Taranaki breast cancer survivors' fight to get 'pink' dragon boating team to world champs

Nine Taranaki women who have already had the fight of a lifetime are taking on another one a dragon boating world championship.
Kathleen Moriarty, Megan Dent, Carol Coad, Norma Haley, Sharon Taylor, Valda McBeth, Carolyn Arnold, Derly Whyte and Nancy Mong have all, at some point in their lives, battled breast cancer.

But they have also found a love of being on the water with the Taranaki Dragons dragon boating team as a way of rehabilitation.

Now, the women are hoping to combine the two and create their own pink team, called Taranaki Pinks, to compete at the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission (IBCPC) Dragon Boat Festival at Lake Karipiro in April 2023.

A pink team means everyone on the boat, including the sweep at the back controlling the direction and the drummer at the front keeping paddlers in sync, must have endured some form of breast cancer.

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All 22 people have to be survivors to enter a breast cancer race," 58-year-old Dent said.

And they have a breast cancer division in the competitions we go to, and we can't enter because we haven't got a full boat of survivors.

Dragon boating has been proven to be beneficial for women following breast cancer as the movement keeps the arm and lymph nodes healthy.

After my mastectomy I couldn't lift my arm above my head, but I can now. I've got a whole lot of movement back since dragon boating," McBeth said.

Coad, Moriarty, and Haley have been with the Taranaki Dragons since they first started in 2008, with their cancer journeys starting around a similar time.

The Taranaki Pinks need to grow by 15 people in order to compete.

Dent joined in 2009, after a specialist told her about the team while she was going through treatment.

As for McBeth, she only joined in November after batting the disease three times, but is already in love with the sport.

I knew about it when I had breast cancer but never did anything about it.

When you're out on the water you just forget everything else.

The women currently train twice a week on the Waitara River with the Taranaki Dragons but hope 15 more breast cancer survivors catch the bug and jump on the waka, so they're able to register a team for what they are calling their world championship.

Its the first time since the establishment of IBCPC in 2010, the festival will take place in the Southern Hemisphere, and it's expected more than 5000 breast cancer survivors from all over the world will compete.

Its the only time itll be here in our lifetime, 75-year-old Coad said.

So it's a big deal, Dent added.

But the goal isnt just to make a team to be able to compete at worlds.

Oh no, we wanna win, Dent said quietly under her breath, with the woman bursting into laughter.

And although the competition is two years away, registration of team members and payment to enter needs to be completed by October 31, and they want to have enough women to compete at a regatta in the Waikato in November.

Breast cancer is such a big thing in Taranaki, so I don't see why we cant have our own team, Dent said.

The team has been fundraising to cover most of the cost of putting a team together, with a screening of dragon boating film The Pinkies Are Back held on Wednesday night at Event Cinemas, New Plymouth.

To join the team, women can reach out through the facebook page. The current crew can't think of why you wouldn't want to join.

"The exercise, the camaraderie, all that goes with team sports is there. And you get out of town and leave your husbands behind," Dent said.


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