Dragons Abreast Northern Tasmania have capped off Breast Cancer Awareness Month with a spirited performance at the Masters Games.
Paddlers from the North Esk Dragon Boat club joined more than 400 competitors from around the country at Lake Barrington for the races, which were held throughout Thursday and Friday.
The North Esk Swamp Dragons lined up in three categories, while members of DANTI formed part of a Dragons Abreast North Tasmania team, which took part in a special cancer survivors event. DANTI publicity officer Ros Lewis said while they didn’t walk away with a medal, a good time was had by all.
“It was so well organised and the weather was just perfect,” she said.
Paddlers from the Swamp Dragons not only raced for the North Esk club, but also stepped in to help other teams. Swamp Dragon volunteer Kelly Broomhalll managed to win a medal through drumming for another team and said the competition was highlighted by a friendly atmosphere.
“Everyone was just out there to have fun and cooperate with one another,” she said.
The North Esk Dragonboat Club will hold a Come and Try Day in November, with the exact date to be announced in the coming weeks.
The tittilator may not be the most obvious choice for a boat name, but for the ladies of Launceston’s Dragons Abreast Northern Tasmania Inc Dragonboat Club, it couldn’t be more suitable.
As a Dragons Abreast Club, the members are all survivors of breast cancer.
Vice president Beth Sowter said they were not the only Dragons Abreast Club to use humor in describing their experience.
“We used to be the Tamar Tittilators and in Devonport, they had Nipples on Ripples,” she said.
“Some people get embarrassed when they hear it, but we actually get a good laugh out of it.
“It’s part of our overall philosophy that there is life after a breast cancer diagnosis.”
Mrs Sowter was one of the original members of DANTI, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.
While the club initially comprised of only breast cancer survivors, dwindling numbers meant it was forced to expand in 2012 and allow other paddlers in, bringing about the creation of the North Esk Dragon Boat Club.
Despite the change, Dragons Abreast events are still a central part of the club’s schedule, with paddlers able eligible to participate in ‘pink’ meets across Australia throughout the year.
Mrs Sowter said the club’s unique make up can be difficult to explain.
“We’re a community club that embraces pink,” she said.
“There are two committees, but we all just meet as one.
“We’ve made sure that a survivor has always held the positions of president and treasurer within DANTI.”
Dragonboat racing is an aquatic sport involving a 12-metre long canoe-style boat which holds 20 people (two abreast), as well as a sweep to steer the boat and drummer.
We’ve made sure that a survivor has always held the positions of president and treasurer within Danti.
A dragonboat features the head and tail of a dragon, regarded in Chinese mythology as having dominion over the waters and exercising control over rainfall.
It’s link to the rehabilitation of breast cancer patients can be traced back to 1996 when Dr. Don McKenzie developed a program to determine the impact of exercise on survivors.
In choosing dragonboating, the exercise physiologist challenged the widespread medical view that breast cancer survivors should avoid rigorous upper body exercise for fear of developing lymphedema, a debilitating and chronic side effect of treatment.
He trained 24 breast cancer volunteers in a gym for three months, before introducing them to dragonboats and teaching them paddling techniques.
The women not only found themselves to fitter, healthier and happier, but they were also able to feed off the support of their fellow survivors.
They went on to name their team ‘Abreast in a boat’ and eventually invited others to share in their experience.
In Australia, the movement originated when a group of Northern Territory women attended the First National Breast Cancer Conference for Women in 1998.
After hearing a Canadian guest speaker mention how breast cancer survivors paddled dragonboats, Dragons Abreast founder Michelle Hanton returned to Darwin to recruit a group of paddlers.
It has since developed into a national organisation featuring survivors of various ages from a diverse mix of backgrounds.
Mrs Sowter said the spirit of camaraderie within Dragons Abreast was as strong now as it had ever been.
“It’s a very cohesive movement,” she said.
“We’ve got lots of interstate friends now who come and paddle with us if they are visiting.
“The club also attends various regattas around Australia.”
With October marking Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the club would usually be preparing to host its annual Come and Try Day on the Tamar River.
This year, however, paddlers are heading to Barrington to compete in Over 50s and 60s divisions of the Masters Games.
Held across the weekend of October 26, the event includes race specifically for survivors of cancer.
The timing of the games means the Come and Try Day will now be held in November, with Mrs Sowter encouraging anyone with an interest in paddling to head to the North Esk Rowing Club for what should be a fun day.
“We kit them out in gear and give them about half an hour on river in the boat,” she said.
“There have been quite a few members to come out of Come and Try Days in past, although it has been difficult to retain them.”
The support was strong at Seaport on Friday night, as a sizeable crowd gathered for the annual Light the Night event.
Now in its sixth year within Launceston, the national Leukaemia Foundation initiative had one of its biggest turnouts yet, with more than 200 people walking along the Tamar River with lanterns lighting the way.
There was even activity on the water, with dragon boat teams rowing with lanterns to show their support.
Of the three colours of lanterns, gold was given to remember someone who lost their battle, white for those in the midst of their own fight, and blue as a sign of hope and support.
Volunteer Jackie Martin said the impact of blood cancer should never be understated.
“It’s such an insidious disease,” she said.
“There are no triggers, it just is what it is.
“I think Light the Night is a lovely symbolic event, which people always remember.”
This years marks the 30th anniversary of Leukaemia Foundation and the 10th anniversary of Light the Night.
The Rotary Club held an Open Day on Sunday, September 17, for community services and clubs around Launceston. The North Esk Rowing Club was asked to be involved, who then invited and included the Dragon Boat Club in this event.
Thank you to Ros, who took the reins in this, and to the members who showed up and lent a hand on the day. Ros was instrumental in organising us, and deciding what we should put out on show. There was quite a bit that didn’t make it, however, so we know we can do better if an event like this occurs in the future.
While only a handful of punters came through on the day, Ros had them well in hand, showing them around and telling them about our club. The Rowing Club had also kept the bar open from the “Sunday School” and was serving coffee and slices. Vanessa, the NERC secretary, had prepared a slideshow, including dragon boats, that played through both projectors. While we had input in this, it’s another thing that can be improved for next time!
The Birthday Bash, for those who aren’t aware, has become traditional due to the high density of birthdays within the club at this time of year. I won’t list them for fear of forgetting someone! This year it was held at Yacht Club 55. I believe we all enjoyed ourselves, due to the excellent company and great conversation. I heard quite a bit of laughter around the table, anyway!
As I entered, I noticed that the table had been set with party hats and noisemakers – and then the rest of the noisemakers arrived! Fun-loving Beth was the first to put her hat on, of course. I eventually followed suit so as to keep her company, then others joined in.
All in all, the camaraderie was exceptional. Thank you to all who attended, sorry to those who couldn’t, and I hope you can all join us at the next social event on the calendar, the Christmas party and Dragon Petanque Festival – it should be a hoot!
The Pink Breakfast was held at the LGH in August and was presented this year by YWCA Encore supported by Women’s Health Tasmania. Mandy Page from Encore was a lovely, bubbly hostess and she did a great job.
Encore offers support, information, and a specially-designed exercise program for women who have experienced breast cancer at any time in their life, including post-treatment support. Operating in Australia for over 30 years, YWCA Encore has already helped thousands of Australian women.
As DANTI have been the traditional hosts of the Pink Breakfast, we were represented by a hardy group of members who braved the early morning to attend this worthy annual event.
The format was a little different this year – which happens when an event is hosted by another party – with continental breakfast available on the table and a hot plate delivered to each person. I think you’ll all agree that this makes things much more straightforward than the usual buffet. Or maybe it’s just my hospitality training kicking in … The decorations looked great too!
Another point of difference was the raffle. While there was also a traditional raffle, this one had cards indicating the cost of the ticket, with the prize number visible on the back. I think the theory being that whichever card you pick up denotes the prize you receive. However, the prizes were all on view with their prize numbers clearly visible as well. So, what some people seemed to do is choose the card that corresponded to the prize they wanted! That seems to defeat the purpose of a raffle somewhat. Anyway, our own Beth “won” a lovely basket of goodies including a bottle of wine, and then apparently nearly left without it! She did leave behind one much-beloved purple dragon, who had been sitting on our table, never to be seen again. Poor dragon.
All in all, we had a good breakfast with great company and entertainment (Thanks, Keeva!) before departing to our respective duties for the day – yes, some people had to work.