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.
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.
Spring has come, and it looks that it will stay forever! Green yards, flowers, birds are all a testimony of that. With Spring also arrived the beating of the drums, the drums of the dragon boat season. This is something that we, breast cancer survivors carry deep in our hearts. Some of us spend leisure time in the water, paddling together, enjoying the warm sunsets, or the crazy rain (it does not stop us!). Others train hard to be ready for the regattas. No matter how we paddle, we feel stronger than ever.
On May 24th women from different cities got together in Vancouver to celebrate their own regatta, Women’s. There were about 48 crews having fun and enjoying this fight between clouds and sun, and wearing funny costumes. One o’clock was the time for the eight Breast Cancer Survivors teams to get together at the Breast Cancer Challenge race. After the race, we gathered our boats together to enjoy the Flower Ceremony. We all know what this ceremony is about. It was also a moment to think about how breast cancer changed our lives and how strong we became, while waving pink carnations embracing hope for a cure.
Abreast Deas Divas, Scotiabank Breast Cancer Challenge race winners with Lynn Weber, Scotiabank Rep
This picture shows the big smiles and happiness of the Breast Cancer Challenge winners, Abreast Deas Divas. It also represents the smiles of the eight crews that beyond the regatta, could grant that they are all winners! Winners in Life!
I deeply hope these will be the smiles of all ladies around the world once breast cancer is no longer a threat in women’s life!
Written By: Adriana Bartoli, Paddler with Abreast Deas Divas
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.
Over 65 Abreast In A Boat Paddlers attended Kamini Jain’s dry land training on Friday, April 4th. Kamini, owner of Right Angle Performance (www.rightangleperformance.com) and her “Premiere” paddlers reinforced the proper technique for holding our paddles, rotating, hinging, and extending out for our strokes. We were reminded to think about reaching across a table to shake someone’s hand and not to get our sleeve in the gravy. Great analogy! The novices were given an overview on the erg machine while the rest of us found a partner and practiced some paddling exercises. Kamini shared a video link with us which demonstrated the proper paddling technique, and by the end of the evening we felt ready to give it a try on the water either at the Saturday or Sunday clinic.
Three experienced helpers were on each boat to work “one on one” with the novices and to help those who were having difficulty mastering the technique of the stroke. Kamini travelled alongside us in a coach boat where she was able to get a better view of the entire boat, and able to quickly see where instruction was needed.
Kamini & Helpers (Taro too!)
As always we came away feeling exhilarated, and excited that we have taken our paddling to another level. Rain or shine it is always great to be on the water!
Here are a few quotes from some of our paddlers about their experience this weekend:
“Every time I attend a paddle clinic with Kamini I learn something new. She is a wonderfully motivating coach.” ~ Neoma Ham
“Each time I attend one of Kamini’s clinics I always learn something new and I have a deeper understanding of the paddling stroke due to her analogies and direct coaching style.” ~ Lisa Tildsley
“I have a better understanding of the catch and finish. You know you are going back to far if you go further than your shoulder (for the finish), don’t know why I didn’t get it before cause that is mid-thigh!!” ~ Tannis Hutfetler
Geri Maden, Denise Nelson & Cheryl Linsey
“I really enjoyed this clinic, the weather cooperated, we were once again in a sea of pink, and Kamini as always was her engaging self. There was a lot (but not too much to take in) new information and at times when the two boats came abreast of each other, I felt the urge to hinge down to the gunnel waiting for the horn.” ~ Arleigh Bennington
Thanks to Margaret Hobson, our Richmond Crew coach for organizing the clinic and to Kamini and her helpers for their patience and for making it all look so easy.
Abreast With FORT-itude – wins the Silver Medal in the Breast Cancer division at the Canadian National Dragonboat Championships on Elk Lake, August 2013. FORT-itude is now eligible to attend the World Club Crew Championships in Ravenna Italy in 2014.
Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival put on a great 25th Anniversary regatta with attendance from crews around North America. It was extremely well organized, on time, and had lots to offer in food, entertainment, merchandise, and beverages for crews and spectators both.
Rio Tinto must have ordered ‘no rain’ and the sun shone. Racing on a sunny day is always so much nicer than racing in the rain (think last year with buckets of rain coming down – all day long). CIBC generously hosted a Breast Cancer Survivor’s Village where nine crews were able to set up our tents together for two days of camaraderie and fun . With three races on Saturday and two races on Sunday it was a full weekend of racing.
Kamini’s dog, Taro, is obviously partial to AIAB as she was spotted wearing one of our crew shirts. Custom made and fit to her petite size she did fit in rather well with the rest of us pink ladies.
The Breast Cancer Challenge Race was a race to the finish with FORT-itude beating out the San Diego crew by half of a second. The medals were exceptionally big and beautiful this year.
Cracking Cancer follows a group of patients, all with incurable cancer, through the highly experimental clinical trial at the BC Cancer Agency, a trial that holds the promise of personalized cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Catch it February 23 at 8 PM on CBC-TV