A group of breast cancer survivors have found strength, solidarity and healing through an unconventional avenue: dragon boating.
Having navigated their own personal health challenges, the members of Dragons Abreast Melbourne Pink Phoenix come together each week to navigate the waters of Victoria Harbour in Docklands, proving that paddling is sometimes the best medicine.
The dragon boat has become a vessel of resilience and empowerment, fostering solace and support among these survivors who, while all having their own lived experiences, share the benefits of camaraderie and an active lifestyle post diagnosis and treatment.
For Andrea Seers, who was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a bilateral mastectomy in 2003, joining Dragons Abreast Melbourne Pink Phoenix has afforded her a healthy new life of friendship and adventure in a safe and caring environment.
“After the bilateral mastectomy I experienced lymphodoema in my arms,” Andrea said. “When I read an article in the Breast Cancer Network of Australia newsletter back in 2011 outlining the benefits of dragon boating for breast cancer survivors I was interested.”
The article profiled Dragons Abreast Australia which has clubs all over the country, including Docklands-based Dragons Abreast Melbourne Pink Phoenix.
“I had been wanting to try a new exercise and it was a perfect fit, along with the social side of dragon boating,” Andrea said.
“This exercise is perfectly suited to me to keep my lymphatic system moving well throughout my body via the gentle repetitive motion of paddling and it’s keeping my arms quite strong as well.”
Andrea, who is now club president, said membership is open to all breast cancer survivors and their support crew – not just those living in the City of Melbourne.
“The club has 26 members comprising breast cancer survivors and our wonderful male and female supporters, currently ranging in age from 48 to 68. Our group is multicultural and we are always looking to welcome new members.”
The importance of social connection and belonging after undergoing a serious health diagnosis cannot be underestimated, Andrea said.
“Especially after dealing with the debilitating treatments and psychological stress after a diagnosis of breast cancer, our club is a wonderful supportive environment for people who have been through this,” she said.
“To be surrounded and supported by those who have all been through the same experience is hugely rewarding, and we provide hope and a pathway for these people to experience a new life of wellness and adventure.”
Dragons Abreast – and many community groups like it – are listed on City of Melbourne’s new Wellbeing and Connection Map.
The map is designed to help you find activities, services and initiatives that support social connection and inclusion in your neighbourhood.
Mental wellbeing is largely shaped by the connection we have to our community and our ability to access quality support close to where we live.
Using the interactive map, easily find opportunities to connect with your community right on your doorstep. Whether it be health, wellbeing and recreation, arts and culture, lifelong learning, volunteering or a community social group, there’s a group just right for you where you feel welcomed and supported.
“By including information about our club in the Wellbeing and Connection Map, we are hoping that many in our community who have previously been diagnosed with breast cancer will be made aware of our club’s existence and become aware of the potential health and wellness benefits they could receive by coming to join us,” Andrea said.
“We welcome breast cancer survivors in our community to come and try dragon boating with us any time. We are always looking for new members.”
Dragons Abreast Melbourne Pink Phoenix paddle for one hour from 10am on Saturdays and, during the non-winter months, from 6pm on Wednesdays. No prior experience is necessary. Meet at the Community Hub @ The Dock, 912 Collins Street, Docklands.
To learn more about the pink paddling phenomenon, visit Dragons Abreast Melbourne Pink Phoenix or explore the Wellbeing and Connection Map to find other community groups in your neighbourhood.