Breast Friends needs more dragon boaters

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One of Edmonton’s most popular dragon boat crews is looking for a few good women for the 2011 season.

The Breast Friends is putting out its annual call for new members. The good news is that you don’t have to be an Olympic rower to qualify. You only need life experience.

“Before I was diagnosed I had seen them paddling down in the river valley and I thought, ‘Wow, that is so cool. Crap, too bad you have to get breast cancer to get on it.’ Eight months later, I was diagnosed,” said Holly Prus, team’s members and spokesperson.

The team’s goal is to prove that any woman can lead a full and active life after treatment and surgery for breast cancer. A couple of its oldest members are in their seventies.

The only stipulations are that you come from the Edmonton area, you have been diagnosed with breast cancer and your treatment is completed. Training sessions begin at the gym in February with practices in the pool starting in April. You’ll be in good company with its 30 members, including original member Joanne Mckeown from St. Albert and head coach Dot Laing who has more than 25 years of experience in athletic development.

Once Prus had completed her treatment, she applied to the team and was accepted. To her, it was a dream come true.

“You just think that your world’s falling apart. What I was striving for was to get on that team. That day I was diagnosed I just went berserk and then remembered the dragon boat team. That’s what pulled me through my tough times.”

Rowing made her believe in her body again. She said that it is good exercise and helps prevent her cancer from recurring. It also aids in reducing lymphedema, a problem of fluid retention that can lead to infections.

Last year the Breast Friends entered seven races, including the Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival in August, and won gold at six of them.

While it is a highly athletic and competitive sport, it’s the camaraderie and the soul support of the team that makes all of the sweat and effort worthwhile.

“It’s like having 50 sisters around you.”

She has only been a member for one year but said she is hooked and can’t wait for the next competition.

“Oh my god, it’s so fun!” she said. “I can’t wait. When you get on the river, it’s so exciting.”

Anyone interested is asked to attend an information meeting next Thursday, Jan. 6 at 7 p.m. in the Zane Feldman Theatre at the Cross Cancer Institute located at 11560 University Avenue in Edmonton. Please respond to info@breastfriendsedmonton.org. The deadline for new member applications is Jan. 15.

For more information, please visit www.breastfriendsedmonton.org.

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Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.