At 17, Deb Middleton lost her mother to breast cancer. At 33, she was facing the same disease. The diagnosis hit her dad and brother hard. “It was incredibly difficult for my family,” the Port Coquitlam resident told The Tri-City News. “They didn’t want to go through the pain again.” A native of the Isle of Man, Middleton moved to Canada to work as a nanny, caring for three young children. She loved her life, and was healthy and strong, so the test results came back as a shock.
Luckily, though, the illness was caught early and she made a full recovery after surgery. It was around this time that “Dr. Don” entered her life. In 1996, Dr. Don McKenzie sought to disprove a UBC study that concluded women who had breast cancer shouldn’t do upper-body exercises because they would develop lymphedema.
For his hypothesis, he picked 24 women from the Lower Mainland — including Middleton — to start a program called Abreast In A Boat, the world’s first dragon boat team made up only of female breast cancer survivors. Middleton took to the sport like a duck to water, even leading the crew. But the following year, the cancer returned. She underwent radiation only to find it come back two years later,
quite aggressively. Again, Middleton licked the disease. Today, she proudly states, “I’m clear. I’m fabulous and I’m so, so lucky. I live and love every day.”
During May 2017, Esther Matsubuchi received the prestigious Courage To Come Back award at a sold-out gala. She gave a speech and confided she planned to deal with her public speaking jitters by imagining she was in a dragon boat race and as she settled in at the microphone (the start line), she would take a few deep breaths, relax her shoulders and focus in the boat.
It all began when Vince, a Grand Dragon, approached Abreast In A Boat (AIAB) and challenged us to have a FUN race. At the time, he was the ONLY prostate cancer survivor who knew how to paddle a dragon boat, but he was ever hopeful he could gather a crew from among his Prostate Support Group friends. We had a chat over coffee and then the full story began to unfold.
The Vancouver International DB Committee and the folks at Dragon Zone were all keen to host the BIG race. Vince filled, not one, but two boats !! Dragon Zone has given them boats, practice time and steers assistance. The Vancouver International DB committee has arranged media coverage for the Showdown.
A rehearsal practice was held at Dragon Zone on Friday, June 10th, but the REAL Challenge Race happens at Dragon Zone on Friday, June 17th @ 6:30pm at the start of the weekend regatta.
There will be two boats full of brave prostate survivors. Their team name is Butts In A Boat. AIAB will have two composite boats (from our six crews) eager to show the boys how girls paddle!! It promises to be a FUN evening, not to be missed. Plan to bring family and friends along to cheer for your team.
Of course, the most important message is “living well” after a diagnosis of cancer.
Donations are welcome!
Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation – BC/Yukon (CBCF) @ www.cbcf.org
Never thought that HOPE was tangible, had colours and shapes until we met with the Argentine novices last February. Hope has replaced loneliness and fear and changed their lives forever!
The promise was, “As soon as the boats touch the Argentina’s water we will accompany you in the very first steps in dragon boating. This was true on February 2016. The very first dragon boats ever entered the country in December 2015 giving just two months to organize an adventure of Hope.
A group of Abreast In A Boat® members from the Deas Divas crew travelled to Argentina in February, 2016 to help with start-up of the first four breast cancer survivor dragon boat teams in South America.