We had the pink on and seaoned paddlers and Board members greeted the newcomers who had expressed an interest in joining AIAB. Pat Eveleigh welcomed us all and President Jane Mann introduced each Board member who talked about their novice year and special memories of AIAB. Dr. Don spoke about the Society and the Fitness Commitment. Deb Legree gave us a brief history of AIAB and Past President Jean Buckley spoke on Health and Safety. Judi Clark spoke about her Novice experience last year. Margaret Hobson announced our 2009 Fitness Forum and then introduced Tim LeBas, our adopted Fitness specialist who invited the prospective new members to a Novice Fitness Session in late November.
Then it was time for Ms Accessories (Connie Goy) to show all of us the proper and recommended “wet” weather gear including lots and lots of pink!
After questions and closing remarks, it was time to have coffee, tea, water and a beautiful cake that was set up by Evelyn Smoliak.
Bunny Rosse and Sheila Blair manned the Info Booth and there were pins and brochures to hand out. Many signed up and a few members brought their renewals.
As we all know walking into that first meeting can be quite unnerving and one never knows what to expect. The smiles, hugs, and laughter were abundant as usual and hopefully the novices-to-be found that we are a fun bunch to be around.
Story and Photos – Dorothy Fenning
The week of November 5th to the 9th was the final interactive Mall exhibit for the Telus Tour for the Cure. The Tour has visited 56 centres throughout BC in the last 6 months, spreading awareness about breast cancer. Many that visit the display have become educated about prevention, early detection, treatment options, and life after breast cancer, which could include becoming a participant in Abreast In A Boat.
October 31st was an exciting day for many rowers and paddlers, especially the Abreast with FORT-itude Crew – the new Langley Rowing and Paddling Centre was officially opened in Fort Langley!
The floating facility has 200 feet of open dock frontage, the longest span in the province, along with 3000 feet of storage. The Township of Langley contributed to the facility as well as Parklane Homes, who have a housing development adjacent to the Centre. Users of the floating dock also have access to a meeting room and public washrooms nearby. The Centre will be used by Trinity Western University and University of the Fraser Valley as well as many other teams for competitions.
Langley Township Mayor Kurt Alberts hosted the Opening and ribbon cutting ceremonies and was accompanied by many other dignitaries including Beijing Gold Medal Rower Ben Rutledge of Cranbrook.
Early on a bright sunny day at the lovely Mayfair Golf Club, 15 AIAB members in our famous jerseys, joined about 200 women for a buffet breakfast. The meeting room was festooned with pink and two displays took centre front, the AIAB booth set up by Bunny Rosse and the CBCF booth.
Dr. Rhonda Low, moderator for the event, introduced the three speakers: Anita Cochrane, Margaret Hobson, and Dr. Susan Harris all members of AIAB!
Anita spoke of her experiences from being diagnosed on her honeymoon at age 30, successful treatment, then the devastating recurrence 3 years later. However, cancer has not stopped Anita from continuing her athletics including dragon boating and recently winning the provincial curling championship. She is thrilled to be heading to Inuvit to compete in the national curling championship. Anita is also a champion fundraiser for cancer.
Margaret Hobson, our past president outlined the start of AIAB as a research project with Dr. Don McKenzie, to the expansion to our current 5 crews. She spoke in glowing terms of AIAB’s mission spreading our message world-wide while providing warm support and lasting friendships.
Need motivation to exercise? Dr. Sue’s presentation emphasized the importance of regular exercise after treatment. She summarized studies showing the reduction in recurrences for women who made exercise a part of their lives along with balanced diets (remember the old Canada Food Guide?).
I would recommend attending the Richmond Breast Health Breakfast as it was a very pleasant and worthwhile morning.
Women find new purpose in dragon boat competitions
The Houston Chronicle
By JOSHUA WINATA CHRONICLE CORRESPONDENT
Skimming over the waves as glistening oars sliced through the water in perfect unison, the dragon boats racing down Brooks Lake in Sugar Land were helmed by modern warriors who found new significance in the ancient Chinese tradition.
During the fifth annual Gulf Coast International Dragon Boat Regatta, held on the grounds of Fluor Corp. Oct. 18-19, more than 40 teams participated in the competitive races on elaborately decorated 40-foot watercraft, but the spotlight was on the three breast cancer survivor teams that brought their battle against the disease on to the water.
The survivor teams included the Louisiana-based Cajun Invasion; Abreast In A Boat, the original North American breast cancer survivor team fromVancouver, Canada; and the Pink Phurrees (pronounced “furies”), representing Houston area survivors with more than 25 members in various stages of treatment or recovery.
Pink Phurrees President Frances Arzú, a Sugar Land resident, is a five-year survivor of breast cancer who works tirelessly to educate women about the disease. Arzú was 38 years old and in good health when she was diagnosed.
After undergoing surgery and radiation treatments, Arzú discovered dragon boating as a therapeutic form of recovery and encourages other women to join her. She said she relishes watching her fellow survivors blossom with confidence in the face of adversity.
“We share the joy, we share the sadness, and you know that there’s somebody on the boat that can relate to where you are, to where you’ve been and probably where you’re going,” Arzú said. “You’re really among people who truly understand where you’re coming from.”
For many survivors, the struggles inside the boat are the perfect metaphor for the ones in their personal lives.
“You’re not thinking about the finish line,” said Brenda Lozano, Pink Phurrees chaplain. “You have to stay in the boat. If you stay in the boat and stay in sync with your members, that’s what causes you to finish. Don’t worry what’s going on around you, and you truly have to block it out.”
While that may be Lozano’s race strategy, she may as well be describing her life’s journey.
Her diagnosis in March 2002 came as no surprise since her family has a history of cancer, but nothing prepared Lozano for the struggle before her. In spite of the difficult surgery to remove her breasts, she turned the trial into an opportunity to help others through their tough times and focus on what’s truly important.
That’s why the women of the Pink Phurrees take celebrating life so seriously, Lozano said.
“We don’t sit around moping and having these pity parties about what has happened to us. We acknowledge it. We don’t try to hide it. We talk about it,” she said. “But then we say, ‘This is out of our control. Where do we go from here?’”
The story doesn’t always end happily: Earlier this year, the Pink Phurrees lost one of their founding members, Cheryl Zeplin, to breast cancer. She was diagnosed in 2005, but after intensive treatments, her family believed she had fully recovered.
hey had just finished construction on a new house, and Cheryl was making plans for reconstructive surgery when an unexpected and virulent recurrence took a fatal turn in January.
On Oct. 19, the regatta teams gathered to memorialize those who have died in an emotional flower ceremony lead by Cheryl’s husband, Rick Zeplin. Three dragon boats filled with cancer survivors aligned on the edge of the lake, each oarsmen holding a single pink carnation aloft in the breeze. During a moment of silence, the crowd was invited to think of a friend or family member affected by cancer as the blossoms were gently flung overboard in a shower of pink.
The solemn moment took a quick turn to celebration as Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive blasted from the loud speakers.
For Rick Zeplin, the ceremony, while somber, was a reminder that his wife would be remembered through the sisterhood of the Pink Phurrees.
“It’s been kind of a closure for me. They say everyone does bereavement their own way, and that’s kind of what I’ve done,” Zeplin said. “She’s honored, and that’s important. We want her to be honored.”
Dragon boating not only provides emotional and spiritual support, but has key physical benefits as well. Dr. Ted Yang of Greater Houston Radiation Oncology formed the Pink Phurrees three years ago to help keep team members in shape after cancer treatments. It is an ideal sport because of its accessibility to women of all ages while providing sufficiently strenuous exercise, and participants say the international dragon boat community has been particularly supportive.
Yang’s involvement was inspired by a 1996 study involving dragon boats by Dr. Don McKenzie of the University of British Columbia. Assembling the crew now known as Abreast In A Boat, his research debunked a popular medical misconception that women who undergo breast cancer treatments should refrain from repetitive upper body exercise that could lead to lymphoedema, or a chronic swelling of the arm and chest area.
“They found the ladies who paddled were actually tolerating the chemotherapy much better than the ladies who were doing nothing, and their fatigue rates were much lower,” Yang said. “The studies have showed that there is no bad influence of exercise on the upper extremities when ladies have had their mastectomies and their surgeries.”
Beyond the cancer survivors, Texas Dragon Boat Association Chairman Eugene Lee said the organization is always looking for new ways to benefit the community through its events. In addition to corporate and community teams, youth participants, many representing at-risk high schools, make up nearly half the entries.
This year’s honorary chair for the regatta was Communities in Schools Executive Director Robert Garcia, who brought five youth teams from the southeastHouston area. Garcia got his students involved after learning about the benefits of team-building, cross-cultural awareness and community activism achieved through dragon boating.
“It’s quite an experience for them. This is a good opportunity for them to be out here,” he said. “It’s amazing. I don’t think they’ve ever done anything as much as a team.”
Dulles High School’s Chinese Honor Society also entered the races and place third in the youth division.
The regatta had its own race for survival earlier this year after Hurricane Ike ravaged Clear Lake Park where the races have been held for the past four years. Fuel and chemical spillage, as well as the appearance of alligators, made the conditions unfit for dragon boat competitors.
Organizers scrambled to find a new venue and were welcomed by Sugar Land, which was already in discussions with TDBA to possibly host an event next year.
TDBA leaders said they have received positive feedback on the venue and plan to add Sugar Land as a regular location for races.
The Pink Phurrees plan to be back on the water, too, hopefully with more members and their own pink dragon boat to match their pink paddles and life jackets.
“This whole thing inspires people,” Arzú said. “To see the women really and truly attach to this and embrace life and finally go, ‘You know what, breast cancer does not define me. ”Breast cancer was a chapter in my life, and now I’m moving forward.’
Or as they would say in the dragon boat, “Paddles up!”
Photos by Errol Joe, Sherrill McKay, Marta Sa, Pat Tanaka
Abreast In A Boat made a big presence in the city of Sugar Land, and we were overwhelmed by the response. We wore our uniforms to the mall after practice on Friday (no time to change, needed all the time available for shopping at the Macy’s 60% off sale!) and we could hardly get our shopping accomplished because so many women wanted to know what all these pink shirts were about. In airports, restaurants and grocery stores we handed out more brochures and pins and information than we ever dreamt possible.
We were interviewed by the MD Anderson Cancer Center about AIAB and how to start a dragonboat team. As Houston only has one team, this will be a great addition, and was one of our goals of attending this regatta.
And on the invitation from a schoolteacher from an inner city school of desperately poor and troubled students, some of our crew visited two classrooms on Monday. These high school kids scrambled a team together to enter the regatta, but had only a few practices. We spoke to them about the real possibilities of higher education, and the values of working as team and how diversities can be put in the background when you have a commitment to working hard and pulling together. We hope they will be able to keep their team going on a regular basis, as they clearly loved being in the regatta. This has opened up great opportunities to us for outreach.
The Pink Phurries are a wonderful group of women who have to sacrifice quite a bit to get to practices. Houston is a HUGE city and it takes forever to get anywhere. They couldn’t do enough for our comfort, providing chairs, a table, snacks and refreshments, as well as putting on a great party at a Mexican restaurant. A mixed cancer team from Lafayette, Louisiana joined in these festivities as well.
And did I forget to mention, we won the Breast Cancer Challenge race and brought home a beautiful big trophy with a carved dragon on it! We will have it, as well as a large Lone Star presented to us by the Pink Phurries, at the AGM for all to see.
From “Houston, we have a problem” (arrival planes having to divert to Austin and Dallas due to a thunderstorm) to “Mission Accomplished”, it was an extremely successful endeavor by Abreast In A Boat.
Communications, Houston Crew
On Oct 7th, 2008, Dr. Susan Harris – one of AIAB’s Original Crew – was the Keynote Speaker at the 2008 Women’s Health Research Symposium: Women & Cancer. The symposium was held at the Chan Auditorium of the Children & Women’s Centre.
Her excellent presentation of “Challenging the Myths in the Management of Breast Cancer” included an emotional video of the AIAB crew “in” the tumultuous Wellington New Zealand Harbour!
Following her talk, Dr. Harris received the 2007 Faculty of Medicine Distinguished Clinical Medical Research Lecturer Award, to add to the many honors & achievements that she’s obtained throughout her illustrious career. During the Reception, there were photo opportunities of Dr. Harris with some of her former teammates.
I enjoyed spending the day (well, six hours!) at the Arbutus Safeway on Saturday, October 18, 2008.
Linda, the boss lady was both efficient and charming. We had two booths in operation, one at the storefront entrance and one at the Mall entrance. My booth was set up at the latter location and was staffed by Linda’s daughter.
I wore my AIAB shirt and black pants and had taken my pink umbrella, my wood paddle with all the names of Breasting the Waves (my first team) and my 2008 photo album! There were also CBCF stickers, buttons, and brochures, etc.
I did not spend too much time there, because I found that it was better to approach folks “one on one”. However, it was HARD work, as I must have walked around the store MANY, many times. I either received handfuls of change or small bills! Fortunately, several members of St. Philip’s Anglican Church (my church on Dunbar) shop at Arbutus Village and they are always very generous, because they know me and know my story!
At the outdoor entrance, another table was set up where a “cupcake” with icing, was being sold with a free glass of pink juice. This is a good idea so one doesn’t get so messy!
Over the course of the day, we collected well over $400.00. I thought this was a pretty good effort on everyone’s part. We should definitely promote this event among AIAB members next year, as one had the opportunity to meet many people who may not have heard about us. It was such a good day!
It was a beautiful day for a walk/run.
Members that participated and/or raised money for the AIAB team and for the Cause in general were: Vivian Omori, Sheila Tynan, Jane Johnstone, Linda Acosta, Claudette Brown, Susan Doyle, Sandi Moffatt, Bunny Rosse, Tammy Watkins, Anne Anthony, Carol Dale, Debbie Giroux, Rena Pratt, Heather Trenholm, Betty-Ann Winter, Sheila Blair, Margaret Delgatty, Kyla Hicks, Marcia Rempel, Andrea Watkins, Shelly Nash, Orrie Babiuk, Mary Mullen, and Francoise Doe.
Marcia Rempel did a fantastic job of organizing the AIAB team this year. Thank you Marcia!
Make a note on your calendar – next year’s Run is October 4, 2009.
Photos and story – Dorothy Fenning