Ten years ago, Judy Deon completed her treatment for breast cancer. Shortly after, she joined Nelson’s first dragon boat team, the Kootenay Rhythm Dragons.
“I certainly didn’t think of myself as a jock or anything like that,” said Deon, who had never been on a competitive team or even really played a sport before joining the Dragons.
“The experience of being a part of a team was so incredible, so affirming and so positive in every way. I’m not a competitive person by nature, by I found that when I did go in a race I sure did want to win. I paddled my hardest.”
Dragon boating as a form of rehabilitation for breast cancer survivors is a trend introduced in Vancouver that has since taken off internationally. It started when doctors realized that exercise, rather than having a negative effect on the healing upper body, rather helped to stimulate healing by increasing physical and psychological well-being.
“And it’s a wonderful way to encourage fellowship,” said Deon.
Nelson team members have competed across Canada and the States, as well as in Australia. Their primary goal remains the same: “to raise awareness of breast cancer survivorship.”
“It’s important when people are going through that to know there are other survivors around. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Even if they can’t paddle, they’re included.”
Deon said the friendships she’s created have sustained her through recovery. “It’s a wonderful group of women. Incredibly supportive, friendly. Fun to be with and full of energy and enthusiasm and just great,” she said.
On July 13 there will be a ceremony, dragon boat rides and a BBQ lunch in Lakeside Park from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.