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  • Writer's pictureMarla Friedman

The healing power of a dragon

Updated: Feb 22, 2019

The paddling motion in dragon boating was recognized to be beneficial to breast cancer survivors by a Canadian sports medicine physician. In 1996 Dr. Don McKenzie conducted research to see if upper body exercise could help prevent breast cancer patients contracting a painful condition called lymphedema. In the past, patients were advised not to do any upper body exercise. However, the women in the study became more fit and happier as a result of paddling. The camaraderie was contagious and the sport spread around the world for breast cancer survivors everywhere.

When I completed my breast cancer treatment five years ago and was ready for a new challenge, that conversation came to mind. I called the International Breast Cancer Paddle Commission (IBCPC) and asked if there was a team in Palm Beach County. Even though we are surrounded by water, there wasn’t a team. I was disappointed until the person on the phone mentioned that a team member from the Miami team had moved to Palm Beach that week and was starting a new team! With no experience, I learned how to paddle and was “bit” by the dragon. After paddling only three times, I participated in my first race in Miami and was hooked. Now our team, Lighthouse Dragons SOS, has over 65 members and owns two boats. We practice twice per week in the clear blue waters of the intracoastal under the watchful eye of the historic Jupiter Lighthouse. I just returned from Florence, Italy, where our team competed in the 2018 IBCPC Dragon Boat Festival. The festival is held every four years in cities around the world during the summer. There were over 125 teams from 19 countries and every continent. Our team from Jupiter combined with a team in Melbourne, Florida to create a composite team. For several months the 26 participants practiced together to prepare.

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