One in nine women will get breast cancer in their lifetime. Kiwi women who are breast cancer survivors have joined a worldwide sporting phenomenon; dragon boat racing. The Auckland-based dragon boat team the Pink Dragons have returned to the water this month doing what they love, living their message, and raising awareness through their sport. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month so it is a timely return to water.
The Pink Dragons started 14 years ago and are made up of women from all walks of life, fitness levels, and ages. Members of the Pink Dragons all begun as strangers and have ended up becoming sisters through a bond of comradery. They train twice a week out of Westhaven Marina in Auckland and the dragon boating season runs October to April. This includes national and global competitions that the team competes in – often doing well. But the sport offers more than competition and fitness, it can also help survivors to avoid lymphedema.
The sport first took off with breast cancer survivors in Vancouver in 1996 after sports medicine physician Dr Don McKenzie launched the team Abreast – he did this to test the myth that repetitive upper-body exercise in women treated for breast cancer encourages lymphedema. After Abreast got started it quickly took off across the world with more survivors forming teams.
Dr McKenzie believed that by following a special exercise and training program, women could avoid lymphedema and enjoy active, full lives. The women in Abreast were carefully monitored to track their progress. Dr McKenzie’s theory was proven correct. No new cases of lymphedema occurred.
So why paddle? Through the strenuous demands of dragon boat paddling, paddlers have learned that they can push the limits of their physical endurance and have fun doing it. The team is all made up of breast cancer survivors who share their stories and offer each other support. Although they can get very competitive it is not all about winning, as through dragon boating the women educate others and be a part of something bigger. Ormiston Hospital’s CEO, Vivian Blake, is a member of the Pink Dragons team and explains; “The comradery and support is very special. I get the benefit of incredible fitness from the sport as well as friendship from the women whom I paddle with.”
Ormiston Hospital’s Surgeons regularly treat women who require surgery as part of their breast cancer treatment. To learn more about this service please read more on our website.
Breast cancer can affect anyone, young or old, but there is a life after breast cancer – active, fun, powerful, upbeat, vigorous life. The Pink Dragons team are always recruiting members who are interested in giving the sport a go: https://pinkdragons.org.nz/