Dragon boat team inspires breast cancer survivor

Patient Stories | Women’s Health | October 4, 2018
Carla Lange dragon boater and breast cancer survivor
Survivors in worldwide competition hearten Carla to carry on

Almost four years ago, Carla Lange, a PeaceHealth caregiver in southwest Washington, went for her first mammogram. She fully expected it to be normal given that she was 40 with no family history. She was stunned when the results came back with a diagnosis of breast cancer.

After a year of "hills and valleys" with chemo and other treatment, she was looking for something to renew herself.

The desire to get her life back

"I was tired of sitting on the couch. I had cabin fever," she said. About that time, she saw an email invitation from a dragon boating team specifically asking for breast cancer survivors. "I thought 'what kind of sport or group ever wants to invite a cancer survivor?' I was shocked that they would want someone that I would consider ill or weak or vulnerable."

Intrigued, she and her husband went to the lake to learn more. The team affirmed that they were here indeed supporting breast cancer survivors AND everyone of all ages and all abilities. The couple hopped into the boat and gave it a try.

"Dragon boating makes you use your upper body. Obviously, with breast cancer, your upper body is changed and you're kind of protective and you don't want to use your arms any more," she notes, "I was encouraged by others who said, it's actually the opposite. You need to start moving more. You need to use those muscles."

Rowing in Florence, Italy

In addition to learning the physical aspects of the sport, Carla noticed something else. "Dragon boating is a huge community for breast cancer survivors. It's one of the largest growing water sports in the world."

She saw that firsthand in the summer of 2018. She joined a team of breast cancer survivors and participated in an international dragon boat event for survivors only. The festival is held every four years and this time took place in Florence, Italy. It drew 126 teams from every continent to "paint the town pink," she says. "I had never seen so many women in one place with a story like mine."

"To be among these survivors and see them loving life was heartening for me to want to carry on and be the best kind of me I could be,” Carla says.

Dragon boat racing helps PeaceHealth breast cancer survivor