of “we are all in it together” with the paddle arch. I am sure we all remembered those who have been touched by cancer in our own way, either through hugging our seat mates, or by just taking a minute of silence on the start line to reflect.
Abreast In A Boat at Rio Tinto Alcan 2014
The CIBC Breast Cancer Challenge Race was so much fun. FORT-itude’s fitness regime paid off and they dominated for first place. Rocky Point and Deas played tag throughout the race with Rocky Point winning by a dragon’s nose for second place.
AIAB Crews ~ CIBC Breast Cancer Challenge
One of my favourite experiences at the races, is joining in with FORT-itude in their pre-race warm up. Juanita is so full of energy and she makes it fun and enticing. Who doesn’t like dancing Gangnam style? One by one all the breast cancer teams join in until it is almost like a “flash mob”, once again demonstrating we are all in this together.
Paddle Arch ~ Rio Tinto Alcan
It is pretty empowering to see the mass of pink showing to everyone that we take this sport seriously!
The Information Booth was a huge success, as usual. Thank you to Sheila Blair, Bunny Rosse, and everyone who volunteered to help set up, man, and take down the booth. A big thank you to the RTA organizers who gave us a prime location for the booth and who helped it run without a hitch!
Paddling in the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival was a great place to show thousands of people who we are, and to demonstrate that you can live a full and active life after a breast cancer diagnosis! We all paddled in “OUR RACE AGAINST BREAST CANCER”.
Dr. Charles Best High School students, in Coquitlam held a mini Relay For Life on May 23rd. Their goal was to raise $8,500.00 ~ they actually raised over $10,000.00. They invited Abreast In A Boat to join them in a survivor lap, and to give a survivor speech and talk about dragon boating. Cheryl Linsley and Linda Hopow (from Rocky Point) both gave speeches.
Linda & Cheryl giving a speech ~ Relay for Life
Abreast At Rocky Point ~ Relay for Life 2014
The kids were amazing! They were so in awe of us and our stories, and it was somewhat reassuring for them to know you can live an active life after a cancer diagnosis.
We tried not to scare the heck out of them. They presented us with roses and chocolates, and actually gave us a standing ovation. We were all so happy to have shared in this experience with them.
Relay for Life ~ Abreast With FORT-itude
The Canadian Cancer Society held it’s 10th annual Relay for Life at McLeod Park in Langley on Friday 20 th of June. The relay opens with a one lap walk of the sports field by all cancer survivors wearing the bright yellow shirts given to everyone.
Abreast With FORTitude ~ Relay for Life 2014
Abreast With FORTitude ~ Survivor Lap Relay for Life 2014
Each year our Abreast With FORT-itude crew attends and walks the circuit wearing our bright pink shirts (and the yellow ones around our necks). This year we had a fantastic turnout of 15 paddlers making a great display of support. We really enjoy being there and being welcomed by the more than 60 teams participating and the rousing music, delicious food and dignitaries remarks.
We feel that this a wonderful way to support CCS and demonstrate to all that there is life after cancer…and in our case breast cancer. We want to promote and fulfill our mission for the Abreast In A Boat society.
VANCOUVER GLOBAL BC – They are all survivors, living through a battle against cancer, and last weekend they saved a man’s life.
The FLCC Fort-itude (Fort Langley Canoe Club, part of Abreast In A Boat) dragon boat team was about to begin its usual Saturday practice session in Fort Langley last Saturday, when they heard someone yelling for help.
FORTitude at 2013 Canadian National Dragonboat Championships
Turns out a man had been out for a row earlier in the day and had grown tired. When he went to remove one of his oars before pulling up to the dock he fell in to the water without a lifejacket on.
Jan Choquette was standing on the dock at the time. She is not part of Abreast In A Boat, but she is on a dragon boat team.
“I heard a man saying ‘help, I need help’ and I turned around and saw a man floundering in the water there,” she said.
She yelled at the people nearby for help and to call 9-1-1 and that is when her water-safety training kicked in.
“I pointed,” she said. “I kept my eye on him and I pointed at him, and that’s one thing that we’re told all the time and drilled every time we go out in the boat.”
Choquette said a man on the dock at the time also jumped into the water to swim towards the drowning man.
“And then the man, as he was floating down the river a bit, he kept yelling ‘help, help me’ and I called out to him time and again ‘help is coming, hold on,’” she said, “and I just kept walking and then I saw the fellow dive into the water, swim towards him and that’s when I saw you guys paddling down [the] river.”
The ‘you guys’ were the FLCC Fort-itude, who had heard the man’s cries from hundreds of metres away.
“And I said to our crew, ‘somebody needs help, let’s go’,” said Fort-itude member Heather Innes. “It was like doing a 500-metre race, from the other side of the bridge, coming down.”
As the group of women reached the two men in the water they threw them their extra lifejackets, their First Aid kit and a few lines.
“The girls on the team were so amazing,” said member Juanita Peglar.
“The fellow in the water was so cold, so weak, we tried to get him into the boat but he just said ‘I can’t do anything, I can’t do anything’,” she said.
They towed the two men to the shore where they sat for about 10 minutes until they began to feel stronger, and then they brought them to the main dock alongside the river.
By that time the paramedics had arrived.
“It was a scary thing,” said Peglar.
Choquette said it was a very emotional day and without all the people coming together to save this man the outcome could have been very different.
“The fellow who was in the water, he was not staying afloat,” she said. “He wasn’t able to swim, his head was going under the water, I think had it been in many more moments he wouldn’t have made it.”
As the “2014 CIBC Run for the Cure”Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Directors boarded our boats to experience what Abreast In A Boat is all about, the skies opened up with a torrent of rain. The Directors, meeting in Vancouver in preparation for the 2014 Run in October, were from all parts of Canada.
As the paddle progressed their initial apprehension of climbing into the seemingly unsteady boats and paddling in the rain seemed to disappear. Our two boats settled into the rhythm of the stroke, warming our bodies and putting smiles on the faces of our guests as we glided past the beautiful city landscape and seascape of False Creek.
CIBC Run For the Cure Paddle, April 5, 2014
Juanita Peglar and Margaret Hobson each coached a boat and put us through our paces, with good stretches in between.
We are so grateful to our sponsors for helping to keep us on the water, and we were so happy to be able to share our experience, and tell our seat partners what AIAB means to us. I heard the words, hope, empowerment, a sense of good health, support, exercise, friendship and opportunity mentioned throughout the boat. Yes, that is what it is all about!
Leaving the dock – Sponsor Paddle, April 5, 2014
One of our guests sent us the following thank you:
“Thank you Juanita for showing me how to paddle this past Saturday. I had a great time and experience…even in the rain. I am in awe of you and your fabulous team for what you do and am happy to do my part as a Run Director for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure. Thank you and your team for taking us out!!!” Fundraising Run Director – Victoria
Thank you to Barb Baker and Rena Pratt for organizing this very important “thank you” paddle.