Five years ago, after a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery for breast cancer, I was invited to a summer barbecue party at the home of a colleague who was also on the faculty of Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. I mingled, spoke to a few of my former professors, and then was introduced to a Wellness Warriors Boston team member. Her husband had been one of my favorite professors, and her daughter one of my favorite students, and I was happy to spend some time with her. We quickly established that we’d both experienced breast cancer. Upon learning this, she told me about the sport of dragon boat racing and invited me to join her team, the Wellness Warriors Boston, for a practice.
I live near Worcester, and driving to Boston has always been something I try to avoid, but I nevertheless agreed to go, thinking I would show up once and be done with it. Five years later, and having put more than 20,000 dragon miles on my car’s odometer, I’m still going and am more involved than ever. I even succumbed to my adult children’s pleas to get a dragon and paddle tattoo, reasoning, “If not now, then when?” Seeing it reminds me, even in the cold winter months, of fellow team members whom I love, and a sport that has come to define me. Seeing sunsets on the Charles River during practice, being with people for whom no explanations are needed, feeling the exhilaration of having completed a rigorous practice and having the satisfaction that I’m healthier than I have been for years – these all make this sport worthwhile. And when we’re together in the boat, and all paddling in synchrony – well, that is when we hit our “swing.” There is nothing else like it.