Breast cancer support groups can be a helpful resource for patients and survivors. They allow people to find others who can understand their experiences and who can provide empathy when they share their stories. Some breast cancer warriors choose to meet on the water to get their support, and to help further the cause of awareness.
The Lighthouse Dragons are a Florida-based dragon boat team, the only dragon boat team for breast cancer survivors in Palm Beach County. They say their aim is to use the sport to promote an active lifestyle and provide organized opportunities for fitness, wellness education, and psycho-social empowerment for breast cancer survivors and their supporters.
Member Joanne Ambrosino was diagnosed in 2018, which she said surprised her because she was athletic and had a very healthy diet. The support of the women in the group has been very important in helping her navigate her journey.
She told WPTV in West Palm Beach, “We just support each other. We talk about things. We get athletic together. We talk about healthy ways to, you know, survive our illnesses that we all have in various stages.”
Another Florida dragon boat team has a similar goal. Heart and Soul Dragonboat Paddler, located on the state’s Space Coast, also includes breast cancer survivors and provides members with an outlet to strengthen their health and maintain strong friendships.
Martha Schanel is a Heart and Souler who was diagnosed more than 20 years ago. She got the news following a mammogram she had scheduled just days after she ran a race for breast cancer awareness.
She explains, “I raced on Saturday and went for a mammogram on Tuesday and, sure enough, without any signs … I was diagnosed with very early stage breast cancer.”
The ladies and their teammates plan to take part in the virtual installment of this year’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. It will help them further their goal of ensuring future diagnoses are caught early.
Schanel says, “It’s the awareness and how important it is to be regularly screened for breast cancer and just to be mindful.”
If those regular screenings detect breast cancer in other women locally, the groups have a place for them.
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The Lighthouse Dragons website says, “The diagnosis of breast cancer has brought us together, now friendship keeps us together. Although we train to race dragon boats, our race is against breast cancer… Each of us is a powerful example that women can lead a full and vigorous life after treatment for breast cancer. Lighthouse Dragons SOS offers an active, health-giving, life affirming opportunity for breast cancer survivors. We are a survivor group whose focus is on living, rather than on the disease that brought us together.”
Meanwhile, Heart and Soul says they’ve met up with more than 100 other breast cancer dragon boat support teams at festivals over the years, and it’s been wonderful to connect with these women.
They say, “Thanks to the oncologist in Canada who discovered the benefits of dragon boating to his breast cancer patients. It really is a like a ‘floating’ support group on the water. The bonds and friendships you develop along the way are simply icing on the cake.”