Friday, Oct 24th

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

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

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

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???

Written By: Heather Trenholm

All Breast Cancer Teams

All Breast Cancer Teams

Written By: Dr Don Mckenzie

Dr Don McKenzie

Dr Don McKenzie

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.

To find out more about Dr. Don Mckenzie, please visit:

Harrison Hot Springs Regatta 2014

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 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

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.

Written By: Carol McKay

Jon Artano, a Spanish Journalist paddles with Abreast In A Boat

Bev Dagg

Bev Dagg

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

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.

The Nanaimo Regatta…..everyone said it would be an amazing weekend….and it lived up to its reputation. The theme this year was Super Heroes and a lot of fun was had as paddling teams became teams of “caped crusaders”. Who was that costumed lady with so much energy who led many, many, many warmups?  And the race co-ordinator with his half shaved head who, as well as lining us up so efficiently, continually raised further donations to the cancer projects at Nanaimo Regional Hospital.  More amazing energy and commitment.

Deas Divas in Nanaimo 2014

Deas Divas in Nanaimo 2014

The people of Nanaimo were truly supportive of both the event and the participants who hustled along their waterfront with bulky backpacks and paddles, some still wearing their Super Heroes costumes.

The organizers, volunteers and sponsor, Save on Foods, did an amazing job of setting up tents for 72 teams and managing the grounds. The Paddlers’ Village was secure but fun….we all enjoyed shopping at the various stalls.

Weather?  Not hot, not cold and not really raining.  Just enough moisture to ensure a cool down after the race.

There were 7 teams in the Breast Cancer Survivor Race. That means there were a lot of ladies who’d worked hard, had a lot of fun and laughed a lot while showing the strength and determination that took them through their cancer. That spirit was brought into focus during the Flower Ceremony where survivors, after walking through an extended arch of paddles, gathered at the shore of the lagoon. It seemed that a large hunk of Nanaimo’s population gathered behind them as all paused and remembered. It is always such an emotional time as the pink carnations are cast into the waters.

Breast Cancer Survivor teams also did well in the Women’s Open Division.  Abreast Deas Divas took gold in their open division as well as in the Breast Cancer division.  Survivors involvement in the Open Division shows the world that a full and active life is indeed possible after a diagnosis of breast cancer and that we are all focused on continuing the Race against Cancer.

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.

AIAB Rio Tinto 2014

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

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

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”.

Written By: Linda Hopwo

 CIBC Breast Cancer Challenge Race Times

Abreast With FORTitude     2:16.30

Abreast At Rocky Point       2:23.50

Abreast Deas Divas               2:23.77

Abreast Up The Creek           2:37.78

Relay for Life ~ Abreast At Rocky Point

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.

14_AIAB Linda Cheryl on stage Rocky Point Relay for Life

Linda & Cheryl giving a speech ~ Relay for Life

14_Rocky Point Relay for Life 2014

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 ~ Relay for Life 2014

Abreast With FORTitude ~ Survivor Lap 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.


Flower Ceremony at Women's Regatta

Flower Ceremony at Women’s Regatta

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 With Deas Divas BC Challenge Winners!

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

Abreast At Rocky Point Leaving the Dock

Abreast At Rocky Point Leaving the Dock

14Knock_Outs_Rocky_Point_line up

Abreast With Rocky Point Marshalling at Spring Knock Outs

9 years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer it would never have crossed my mind that such a scary negative event would lead me to such a great positive opportunity  in my life as dragon boating.

Dragon boating has changed my life and given me opportunities that I would never have had. I have raced in Malaysia, the Queens Jubilee and the Lake District. I have met interesting and lovely people that I would never have had the opportunity to meet.

Dragon boating is a team sport. Everyone must give all that their physical abilities allow them to give. Saturday our team, Rocky Point did just that. We raced 4 times back to back, every person on that boat, reached, dug deep and gave all that they had to give. I am proud to be part of this team.

 Written By: Esther Newcombe



Jeannie Lea

Jeannie Lea

Written by:  Sheila Tynan

In 2005 Abreast In A Boat celebrated their 10 year anniversary.  They invited breast cancer survivors from around the world to join them for a wonderful weekend of camaraderie, merriment and, of course, dragon boat racing.

Jeannie Lea's Creators

Jeannie Lea’s Creators

At the Sunday afternoon closing ceremonies Michelle Hanton of Dragons Abreast Australia, announced that in two years time we could all gather again in Caloundra which is near Brisbane Australia.

The excitement among our crews was palpable.  We knew we wanted to make a good showing.  Plans began to be made.  It was the idea of Barb Lea that we should make a dragon that all our crews could walk with during the street parade.

The idea grew, and with the skill and expertise of Jean Driscoll Bell and her merry band of AIAB helpers, our dragon was assembled on August 26 2007.

Creating Jeannie Lea

Creating Jeannie Lea

Jeannie Lea walked proudly in Australia and has walked with our members on many occasions since.

Barb had the idea and Jean made it a reality.  There was no other name that our dragon could have.