Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A new dragon

I joined a Dragon Boat team this summer. More dragons in my life. So you've never heard of dragon boating? Neither did I until I saw a postcard in my surgeon's office advertising a breast cancer survivor team. Dragon boating is a growing modern sport rooted in ancient China. A dragon boat is a 40' canoe powered by a crew of 22, one person to stear, one person to drum a cadence, and 20 paddling in unison. The canoe is adorned with a dragon head and tail and seats paired paddlers side by side in 10 rows. Each paddler must stroke free hand following the one in front. Each side must be in sync. Each paddle must lift their paddle and hit the water at exactly the same time. If not, paddles collide with clacking sounds, splashes and the boat does not move. It is much different than the rowing teams of those skinny kayaks with long oars attached typically seen on the rivers during regattas in the summer. I was not looking for this team or this sport, but it found me. I was nearing the end of the grueling part of my treatments that robbed my life of strength. I was welcomed as the new person and got into the boat with borrowed paddle and no experience. Sloppy and out of sync, I began to paddle attempting to keep my body moving beyond the desire to rest. Strength eluded me, but my spirit wanted to chase the next mile down the river. I was hooked. The new support group of total strangers knew I was hooked and that I would be back for more.

To say the least, it has been an amazing adventure already. Training with these women has pushed me beyond what I would do on my own. These women are all strong survivors, but most of all, are powerful athletes that refuse to be treated any less than athletes. We were all "real" people with our own identities before cancer. Some people get that. During my journey of dealing with cancer, I have encountered many that offer their pity. I've grown tired of answering "how are you feeling" whispered to me in discomfort. This team offers a place I can feel strong and normal again. I am able to grow comfortable with my scars and new flaws in this community of survivors. Here, am able to be present without a barrage of pity or questions. I welcome the acceptance of others who have gone through this disease without the need of constant commiserating.

We don't "take it easy"or get pampered because we have scars and torn up bodies. We are all fighters with determined attitudes. This is a group that likes to win. I joined at the end of the season and will go on to train all winter. I continue to heal and I have had set backs, but I pick back up and keep going. I found the taste of winning as I joined my new team in the last competition at the end of the season. It was an amazing feeling pushing water together in the 2k fighting for the finish line! These women have real "steel"! I am only a newbie just getting my feet wet. I'm hungry for more and will be anxious for the ice to thaw in the spring. 
More photos from the weekend in NJ:

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