Paddling with a purpose

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Women find strength and support from dragon boat team

What’s it like to hear your doctor tell you, you have cancer?
Absolutely terrifying.

The Women Alike Abreast A River Team practices in preparation for the Race on the River dragon boat races on Saturday

“It doesn’t matter what type of cancer you have. When you hear that word cancer, it’s all the same feeling,” Carol Clark says.

You think about your children and your grandchildren and wonder “Am I going to get to see them grow up?” she said.

About five years ago she received her diagnosis of breast cancer and had surgery to have it removed. In the time that followed she says she was thankful for friends on the Women Alike Abreast A River team that invited her to join their group and offered their support.

“They all knew I was having my surgery. They said come out next year so I did. I’ve been coming ever since and have been enjoying every bit,” she said. “It’s not only the getting together and supporting each other. It’s also great exercise. It motivates you.”

This year Clark is captain of the team and they’re gearing up for the annual Race on The River.

Colleen Nelson, is one of the most recent members of the group. She joined in May.

“It’s a thrill. It was more than I expected,” she said.

She competed with the team last week for the first time and she says she was scared to death. Once you’re out on the water though it’s just exhilarating. She also enjoys the support.

“There’s nothing like it. You can talk to anyone around you, that as the expression goes is in the same boat.”

There’s people like Gale Langille, who as a 25-year-old mother of three found a lump on her breast and rushed to the doctor’s. She’s now 51 years in remission and an active member of the group.

She encourages people to get mammograms even at a young age.

“There are younger women getting breast cancer,” she said. “You don’t have to be old to get it.”

Phyllis Parker is one of the founding members of the team for breast cancer survivors and has found it to be an encouragement to all who have taken part.

A cancer diagnosis can be a black hole, she says.

“Boy you can be far down in a black hole all by yourself and you need a lot of strings to haul you up,” she said.

She has battled breast cancer twice. She said her cancer came back after being in remission for 15 years about three years ago. Thankfully, it’s back in remission though.

“Now when they look at my lungs with a CAT scan there’s nothing but scars where they took out the biopsies.”

She credits a pill that wasn’t even created when she had cancer the first time with saving her.

“I feel like going up and down that river in a dragon boat with a sign that says ‘give to research,’ because that makes the difference.”

That’s why she believes that events like Race on the River which raises money for fighting cancer as well as other local charities is so important.

Some of those people in the community who attend the dragon boat races this weekend will find themselves sitting in a doctor’s office, hearing an unwanted diagnosis. It’s for them that she wants to see the research done now, so they can have the medicine and procedures needed that might save their lives.

The Women Alike Abreast A River boat will also be sailing as a sign of hope.

“The main thing to say is it’s not going to get me. It’s not going to beat me,” Clarke said.

When you can beat the disease and move on with your life, it’s amazing, she said.

“You look forward to every day – every single day. It’s a blessing.”

 

amacinnis@ngnews.ca

On Twitter: NGNewsAdam

Organizations: CAT

Geographic location: Women Alike Abreast A River

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