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Boating teams inspired by research

Dragon boating may be the latest cancer treatment if one doctor's theory is right, and more breast cancer survivors are taking up the sport than ever before.

The Los Angeles Pink Dragons, LAPD, is a team comprised solely of breast cancer survivors. The LAPD was created when one of the founders heard of research conducted by a doctor in Canada concerning breast cancer survivors and dragon boating, a sport in which paddlers race a 500-meter course to the beat of a drummer inside a decorated boat.

Dr. Don McKenzie of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada believed that with a special exercise and training program, women who have had breast cancer can go on to live healthy lives and avoid lymphedema, a debilitating condition common in breast cancer survivors in which excessive fluid called lymph collects in tissues and causes swelling, usually in the arms and legs.

After extensive training in dragon boating while being monitored by a sports medicine physician, a physiotherapist and a nurse, McKenzie's theory was proven correct within the same year he began his research, according to his official Web site.

Since 1996, his team, Abreast in a Boat, has inspired many other teams around the world. LAPD, one such team, is now the first breast cancer survivor team in California.

The LAPD is not only a dragon boat team, but a support group as well. Grace Bevos, a team member for two months, had surgery six months ago and found an effective support group in the LAPD. She admires "these women who have more to give than anyone else because they refuse to give up no matter how hard it gets." Dragon boating has not only given them exercise but has allowed each member to talk about her experience with breast cancer.

The LAPD is a recreational division team with 25 members who have competed all over the world. "Some of us just did a stint with some other members in Canada, two other members just came back from a competition in Berlin, and next year we are headed off to Singapore and Australia the year after next," said Bevos.