Spirit Abreast is holding their annual meet and greet in Chilliwack, urging women with a history of breast cancer to join them. Submitted photo

Spirit Abreast ready for new season on Cultus Lake

New paddlers invited to join meet and greet event for breast cancer survivor team

There is always room for more on the boat.

As the Spirit Abreast Dragonboat team ramps up for its 2019 season, they’re putting out the call for new members. The team consists of women who are living with and who have survived breast cancer, from all over the Fraser Valley. They paddle on Cultus Lake weekly, and take part in regattas throughout the year.

For team captain Delrose Thomas, joining the team was more than just starting a new sport.

“This is my third year and I’m absolutely loving it,” she says. “It’s the best group of women.”

It’s been five years since her breast cancer, which led to a few surgeries. She has faced it all with a determination to be done with it, and she enjoys sharing her positive outlook with her teammates.

“I got to meet other women that were as positive as me, and if women weren’t as positive it felt so good (to see them) kind of turn around,” she says, when they meet others literally and figuratively in the same boat.

“Some of these women have one boob, no boob, reconstruction,” she says. “When you see these women of five, 10 years living strong, it gives you such support.”

Thomas is eager to get back on the water.

“The first year was great, the last year was phenomenal,” she says. “My body was so ready and the team just became so strong. Our coaches are unbelievable… we had so much more endurance.”

One of their paddlers was back in the boat just six weeks after surgery. And to see that sort of tenacity and positivity is contagious, she adds.

Still, it’s a team of survivors and they all know there are good days and bad ones. Thomas says those considering joining shouldn’t worry about getting in too deep, or being pushed too hard.

“Everybody is different, each and every person is different,” she explains. “It’s all timing and if you’re not dipping your paddle in as far, that doesn’t matter. You’re getting stronger every time you’re out there and that’s what counts.”

The team is just as much about sport as it is about supporting women with breast cancer, creating friendships, and helping find better treatments.

They have pub nights, fundraisers, getaways and more, to help build up their own circle of support.

To meet the team and learn more about what it means to dragonboat, drop in at their Meet and Greet, March 7 at 7 p.m., at the Sardis Library. You can also visit them online at www.spiritabreast.org.

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Spirit Abreast paddles weekly on Cultus Lake, but includes women from around the Fraser Valley. Submitted photo

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