Paddlers together with other members from the BCWA
The PINK Challengers at the 26th Penang International Dragon Boat Festival - 12 June 2005
by Barbara Khoo & Dr Evelyn Ho
Breast cancer survivors from the Breast Cancer Welfare Association (BCWA) showed not just physical but mental and inner strength when they participated in the Penang Dragon Boat Race recently. Their mission to complete the race was achieved! Captain of the team was Rene’e Aziz Ahmad. The team comprised of 10 paddlers and 4 reserves (all breast cancer survivors). Only the steerperson (Azhari Hussen – staff from the Putrajaya Lake Club) and drummer (Liew Kuan Mei) were not breast cancer survivors. The ladies’ age ranged from 38 to 69 years! The team manager was Barbara Khoo, a qualified breast cancer nurse, volunteer and also committee member of the BCWA.
The team overcame setbacks such as lack of a boat or paddles or even a place to practice in. Even the absence of such facilities until just a month ago, did not deter them from beginning their training in February 2005 under the able coach, Bryen Pang. Bryen was a volunteer coach for these feisty ladies. Thanks to the Putrajaya Lake Club, a training venue was made available in the final weeks leading up to the race.
The BCWA launched this project after meeting the Adelaide Survivors Abreast Inc team at the 25th Anniversary Penang International Dragon Boat Festival in June 2005. Last year was the first time, a team of breast cancer survivors participated to show that survivors could still participate in outdoor activities. It was with the encouragement and motivation as well as support from the Adelaide Survivors Abreast Dragon Boat Club that led to the establishment of the BCWA Pink Challengers.
The Adelaide team was back in Penang this year – to race again of course. The Pink Challengers came in second with their best time of 3 minutes 48 seconds. Adelaide Survivors Abreast came in first with a time of 3 minutes 29 seconds. As there were only two teams competing (the breast cancer survivors’ team from Singapore was unable to make it), the breast cancer survivors formed a third team with a combination of reserves from the Adelaide team and Pink Challengers team called the Pink Combo. They came in third with a time of 3 minutes 59 seconds.
Amongst the supporters for the Pink Challengers were 3 husbands, a son, a daughter-in-law, a sister and friends.
Thanks also to Bryen Pang for being the coach and for volunteering for a most worthy cause indeed.
The powerful public statement made by participating in the Dragon Boat Race should raise breast cancer awareness and also demonstrate breast cancer is no barrier to any activity. Action once again, speaks louder than words!
Team members share their experiences… definitely the first for all of them!
Vicky: "I feel good. Even after being diagnosed with breast cancer, your life does not come to a stop. There are a lot of things to look forward to."
Swee Chan: "I enjoyed the fun, and I made it to the Dragon Boat race."
Jessica: "I feel great that I can enter such an International event."
Siew Lan: "I am satisfied with what I have achieved. In my wildest dream I did not think I will take part in this dragon boat race. We want to prove to ourselves and to others that we can do it even though we are breast cancer survivors with ages from 38 years to 69 years old."
Lathika: “We did our best after only 4 months of training. The time difference between the Adelaide Survivors Abreast and our team was not that great. With more training we can do better!"
Nancy (from the Pink Combo team made up of reserves – and had only 2 practices): “I felt scared at first as I do not know how to swim. I enjoyed the race and I want to participate in other races in the future."
Guat Beng (from the Pink Combo team): “I enjoyed the race. It was great to meet the survivors from Adelaide who gave us so much encouragement."
Kuan Mei (our drummer – only other non-survivor other than the coach for the Pink Challengers): "A very fantastic experience. I want to be a drummer in other world dragon boat events!"
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