Survivors get stronger together

DRAGON racing isn't the only reason these women are all in the same boat.

They're also breast cancer survivors.

The Dragons Abreast Penrith crew members — who meet at the Regatta Centre three times a week for a paddle — are among 43 groups that comprise Dragons Abreast Australia, the only charity that promotes fitness and wellbeing for breast cancer survivors after diagnosis and treatment.

Dragon boating for breast cancer survivors was inspired by the research of Canadian sports medicine specialist Don McKenzie in the 1990s.

He found the strenuous upper body activity benefited cancer survivors.

Formed in 2004, Dragons Abreast Penrith now has 30 members.

"There are a lot of organisations for research and advocacy but survivors also need to be looked after when they've finished treatment," group chairwoman Jan Caldwell said.

"We want to show there is life after breast cancer treatment. You don't have to be a top athlete. We have a place for everyone."

Kerrie Dowding, who's had breast cancer on and off for 21 years, said: "You have your ups and downs so it's good to be around people who know how you feel. It's not all doom and gloom. Breast cancer doesn't have to be a life sentence."

The group held its annual Booby Ball fund-raiser at the Gaels Club last Friday to raise money for a tens boat, which is half the size of a normal 22-crew dragon boat.

Mrs Calwell has competed in international events and paddled 22 kilometres with other survivors along the Thames River as part of the Queen's Jubilee.

Dragons Abreast Penrith will take part in the Breast Cancer Survivor Regatta in Sarasota, Florida, next October.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

"It's the second biggest killer of Australian women, behind lung cancer," Mrs Calwell said. "We need to find a cure. It's as simple as that."

National Breast Cancer Foundation: nbcf.org.au.

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