Group uses “Dragon boating” to unite as breast cancer survivors

RACINE — There are a lot of ways to go through life, and one group of women in Racine has found that the best way for them is to pull together — literally!

“Dragon boating” and sisterhood can propel a group through the rough waters of life. The Pink Paddling Power Team of Racine’s members cannot say enough good things about the group, even if they never wanted to become members in the first place.

“Unfortunately, to join our sorority, you have to be a breast cancer survivor,” one group member said.

In less than a decade, the team has gone from a start up idea, to U.S. champions in the breast cancer division. The team is made up of women ages 46 to 71.

Sandy Georgeson has been diagnosed with breast cancer twice in the last 22 years.

“I think that paddling transforms us from a moment of cancer into athletes. When we get into the boat, we are one and it’s almost magical,” Georgeson said.

Lee Nehmer is a 10-year survivor.

“We are sisters of the heart. We share our survival tips. We share our struggles and cry sometimes. We share immense joy, but the best thing that we share is hope,” Nehmer said.

The group gathers on a “Dragon boat,” with a bartender by night and steersman by day calling the shots.

“Dragon boating is a team sport. If one person is out of synch, out of time, the rest of the boat can feel it. The job of the coach or the steersman in the back is to one – steer the boat, but also kind of keep an eye on things, making sure nobody is getting too excited, too out of synch, too out of time,” the steersman said.

A three-year survivor, Karen Severson loves the sport.

“We talk about one boat, one team, paddles up — we do things preliminarily to get in the boat and our coach takes us off, and it’s a thing of harmony. It’s like beauty to hear the paddle hitting the water,” Severson said.

There is absolutely no way to get anywhere fast unless you are doing this as a team on a Dragon boat. That serves as an appropriate metaphor for this group of breast cancer survivors.

“I think there’s just a bond between us – an unspoken sense of understanding where everyone comes from and where they are,” one group member said.

“Some of us are still in treatment. We work together, for everyone’s good. The water gets rough out there sometimes and life gets rough sometimes but we help each other through it,” one group member said.

The Pink Paddling Power Team is leaving later this week for the World Dragon Boat Championships in Hong Kong, where they will compete in the breast cancer division.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Racine’s Pink Paddling Power Team.

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