Four members of Abreast In A Boat and Dr. Don travelled to Fiji in February 2020. Thank you to Adriana Bartoli, Dolly Devi, Jane Frost, Judy Crumlin, and Dr Don McKenzie, for bringing our message of hope and an awareness of breast cancer to the Fiji Islands. Here is their story.
How do you describe the power of a sport that can change a life in minutes, especially for those who have experienced a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment? You will find the answer in this story.
I will start with a big BULA! – a word you will hear mostly in Fiji. It is accompanied by a wide smile each time you meet a Fijian, together with smiling deep brown eyes and the feeling of being cuddled in paradise.
Every great dream begins with a great dreamer. This story begins in Vancouver, Canada in 2017, where Dolly Devi was treated for breast cancer and joined Abreast In A Boat, a breast cancer survivor dragon boat team established 25 years ago. Dolly felt the empowerment of the sport that allowed her to return to a new and active life and she began to dream about empowering and bringing hope to breast cancer survivors in her homeland, Fiji.
You can say, dream a dream and your dream will come true. So it happened for Dolly. The Bula Outreach Crew, an independent team of seasoned dragon boaters from Canada, Australia, and the US travelled to Fiji in February to share with the local breast cancer survivors the joy and benefits of this sport for their physical health and spirit.
Dr. Don McKenzie and Jane Frost, founders of Abreast In A Boat, joined the Bula Crew to meet 30 local breast cancer survivors and six all cancer survivors, who had never been on a dragon boat. The locals came all the way to Denaru from Suva, Lautoka and Nadi. It was World Cancer Day, a perfect time to celebrate. After just a few minutes of paddling in the warm, turquoise waters, the shy novices were happy and full of laughter, and, more importantly, feeling the strength of the sport.
The beautiful new dragon boat was blessed by Chinese, Native, Hindu and Christian ceremonies, and it hosted the first Flower Ceremony in the Pacific Islands.
The enthusiasm of the novices and the Bula Outreach Crew was outstanding. We paddled as much as we could, in perfect weather and a great sea. The novices did land training on the beach while the boat was out. The first paddle on Tuesday was almost a full boat of novices, including drummer and steers, a great accomplishment.
When the time came to thank our hosts, the list was immense. There are not enough words to thank the Fiji Cancer Society for their support of this outreach. The dedication and love of the committees in Suva and Nadi made it all possible. More than 50 paddles were donated from Australia, Italy and Canada.
Two new breast cancer teams are enjoying a full and active life after breast cancer. The sport is the engine. Other cancer survivors are joining them in discovering the process of building a strength we never thought possible.
This is how lives can be changed for good and dreams can come true, when people bond together. Togetherness makes the difference.
Local novice members of the Fiji-D-Dragons new teams in Fiji
Blessing of the dragon by the Hindu Ceremony
Blessing of the Dragon by the Native Ceremony
First Flower Ceremony held in the South Pacific Islands