They’re living proof there is life after a breast cancer diagnosis.
Walnut Grove’s Gerri Inaba and Cloverdale’s Neoma Quintin are frequently out at community events together – like this past weekend’s Fort Langley Cranberry Festival – hunting for fellow breast cancer survivors wanting to join their team.
These women are members of the Abreast In A Boat dragonboating organization, and they’re both part of the local FORT-itude canoe team based out of Fort Langley.
There are five Abreast crews in Metro Vancouver, Fort Langley being one of them, elaborated Quintin, co-coach of the local 22-member local team. Abreast, she noted, was created by Dr. Don Mackenzie, as a clinical trail, to prove that women could lead active lives after a breast cancer diagnosis.
Out recruiting on Saturday, 44-year-old Quintin said: “The one and only requirement to join our team is a breast cancer diagnosis.”
Ten years ago, she was diagnosed, went through eight rounds of chemotherapy and 29 radiation treatment. The very next year, she joined the local dragonboat team, and has relished the experience.
“Personal, it was the best gift I have ever given to myself. It allowed me to trust my body again. The team is truly a family on and off the water. Dragonboat is challenging, but if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. You will learn to like this wonderful challenging sport, but you will love the beautiful bonds your creating with your team mates first,” she told the Langley Advance.
“I love that marriage of support and the empowerment of women that this sport encourages,” Quintin added, calling the team a pink army.
Sixty-one-year-old Inaba agreed.
“I can say from personal experience that the bond between the women on that boat is very special,” Inaba said.
“The amazing and braves ladies I have come to know in this sport are a big part of why I paddle.”
She was diagnosed back in 1997, when her family doctor suggested she get a mammogram since I had turned 40. She did, and a small cancerous tumour was discovered and removed in a partial mastectomy.
The same family doctor was the one to tell her about Abreast in a Boat, all those years ago, but already active in several sports she held off getting involved until six years ago.
Coining Quintin’s phrase, pink army, Inaba said the women “are there to support and help you through the rough times if you need it. On the flip side, I have never had so much fun and I’ve met new life long friends through this team. My health and physical shape is much better for it, which is a huge thing.”
While the number of recruits needed for the next season is still unknown, the team puts 22 in the water – 20 padddlers, one steerperson, and a coach.
“How many is difficult to say as we don’t have exact numbers of returning paddlers,” Quintin said.
But she noted whoever comes aboard must be able to practise twice a week, Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings, from the end of March to middle of July.