Cancer-free warriors get oars in the water
Fighting breast cancer is no walk in the park, but being a survivor can be a day on the lake for members of the Pink Phurree Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Team. The Richmondbased team, which competes around Texas and throughout the United States, consists of women who have survived breast cancer.
A dragon boat is a 40-foot boat manned by 20 paddlers who work with one drummer to set the pace. There’s also a steersman in the aft of the boat to help direct its path. Teams compete against other dragon boats in races of varying lengths on lakes, on rivers or in bays. As many as 20 boats compete in one race, and there are many divisions. Races in the sport, which is gaining popularity, are held
around the world.
Breast cancer survivors in the Houston area started a dragon boat team about 10 years ago, said racer Carol Manley. She was asked to join by a friend and fellow cancer survivor about three years ago.
Although dragon boat members come and go, there is a core group of women and several male breast cancer survivors who make up the team and also provide support to their teammates as they work through the aftermath of cancer survival.
The Pink Phurree BCS Dragon Boat Team is a nonprofit entity that runs off of donations. Donors can buy a dragon scale, on which their name is etched, which is placed on the hull of the boat.
“Most of the scales are in honor of people who have passed away from breast cancer,” Manley said. “Our goal is to honor them as well.”
While the Pink Phurree team is competitive, the members don’t solely think of their outings in terms of winning races.
“At times, we have done well and sometimes not so well,” Manley said. “We have to compete against other co-ed teams, and they can be pretty tough. We just try to beat our previous best time, which is hard enough to do, and not worry about the other teams.”
Manley found a lump in her breast in 2006 underwent surgery and chemotherapy that year. She has been cancer-free ever since. She discovered this year that there was a problem with a catheter that had been placed in her heart during her treatment, so she underwent open-heart surgery to remove it.
“But the cardiologist has cleared me for paddling, and I’m back in the boat,” said Manley, who is the mother of two sons: Kyle, 23, and Quinn, 20. The team members don’t limit themselves to Texas-based races. They’ve competed in Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Montana.
“Oncologists like survivors to stay active,” Manley said, “So this brings us lots of activity.”
Manley said another benefit of the team’s activity is it serves as a recruiting tool to have team members participate in the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure. The Komen Foundation encourages people to have self-exams and talk to their doctors to learn more about breast cancer.ABOUT CAROL MANLEY AGE: 52 OCCUPATION: Accounting manager for Clover Tool Co., a small oil and gas company in Houston COMMUNITY CONNECTION: Member of the Richmond-based Pink Phurree Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Team and Sugar Land resident FAST FACT: Manley is originally from Belize in Central America.
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