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???
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.