A drum, some paddles, a pledge and a great big attitude!

Fourteen women. Fifty-two years of survival. Breast cancer. Sisters. Mothers. Wives. Daughters. Friends. Bonded by this single steel thread of determination, tears, dust and dignity.

Strangers until their second meeting last Tuesday night, these women are making waves.

They’re going to pick up their paddles and cross the finish line at Barrie’s first ever (and likely first annual) Dragon Boat races. And they’re planning their entry for Saturday, August 9 this month–April–cancer month.

Sue Macallum, unofficial spokesman for the group, shared their determination to reach out to the community to help raise the $800 entry fee. Why $800? Because this race (which will feature 40 boats in total) is the Sesquicentennial fundraiser put on by Barrie Public Library. Each entry pays the $800 fee which helps the library, and then garners funds for its own charity through race pledges. And of course, these 14 women hope to be joined by a few dozen more and to raise pledges in the thousands of dollars for the Simcoe-York Regional Cancer Centre to be built at Royal Victoria Hospital.

Already a few businesses have stepped forward to help with the fee. Leons, Armstrong-Meakings Law Firm, Allan Wright Waterwell have each donated $100 towards the fee. Sherry Wyman, a two year breast cancer survivor and owner of California Kiss Promotions has pledged the promotional T-shirts from her company, and promises the sponsors will all be listed on the shirts worn during the event.

Sue Macallum and Barb Osborne met during radiation treatments and found out that Dragon Boat racing started to involve breast cancer survivors when a B.C. doctor felt it was good for mastectomy patients to exercise their arms and shoulders. He promoted dragon boat racing as excellent therapy. “It’s become a national pasttime for breast cancer survivors,” says Sue.

The team, dubbing itself, The Breast Stroke, is looking for survivors to join them in the boat. They need a crew of 20 paddlers and one drummer. They need a team on the shore to handle refreshments. They need canvassers to help with pledges. They need people willing to pledge money. They need businesses and individuals willing to put in cash to help pay the entry fee.

And how did these 14 find each other? Strictly word of mouth. As the meeting started on Tuesday evening, each woman introduced herself. “I’m Nancy Findley and I’m a 3 year survivor; I’m Donna Jelly with 4 years; Peggy Pridham with 1.5 years; Lynn Coburn with 9 years and 4 years; Pat Oakley with 4 years, Sue Lloyd with 1.5 years.”

As they discussed how they met, they shared information about the Breast Cancer Survivors group which meets on the second Tuesday of every month at the Cancer Society office. They shared their experiences with Cancer Connection, the forum that links women to help each other through similar experiences.

“Word of mouth has brought us all together,” said Sue Macallum. She heard about the Dragon Boat Races and put leaflets in the oncology department at RVH. People knowing people knowing people did the rest. They’re anxious to swell their ranks, to build a team that’s big enough to maybe enter two teams in the races. And as they chatted, they shared their radiation experiences, in Boston, Buffalo, Princess Margaret, Sunnybrook. Seven women had their chemotherapy here in Barrie.

“I’m Elaine Davie and I have 2 years; Barbara Osborne with 10 years; Pam MacLachlan with 10 months; Sherry Wyman with 2 years; Sharon Payne with 2 years.”

So the team is divided into
Sponsorships: Sue Macallum (726-2207), Judy Adams (737-1933)
Pledges: Barb Osborne (737-3177), Sharron Payne (734-0648)

And then there’s the plea for paddlers and a drummer. You don’t have to have experience; you don’t even have to know how to swim. You don’t have to be athletic. But you do have to be a breast cancer survivor–with attitude!

With your commitment you can participate in the easiest race these women will ever run. After all, they’ve won their biggest race.

Achievement. Energy. Prayer. Wonderment. Pain. Grace. Glory.

Thanks, BCS-ers!