Life on the Water: Breast Cancer and Dragon Boating

Vancouver-based Dragon Boat team provides community for cancer survivors and patients

VANCOUVER — There was a time when breast cancer patients couldn’t exercise or be active because it was feared they would worsen their illness. Those days are done. 

Now, they paddle. 

Dragon boat racing team Catch-22 practices with a few new members at their breast cancer event at Vancouver Lake on Oct. 19. Photo by Bailey Granneman
Dragon boat racing team Catch-22 practices with a few new members at their breast cancer event at Vancouver Lake on Oct. 19. Photo by Bailey Granneman

Vancouver-based dragon boat racing team Catch-22 unites community and breast cancer survivors and patients. They invite anyone to join their team and learn about the exciting team sport that is a family to so many. 

“In dragon boating, one of the things that I found out your physical fitness and having breast cancer, they don’t interfere with your being able to dragon-boat but the other thing that doesn’t interfere is age,” said breast cancer survivor and team member, Paula Zellers, 78. “There is no discrimination against age in this in this sport, and I think that’s a pretty wonderful thing.”

Currently, the team has 11 people who have survived or are battling breast cancer. The team is co-ed, with men and women both presently on the team. They practice every week at Vancouver Lake; using the same boat house as the Portland Pilots’ rowing team.

At the rear of the dragon boat, the team member Chris steers the craft as the others provide propulsion by paddling. Photo by Bailey Granneman
At the rear of the dragon boat, the team member Chris steers the craft as the others provide propulsion by paddling. Photo by Bailey Granneman

“We’re trying to provide an avenue for them to come out, get exercise, have a community of other survivors around them, that they can use for support,” said Laura Thornquist, the team leader. “We’re not going to be a pink team, but we’re going to be a team that is here for you if you need us.”

Last weekend, the team held their first breast cancer event, with oncologist Dr. Magdolna Solti of Compass Oncology in Vancouver. Solti gave an in-depth overview to team members of how anyone can better prevent breast cancer as well as how to live fully healthy.

Much of her presentation centered around the “new american plate,” which is an effort to convert burgers and fries to fish and rice since obesity and poor diet can increase cancer risk.

Members, new and old, paddle together in their dragon boat at Vancouver Lake during a breast cancer survivor’s event last weekend. Photo by Bailey Granneman
Members, new and old, paddle together in their dragon boat at Vancouver Lake during a breast cancer survivor’s event last weekend. Photo by Bailey Granneman

The team has more information of practice times and future events as well as actual races on their Facebook page and through MeetUp.com. If you would like to join the team, send an email to Laura at catch22bcs@gmail.com.   

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About The Author

Jacob Granneman is a filmmaker and writer from Clark County. He is a recent graduate of Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College, where he studied media production. He has produced documentary stories all over the Pacific Northwest and in Argentina. His passions range from loving people, to cinematography, to going on adventures in the most beautiful place on earth, i.e. his backyard. He lives with his wife in Vancouver, WA.

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