Tipperary's Suir Dragon Paddlers take to the waters of Florence

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Tipperary's Suir Dragon Paddlers take to the waters of Florence

Following enormous efforts and rigorous planning, The International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission (IBCPC), 2018,  Participatory Dragon Boat Festival, was held July 6-8 in Florence, Italy, at which some members of the Suir Dragon Paddlers  participated. Tuscany and Florence warmly welcomed participants from several countries around the globe, to this phenomenal and breathtaking experience.  

The festival hosted 121 global teams, some of whom had two crews. All continents of the world were included, representing the 18 countries of, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom and United States of America.  

Nore Dragon Paddlers, based in Kilkenny, on the Nore river, and Suir Dragon Paddlers, from Clonmel, on the Suir river, combined forces to create the  sensational ‘3 Sisters’ team, representing the three rivers, of the Suir, Nore and Barrow, under the inspiration and relentless guidance, of breast cancer surgeon, Mr Constantino Fiuza Castineira.  The team has been persistently training together for more than two years, and preparation has included dynamic and vigorous paddling in the Irish National Rowing Centre, in Cork.

Acknowledging that a cancer diagnosis, creates and generates understandable agonizing fearfulness and apprehension, this occasion bore witness to the desire of breast cancer survivors globally, to live joyfully and peacefully, whilst all the while ensuring that amusement, laughter and gratification are critical elements of their daily lives.  

Breast cancer survivors’ dragon boating is an international movement, inspired by Dr Don McKenzie, in l996 a Canadian physician and exercise physiology professor at the University of British Columbia, who was indeed present at the various ceremonies in Florence. Dr McKenzie has confronted the widespread medical views that women treated for breast cancer, should shun and eschew, demanding or tough upper body exercise, particularly because of the threat of lymphedema, a condition caused by a compromised lymphatic system, and a complication of cancer treatment.

Following a programme to examine the effects of exercise on breast cancer survivors, over a period of time, Dr McKenzie realised that not only did the women not get lymphedema, but that this sport encouraged confidence building amongst women, following their surgery and treatments, and indeed it had lent itself to vital support and camaraderie amongst fellow paddlers.  The first team created more than two decades ago, was known as ‘Abreast in a Boat’. Since then, dragon boat paddling has now become a mode of rehabilitation therapy and healing for enthusiastic breast cancer survivors.

The impressive ‘3 Sisters’ team participated in races on the river Arno, against countries from around the world, which were followed by the moving Flower Ceremony, and the presentation of individual medals. Several supporters accompanied the team to Florence, and participated in the impressive Supporters’ Race. Each of the supporters provided indispensable help and support to the participants. The team extends huge gratitude for their continuing collaborative friendship at all times, and particularly during the festival event.

It was a privilege and a joy to be part of such a warm and unforgettable international experience. The event was a true celebration of life and a demonstration of the desire to overcome difficulties and obstacles, and to live with faith, hope and joy.

On a local level, the  Suir Dragon Paddlers, is a group of women, encompassing Clonmel and its surrounds, who share a common interest, promoting  respect, compassion and support for cancer survivors, and a welcoming courtesy and kindliness to supporters.

The club promotes the importance of physical fitness for cancer survivors, and therefore, provides dragon boat paddling for psychosocial support, encouragement and friendship for cancer survivors, and a healthy and active lifestyle for both survivors and supporters. Training continues at the Clonmel Rowing Club, on Tuesdays and Fridays at 6pm.

New members are always welcome. Please follow us on Facebook. You may PM or call 087 3628383 for further details.