My first glimpse of this team came on a low day, outside a lymphedema lecture. I arrived with legs throbbing, my body and spirit weakened from surgical complications. High grade uterine cancer had taken my energy, my career and my confidence. In the lobby stood a scenic poster of the sunny Charles River; it featured happy people in a giant canoe? Two friendly women spoke of their dragon boating support group. The mere words “survivor” and “warrior” caused me to cringe. I was surely not well, had never been athletic, and struggled with a painful reconstructed shoulder due to earlier bone cancer. Lucky for me, in a spark of enthusiasm I picked up that team brochure.
After setting a goal to become stronger and just show up that next season, my oncologist agreed to a trial of paddling on one side to protect my unstable shoulder. Having a background in healthcare, I was challenged in the transition from being professional caregiver to being a patient. At off season events I began meeting team members who truly understood the vulnerability brought by serious illness. Yet they were talking, laughing, eating and loving life. Six months after seeing that poster I crawled into a dragon boat, and one month later I actually raced, with loads of support and encouragement. So the rest is history!
The spirit of Wellness Warriors is strong and contagious. I’ve been thrilled to paddle for two seasons now. Some of my proudest and most fun moments have been with these special new friends. Highlights include stunning sunsets over Boston, a weekend racing in my college town, and qualifying in NJ for the 2020 World Club Crew championships. The tragic world pandemic prevented our adventure in France, but will never erase our hard work, fun and friendship. It’s my good fortune to be part of this wonderful group that supports healing and achieving a healthy balance in life. Don’t let cancer define you.