By: Anne Cahill, KAB member

My story begins when I was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia CML in June of 2016. I had just started a daily oral chemotherapy when I received the dreaded “call back” after my regular mammogram and was diagnosed with Breast Cancer as well. I had a lumpectomy and luckily did not require a separate chemotherapy.  I weighed the pros and cons with respect to my ongoing CML treatment and “opted out” of the standard course of radiation.  At that point I decided that the medical team had done their job and it was now My job to get moving, get in shape and show cancer who was Boss!

I had heard about the Knot A Breast breast cancer survivor dragon boat team and their accomplishments but was hesitant to reach out. I called Geri, the new membership co-ordinator, and got some information about the team and how to join but didn’t follow through. I just wasn’t confident that I could do it! Even though I had been athletic in my younger years and loved playing sports, I was intimidated to try a new sport that I had no background in.  Was I too old to learn a new sport? Was I too physically-depleted from cancer treatment to join this team?

The idea of dragon boating continued to ruminate in my mind as I got stronger and healthier in 2018.  I started walking, golfing and playing pickle ball.  My husband and I joined a gym.  A year later, I was able to put my reservations aside and made that second call. The rest is history in the making!

I have come a long way since that first race nearly two years ago! It was months before I understood the nuances of “the start” and it will take me a long time and much practice to do it well.  I am beginning to understand how important fitness and training is as I continue in my journey as a dragon boat athlete. As Coach Kathy Levy lovingly puts it, “I am a work in progress”.

Knot A Breast at the start line in Lane 4 (second from left) at Hamilton Waterfest, 2019: Anne’s first race (photo credit Sandman)
The 2018 Newbies at their first race in 2019: Anne Cahill is fifth from left  

All new members compete in one race their first season.  I will never forget that day we got into the boat for our first competition at Hamilton Waterfest in July, 2019.  I had only graduated from the safety boat, where I watched the team practice, to being in the dragon boat paddling weeks earlier.  What seemed not so difficult from a safe distance was much more demanding once seated, hip to gunnel,  paddle in hand. I had just barely figured out what side I would paddle on and here it was Race Day! It was so emotional, I had tears in my eyes as I got in the boat and was thankful for the sunglasses I was wearing.  The enormity of how far I had come, and how I never gave up, came to me all at once. These reflections were quickly replaced by nervousness as we made our way out to the starting line. The race was both scary and electrifying! “Scary” because I forgot to keep my head up and missed my stroke and “electrifying” because we did it, we crossed the finish line! 

Anne Cahill’s husband, Laurie, was proud of her after first race 2019

After the boats were put away for the season in 2019, this retiree headed to Florida and was fortunate to paddle with a team there for several months. It was amazing to get out on the water again! Paddling with alligators watching from the shallows and having the occasional dolphin race with us really made for a different experience! We enjoyed lots of golfing, and I took out a membership at a local gym in order to maintain and increase my fitness level. When home for the holidays that year I was able to work out with Knot a Breast in Welland for several weeks doing circuit training and paddling in “the tank” (See Knot A Blog: KAB Members in The Tank). It is a large pool with running water that simulates being on a moving body of water like a lake. You really have to experience it to understand! Incredible!

Anne training in Florida winter 2019/2020: Anne smiling at camera

In January 2020, I was back in the sunny south, still working out, still paddling with the team there, golfing, playing pickle ball and staying connected with my team and their fitness plans. Excitement was mounting and everyone was looking forward to what they 2020 season was going to bring. Who would have thought it would bring a global pandemic that would overwhelm our healthcare system, have us isolated from those we love, close our borders and cancel our whole season?  

We were wintering in Florida, somewhat oblivious of what was going on throughout the world, as Florida remained “business as usual”.  It was at the urging of our daughter, the Prime Minister and coach Kathy to come home early that made us quickly change our plans and return to Canada in March just in time to see borders close! Now safely back at home,  I watched from my window as spring ran into summer, and then summer into fall in what felt like the movie “Groundhog Day”.  I developed a daily routine of: Get up, check the news, walk, read, make meals, and clean up.  I did this all while anxiously waiting for an announcement of a vaccine that would help us to return to the people and places and activities we loved!

Pre-pandemic our team was made up of two groups: “Newbies” and “Vets”.  “Newbies” are team members that had joined that year.  Their full integration into the team starts with the Newbie race.  That is the initiation and introduction into dragon boat racing! After that event, team members are considered “Vets”. However, it is not until the next season that members participate in the full card of races and truly feel enmeshed with the team.  There has always been this yearly cycle of Newbies and Vets within our team. 

The pandemic has definitely created some grey areas in this normally stream-lined process.  We now have “Pro-Newbies”: women who joined in winter 2020, who have been participating in training, but have NOT actually gotten into our dragon boat.  They are like “Super-Newbies” with lots of fitness training but no practical experience! They have been bumped as “Newbies” by the women who have joined this winter 2021. Both groups of women are hungry and eager to get a taste of what dragon boating truly feels like, to get the thrill that the seasoned members have when they talk about the joys of dragon boating.

With this pandemic pause in mind, I now affectionately refer to the women who joined with me in 2019 as the “Pre-Pro-Newbies”.  We are the women who got that “little taste” from competing in our first race.  We did a lot of training in the boat that season, before and afterwards, and were excited and anxious to see how our training and commitment translated on the water! That “taste” meant we actually know what we are missing! And so for our group, it has felt like “paddling purgatory”, where we didn’t quite make it to the place of sharing stories of big races and training camps, but we are not brand new team members either. Our mettle is anxiously waiting to be really tested!

The vaccines started arriving here in Canada at the start of 2021, and as we approach summer 2021 we are hopeful to all get the promised “jabs” that will hopefully allow us to resume our normal activities. Recently, I was very fortunate to receive my second jab because of my blood disorder and am now fully vaccinated! It was definitely a Happy Day! I am looking forward to the day we are all vaccinated and paddling together as a team. For this “Pre-Pro-Newbie” it feels a bit like starting over. However, it is very reassuring to know that I am in very good company!

By Norma Moores and Carrie Brooks-Joiner, KAB members

The Knot A Breast breast cancer survivor dragon boat team was formed in 1998. The team is now 23 years old and has been represented by a logo of a cute dragon head with a pink ribbon around its neck and Knot A Breast spelled out below it in a rope-like font. This logo was created by Hamilton artist, Conrad Furey, married to coach Kathy Levy’s cousin.

Knot A Breast’s original logo by Conrad Furey

Conrad was born in Newfoundland in 1954 and settled in Hamilton in 1974. He passed away from colon cancer in 2008. Conrad was very fond of Knot A Breast. One of his paintings depicts a dragon boat team and hangs on the ground floor in the Medical Arts Building at 1 Young Street, Hamilton. He created the original logo after talking to the entire original team.

Example of Conrad Furey’s art, Medical Arts Building, 1 Young Street, Hamilton

After 23 years, though, it was time to update the logo while reflecting on the legacy of the original logo and the future of the KAB team. A Visual Identity Project Committee was formed to develop a new logo and team shirts with members Carrie Brooks-Joiner, Michelle Sandrasagra and Milka Vujnovic. After consulting with the Board of Directors, they felt the new logo should reflect a team that is:

  • Strong
  • Fast
  • Powerful
  • Competitive
  • A cohesive team

The new logo needed to be visually striking, a strong purple colour, include a dragon head and the team’s name, Knot a Breast, transferable to multiple formats and uses, and have longevity, just like the original logo.

Hamilton artist, Heidi Hoffmann, owner and founder of Imagine Media  (Facebook, Instagram), Hamilton, and a friend of KAB member Milka Vujnovic, was engaged to create the new logo. Imagine Media is a marketing agency that pushes the boundaries of creativity. They specialize in digital marketing, website design, branding development, and social media.

Knot A Breast’s new logo is the head of a dark purple dragon breathing red fire. It comes in the primary format with the team name, a version with just the dragon head, and a ‘reverse’ white version for printing on team shirts. It was approved by the Board of Directors and presented to the members at the virtual Annual General Meeting on May 21, 2020. We can’t wait to see it on new team jerseys when racing starts again!

Knot A Breast’s new dragon head logo
Knot A Breast’s new reverse logo for printing on dark team clothing

The original and new logos demonstrate that there are many ways to support breast cancer survivors, including creating beautiful logos for us that embody our strength, power and team.

By Carrie Brooks-Joiner, KAB member

When I was a kid, the only person I knew with a tattoo was my Great Uncle Harold. It was on his upper arm and its original sharpness and colour had long faded. I never knew what it represented, and I didn’t dare to ask him. I only ever knew it had something to do with the war and that my mother disapproved.  To me, it represented a combination of badass and what I could only assume was youthful regret.

At eighteen, my youngest daughter announced she was going to get a tattoo on her inner forearm. She didn’t need my approval, but I certainly let her know I did not approve. My concern about the permanence was to her the whole point of getting one.

Val and daughter's tattoos
Val and her daughter’s matching dragon tattoos
My daughter and I got matching tattoos for my 50th Birthday – a dragon and pink ribbon. I was diagnosed at age 44, joined the Knot A Breast Dragon Boat Team the next year. At that time, the team was just finding themselves. We broke the 3 minute mark for a race – that was an exciting race (we have come a long way since then). I guess you could say these were our first glory days of racing.
My personal life not so hot: our parents were getting up there; my Dad passed away the month before by 50th birthday. My daughter suggested we do something fun – get matching tattoos. I have never regretted getting the tattoo. I actually forget I have it most times.
P.S.: We made the tattoo artist make the dragon happy, not scary, so it is not exactly like the KAB dragon.

It seemed that overnight tattoo culture was everywhere. It was the subject of reality TV shows, produced a raft of tattoo artist stars, and provided fodder for Instagram. Several of my friends celebrated birthdays, vacations and milestones by getting “inked”. I didn’t get the allure, and the permanent inking of skin seemed slightly repulsive to me. I swore I would never get a tattoo, but cancer made a liar out of me.

It never occurred to me that tattoos would be used to map the boundaries of my radiation treatment zone. Four small green dots, inked clumsily by a radiation technician, were my initiation into tattoo culture. The dots, the size of freckles, remind me of the first points of an incomplete dot-to-dot game of my youth and the picture isn’t revealed until all the dots are joined by lines drawn in sequential order. But my dot tattoos were neither interesting, artistic nor meaningful in a positive way. They did, however, give me bragging rights and all of a sudden I had more tattoos than anyone I knew.  

Milka's ribbon tattoo on her shoulder
Milka’s ribbon tattoo
I had started to think about getting a tattoo well before my breast cancer diagnosis. I could never find anything meaningful enough to warrant the pain and the permanency of a tattoo. My life changed drastically after breast cancer and not just in a negative way. I became stronger, lost a lot of weight, joined Knot A Breast Dragon Boat Team, and started along the road to become fitter and healthier than I have ever been. There was a new me and I thought, OK, time for that tattoo to celebrate this new person. 
I was never really enamoured with the pink ribbon or the fact that it was a survivor symbol. I don’t feel like a survivor. It feels like it should be more of a thriver symbol. I didn’t just survive, I thrived and I knew I wanted to have a mark on my body to symbolize that, a visible mark on a very strong part of my body, my shoulder!
The foundation is the ribbon but the colour is not the traditional pink, nor is the shape, feel or flow. It’s a whimsical brush stroke, with a flowy form and movement that symbolizes for me that I have thrived and grown into someone who is healthy and strong. And it makes me smile every time I see it! It doesn’t make me think of cancer. It symbolizes for me that I have flourished into someone who is strong, powerful and a little bit artsy!

Now with the link between tattoos and cancer firmly in my mind, I began to notice that breast cancer has its own tattoo culture. As I moved through stages of treatment in search of the new normal, I became aware of how embedded tattoos are in the breast cancer community. Apart from the unwanted radiation tattoos that many of us do our best to ignore, there are also celebratory tattoos that are chosen deliberately and worn proudly, rallying tattoos that are badges of the battle and the fight, images that note the belonging of the breast cancer survivor “club”, and, sadly, memorial tattoos worn by friends and family.

A year after my mastectomy I became interested in the post-surgery tattoos: ones to hide mastectomy and reconstructions scars and others that create the illusion of a three-dimensional nipple on a reconstructed breast. It was the scar-hiding tattoos that initially fascinated me the most. The program (Personal Ink, a North American program that provides “tattoo inspiration” to breast cancer survivors) shares images of how artists use a scarred chest as a canvas for sweeping florals, exquisite birds, and complex graphics. They promote beautiful, empowering designs as a way for women to reclaim their bodies after breast cancer and not allow it to leave the “last mark”.

Ann's survivor and pink ribbon tattoo
Ann’s pink ribbon tattoo
I had the ‘pink ribbon’ done about 5 years after being diagnosed. I had already been part of Knot A Breast Dragon Boat Team for a couple of seasons. It was one way that I could state that I was a Breast Cancer Survivor. When I made the choice to have a tattoo, I asked a girlfriend to come with me to be my support. We went for a couple of glasses of wine after. I chose to put it on my ankle because it was in the open for anyone to see – yet subtle.

I had never seen a mastectomy scar until I viewed my own. As much as I admired the artistry of the elaborate tattoos, I didn’t have a need or desire to hide my mastectomy scar. With a length of 7 inches, it would take a large tattoo to hide it. I wasn’t interested in anything that substantial or that would show when I am dressed. 

With thoughts of hiding the scar out the window, I increasingly became intrigued by the idea of “owning” my scar and how a tattoo might enhance that concept. The scar is a long, thin imperfect line that starts at my sternum and ends under my armpit. I played with the idea of the line as a wire and imagined small birds on it (Leonard Cohen in my ears) or turning it into telephone wires with poles. A string? Not vertical enough for a kite. A tail? No rodents or creatures on this chest. Eventually, I got back to the idea of the scar as a former wound. I like sewing and imagined a needle and thread with large stitches across the scar just like the mending of a tear in clothing. Too cliché. A zipper? No, that was a scar cover and I’d decided against hiding it. I thought I had it with the idea of tattooed staples but in the end, decided that it was too Frankenstein. I was getting nowhere, and the months were passing by. After much research and reference checking, I had selected a tattoo artist, but I still didn’t know what I wanted in a tattoo.

Ann's dragonfly tattoo
Ann’s dragonfly tattoo
From KAB’s Website: It is said that a dragonfly represents the spirit of a team member no longer with us; they rest, ever so gently with glistening wings, on the shoulder of the paddlers to give them strength as they race down the course. They symbolize hope, grace and strength. Often, dragonflies will glide over the paddles as the team waits for the starting horn to blow. It brings a bittersweet smile to their faces, encouraging them to do their best.
A couple of years after my ‘Pink Ribbon’ tattoo, a teammate asked me to be her supporter when she got her first tattoo. While she was getting her dragonfly done, I made the decision to have a smaller version tattooed on my wrist. Now, understanding the meaning that the dragonfly has to Breast Cancer Survivors, it was an easy choice.

I went back to basics: the scar was not to be hidden; it was to be a (former) wound rather than turned into something else; it needed to be a personally meaningful message. One day it came to me: safety pins. Safety pins fix things. They reinforce. They add strength where there is weakness. Even though my cancer-laden breast is gone, and the scar is healed, there is a risk of recurrence. Safety pins. Perfect.

Carrie's 3 safety pins on her mastectomy scar
Carrie’s safety pins tattoo

In October 2018, I met with tattoo artist Anthony Jenkins, owner of The Intrepid Club in Waterdown (now in Dundas). Anthony is known for exquisite nipple re-creation tattoos and has done a lot of work on scars and with mastectomy clients. I took my idea to him and he immediately got it. Rather than put me on the many months waiting list as I had expected and was prepared for, he offered to do the tattoo in the following days. I said yes, made the appointment, and left wondering “what I have done?” When I returned, Anthony had designed the tattoo based on our discussion and it was perfect. The actual tattooing was not painful or uncomfortable (my scar area is quite numb) – it was closer to a prickly sensation like an electric razor, and it was all done within 45 minutes.

A year and a half later I still love the tattoo. It has given me many a smile in response to startled looks from medical staff when I’m disrobed for checkups and scans. It accomplished exactly what I’d hoped it would for me: a visual and emotional reminder of strength and reinforcement. I own this scar.

Photo of author

By Carrie Brooks-Joiner, KAB Member

We know what the “C” word means. Given the prevalence of cancer in so many forms, most people have at least a passing familiarity of the disease. Yet, until it demands our attention, cancer tends to stay in the background of our consciousness.

For members of the Knot A Breast Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat team members, we have already faced the big “C”. For some of us, and others who have experienced cancer, it is not the big “C” that dominates our thoughts, but the big “R”; recurrence. My handy dictionary explains recurrence as the “fact of happening again”. Dr. Google goes on to explain that in a cancer context, recurrence is cancer that has recurred (come back or metastasized), usually after a period of time during which cancer could not be detected. Cancer may come back to the same place as the original (primary) tumour or in another place in the body. 

I was a cancer innocent. It never occurred to me that I would get breast cancer. There is very little cancer in my family and no breast cancer. I had none of the risk factors. I distinctly recall my mother explaining to me that it is cardiovascular disease that kills the women in my family. Perhaps she thought that somehow this awareness, and her reminders to pay attention to healthy living, would stave off that threat. Maybe it has, but there was cancer lurking behind it. 

To me, it was being blindsided by cancer, not the chemo, surgery or radiation that was hardest to recover from. I never saw it coming. It was like being hit in the head with a ball in the playground and you weren’t even part of the dodgeball game or really aware the game was going on. It stuns you and disorients you before you can make any sense of what happened. 

While I don’t accept that cancer is a “gift” or that it has made me a better person, I have learned to raise the bar on what is a health problem. I can brush off a nasty cold or the flare of a chronic injury as temporary minor annoyances; I know they won’t “kill” me. But I have to admit that there is the fleeting moment where I wonder whether the new cough or pain is a symptom of metastasis.

Recurrence rears its head at unexpected moments. At work, we joke about the hope of being retired at the conclusion of long-term projects, but that’s not where my thoughts go. When one of my daughters casually refers to getting married or having children “someday”, my silent thought is “Will I live that long?”.

As a breast cancer team, we talk about cancer frequently. There is tremendous value in sharing experiences and information about treatments, products, and services in a healthy and positive way. But other than the off-hand comment or joke, recurrence is not something we talk openly about. Perhaps it is reserved for more private, over coffee conversations or smaller car-pool chats. I suspect that it is a common fear among us but I don’t really know to what extent it fades or heightens over time or how it’s different for those at stage 0 versus stage 3.

I envy those who, post-treatment, can take a “no evidence of disease” or NED status, as “cure” and who can park cancer thoughts in the far back parking lot and move on. I am not able to do that. (Perhaps I am being naive that anyone ever really moves on.) My knowledge of my high risk of recurrence stays with me. A glimpse of my mastectomy scar as I get out of the shower, or a damn pink ribbon on my package of lettuce, are constant little reminders that register to my subconscious. While the return of cancer is on my mind, it doesn’t haunt me in a depressive way or negatively impacts my daily life. Like a song I can’t get out of my head, or a word I can’t quite remember, recurrence hovers just under the surface of my daily thoughts.

I know that my awareness of the risk of recurrence is a little bit of armour. Informed by a growing file of peer-reviewed journal articles and familiarity with Kaplan-Meier overall survival graphs, I am still frustrated by the lack of specificity. If, or when, cancer reoccurs, I imagine I will be angry, sad, and disoriented, but I won’t be blindsided. The return of cancer will be much easier for me to rationalize than the original diagnosis.

So what do I do with all this? What do fellow paddlers do with this? I have no good advice for anyone else with recurrence on the brain. It can be a deep dark hole that is hard to climb out of once you fall in. Or it can be a place that you never acknowledge exists. For me, the hovering presence of recurrence is a reminder to live a little faster and live a little more deliberately.

Author’s note: This blog was written prior to COVID-19, and published in 2020 while the world is in a pandemic. Measures that are currently in place to control the spread of the virus are negatively impacting KAB members’ treatments, appointments and healthy living routines. Even under these exceptional circumstances and new health concerns, thoughts of recurrence still linger. All the more reason to connect with others, have authentic conversations and find joy in every day.

During spring 2020, we are challenged to stay healthy and fit within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic that requires us to stay home, physically distance, and not be with our teammates. We connect on our private Facebook group, challenging and supporting each other to keep going, keep strong. For a week in April, we focused on posting healthy, nutritious and sometimes, just good old comfort food.

It just takes attending one dragon boat festival potluck lunch with Knot A Breast Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat team to realize we care about what we eat. Based on our Facebook posts, we have compiled some of our teammates’ favourite recipes for everyone to enjoy.

Breakfast and Breads

Nutritious pancakes, easy-to-make bagels, granola and yogurt, and bannock are favourites. Geri posted about her go-to breakfast: whole-grain Cheerios and Bran Buds with unsweetened almond milk, banana and decaffeinated coffee with milk. She says this keeps her going as a font-line worker in the health profession who can’t stay home.

Geri’s go-to breakfast


A few muffin recipes, energy balls and bars, a recipe for hummus, and Aleta’s prize butter tart recipe were shared. Milka’s chickpea muffins came highly recommended by the women she carpools with to practices. Rebecca says, “These are the best! We love them after a great workout on Saturday morning in Welland. Thanks Milka. Keep them coming!” Milka says she usually quadruples the recipe because her son goes through them like crazy. They freeze really well, but usually they are gone before they get a chance to make it to the freezer.

Lunches and Dinners

A wide variety of recipes for salads, soups and entrées were posted, everything from passed-down family favourites to ideas from contemporary web sites. Two favourite cookbooks mentioned are The Living Kitchen and Oh She Glows! There were quite a few plant-based dishes, giving us a wider variety of protein options to choose from.

KAB members can cook up a storm in their kitchens, and we found out their partners and family can too. Karen showed off her husband’s lasagna; Helen bragged about her husband’s fresh-caught perch dinner; and Michelle posted about delicious pizza made with her kids. Anne posted about comfort food. She finds working in the kitchen very therapeutic and made over 200 perogies to freeze.

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The last word belongs to our coach, Kathy. Most people know she does not cook. She posted, “So, yesterday I dusted my bowls, utensils and oven, and cooked my mom’s baked macaroni and cheese. First time I have cooked in years!” See, everyone at KAB cooks.

by Michelle Lapointe, KAB Member

Dragon boating is an exhilarating sport. As with all water-related activities, safety is paramount when our team, Knot A Breast Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Team, is out on the water. The water, wind and weather conditions can be wild or unpredictable. As paddlers, we must have the knowledge and skills to react efficiently to ensure the safety of ourselves and everyone in the boat.

The Knot A Breast annual safety “dunk” is a dragon boat capsize drill that all of our members must successfully complete before being allowed on the water each season. It is a simulation of the boat capsizing. One of our members, Donna Reise, oversees the safety dunk at a few of our winter pool practices so that every team member has the opportunity to practice this important drill. She goes over the importance of knowing this drill and the elements that keep each of us safe in the event of a capsize.

The “dunk” consists of Knot A Breast team members sitting on the side of the pool dressed in full paddling gear, dropping their paddles away from themselves, falling into the water, swimming across the pool with their buddy, then ducking under the water as if they were ducking out from under the dragon boat. Key safety messages include:

  • Stay calm and quiet
  • Find and stay with your buddy (seat partner)
  • Stay with the dragon boat

No one likes to go swimming fully dressed in their paddling clothes, but each of us understands the importance of practicing what to do should we find ourselves in the water.

Some of our Knot A Breast Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Team Members are familiar with Brian Kelly of SMBS Personal Training and Wellness Studio as a personal trainer or from taking his fitness classes. All of us are familiar with the effect of exercise on mental health. Brian has brought these together in his second annual Threshold Challenge.

Threshold to a Brighter Tomorrow raises money for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to provide rehabilitation care. The Threshold Challenge began in 2019 (see Knot A Blog: KAB joins the Metabolic Challenge for “Threshold to a Brighter Tomorrow”), and this year strives for even greater success. The challenge encourages people to get involved by completing daily and weekly physical and mental challenges for the month of February. Every challenge completed as well as every $10 donation to Threshold to a Brighter Tomorrow is rewarded with an entry for a prize. The set of daily challenges and the weekly challenges are provided below, along with the ways to win.

Daily Challenges
Weekly Challenges
Ways to Win

Threshold was designed in 2009 for Jared Humenik as his own “fun” brand of fight wear which he received as a gift for Christmas that year. In 2012, we lost Jared to mental illness. His family is now using the Threshold name to raise money and awareness for mental health and addiction.

Please help us bring awareness to mental health and addiction. For more information, contact SMBS Training Studio!

Threshold to a Brighter Tomorrow is in the memory of Jared Humenik

If you are hanging out with a Knot A Breast Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Team member during the winter months, you might hear them say, “I’m in the tank Saturday morning.” What vision does this bring to your mind? Maybe one of these definitions?


  1. a large receptacle or storage chamber, especially for liquid or gas. 
  2. a heavy armored fighting vehicle carrying guns and moving on a continuous articulated metal track. 
  3. NORTH AMERICAN informal: a cell in a police station or jail.

Number 1 would be close to what they are describing, but it is not a gas tank like in your car. On Saturday mornings in the winter, KAB members head to the Welland International Flatwater Centre (WIFC) to work out with their fellow paddlers, SNCC Welland Warlocks in the ‘tank.’ The WIFC is a state-of-the-art indoor facility for rowing, canoe, kayak and dragon boat training. The facility was built for the Pan Am Games and is the only one of its kind in North America.

In the summer season we train on open water and work hard to make the boat move through the water. In the tank, the boats are fixed in place and the water moves. Think of a treadmill, but with water as the moving surface instead of rubber. Different configurations of “seats” can be lowered into the tank that simulate rowing shells, canoes, kayaks and dragon boats. It differs from a swimming pool in that the water is less than a meter deep, and large pumps hidden at the end of the tank push the water from one end to the other creating a current. Coaches can move around the tank and even step into the boats to assist with technique, make corrections, and generally do what they do, coach. Mirrors are mounted along the sides of the tank so the athletes can view their reflections to review their form and work on perfecting their technique.

Knot A Breast Dragon Boat Team are very fortunate to be able to train at WIFC. Next time you hear a KAB member say, ‘I’m in the tank’, know that they are in winter training to perfect their technique and are dreaming of the upcoming competitive season.

By Carrie Brooks-Joiner, KAB member

A handful of Knot A Breast team members attended the 10th Biennial Life After Breast Cancer Conference offered by the Juravinski Cancer Centre, October 25, 2019 at the Hamilton Convention Centre. We staffed a table in the trade show, proudly displayed a selection of trophies and medals, and tried to encourage as many women as possible to join the Knot A Breast Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Team. Nineteen conference attendees signed up for more information about our team!

This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Alexandra Ginty, a Community Family Physician and the Regional Primary Care Lead for Cancer Care in Mississauga/Halton. Dr. Ginty shared her story of how she coped with her own breast cancer diagnosis and transitioned from the doctor to patient role. She is a strong advocate for art therapy, journaling and a cognitive behavior therapy approach to improve mental health. Alex shared what she called “Positive Thinking Cards”. Each has a different theme such as “Resilience”, “No Excuses”, and were a simple list of reminders to herself. Card #1, “Things to Remember” included “Enjoy every moment. Ask for help. Take naps. Don’t feel guilty.”, etc. in her long and personal list. I recall such reminders as resonating in the days when the word ‘cancer’ was a 24/7 thought and getting through the day was daunting. Dr. Ginty’s message was well received by many in attendance who were looking for such guidance.

The conference was a good reminder to me of how far I have come in the four years since my diagnosis. I no longer need the simple, positive reminders to live and keep going. Sitting in the audience in my Knot A Breast team jersey, my mind wandered to what would a positive thinking card look like for our members. Phrases from Coach Kathy and Coach Doug, and my own mantras flooded my mind. Below is the list I came up with.

Positive Thinking card for Dragon Boating

There would be no Knot A Breast team without cancer. Although the grip of cancer has brought us together, it is the positive mindset that defines our team. Such a mindset is the foundation of the team’s success and the thread that weaves the members into a team (especially when one of us stumbles). I have no doubt that the team is a vital part of the cancer story of each member that has taken a seat in the boat over the last twenty years. It is not a positive thinking ‘card’ that helps guide my story and picks me up when I falter; it is a dragon boat full of positive thinking.

As Knot A Breast Dragon Boat Team winds down our on-water paddling season for 2019, we reflect on this outstanding year by recognizing the amazing support of our home base, Macassa Bay Yacht Club (MBYC). They do so much for us: provide a club house, boat dockage and storage, washrooms and showers, a pleasant garden to do our warm-ups and stretches in, social memberships with its perks, etc. And that is only the physical support. As Breast Cancer Survivors, their emotional support means even more to us.

As a small thank-you, we host their Saturday BBQ twice a summer. This year it was August 17 and September 21, 2019 when our members, family and friends took on food preparation, cooking and sales for KAB paddlers, MBYC boaters and their supporters to purchase. Sausages and hamburgers (and one veggie burger) with all the fixings were simply delicious. KAB member, Aleta Thompson, donated her heavenly, homemade butter tarts to sell. Funds raised through food sales and a 50/50 draw are used by MBYC to support worthwhile causes in our community such as YMCA Hamilton-Burlington Strong Kids Campaign.

Thank-you Macassa Bay Yacht Club: you are more than a friend – you are family!

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