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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By Carrie Brooks-Joiner

Many sports work specific muscle groups to a greater extent than others. As dragon boaters, Knot A Breast Breast Cancer Survivors focus on strengthening the shoulders, core and lats, and improving our overall cardio-fitness. While we have heard one of our coaches say that “dragon boaters don’t need strong legs,” our health and fitness can benefit from adding other sports or types of activities.

Among the benefits of cross-training include:

  • Improved total fitness. By adding in other activities that bring in more cardio-fitness, stretching and/or strength training, we can improve our overall fitness.
  • Reduced risk of injury. Spread the load, and increase flexibility and strength.
  • Weight loss. More activity burns calories. Need I say more?
  • Sticking with fitness. Switching it up reduces boredom and provides new opportunities to try new things and train with others.

Cycling has proven to be an excellent cross-training addition for numerous KAB members this season. The sport adds a good dose of cardio-fitness, keeps hips strong and mobile, and gives our shoulders a break. Cycling still stresses the butt but there is some solace in that the soreness is in new areas! While cycling can be done alone it is certainly more fun in a group. KAB members have ventured out on bikes for several day trips this summer inspired by Norma Moores’s cycling enthusiasm and expertise.

The first trip started at the Burlington Canal Lift Bridge following the Waterfront Trail to Fifty Point Conservation Area and back. At Fifty Point we stopped for lunch and had a surprise visit with teammate Kim Short and partner Don on their sailboat. Truthfully, Norma sold this trip to reluctant me as only 20 km with an ice-cream at Hutch’s incentive. We ended up cycling over 50 km and there was no ice-cream. I didn’t think I could go that far on my “little-old-lady” upright city bike! But I was hooked and agreed to go on the next adventure…..

Trip #2 in late June started south of Copetown and followed the TH&B (Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo) Rail Trail to Brantford. Cycling on rail trails is a pleasure and the total of 50 km was surprisingly doable. As former train track lines, the elevations are gradual and the surfaces are either paved or hard packed. Highlights along this rural route included a break to admire the stained glass windows at the H.M. Royal Chapel of the Mohawks, a stop in at the Onkenhόn:we Festival at the Woodland Cultural Centre, and a chat with the archaeologists doing a dig at the former Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School site. After inhaling lunch (including ice-cream!), we turned around and headed back.

For trip #3 in early July we ventured out for a longer day and headed from Waterford to Port Dover (no it wasn’t Friday the 13th) on the Waterford Heritage Trail, Norfolk Sunrise Trail and Lynn Valley Trail . The scenery along the way included waterfalls, ginseng fields, heritage sites and forested areas. After fish and chips by Lake Erie and a bike repair, we headed back. Another 50 km under my belt.

August’s trip #4 was far more adventurous and included two overnights on the Greater Niagara Circle Route . We headed out after Saturday practice and went from Thorold to Port Colborne, Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, St. Catharines and back to Thorold. The paved route follows the Welland Canals, Lake Erie, Niagara River and Lake Ontario through urban centres, downtowns, the Niagara Escarpment, waterfronts and agricultural areas. It included a walk-on only ferry (named Bridge-it) and an incline railway ride with our bicycles. We triumphantly pedaled over 170 km.

KAB members cycle along the Welland Canal Parkway Trail
KAB members ride the Port Robinson walk-on ferry, Bridge-It

The members and accompanying partners / friends have differed on each trip. There has been a range of cycling skill levels and various type of bicycles. What has been constant is a good amount of exercise, seeing new vistas, shared snacks, and lots of laughs. 

Cycling has been an effective and fun addition to my fitness regime!  Inspired by the successful day and overnight trips and no longer daunted by longer distances, I’ve been cycling more on my own, and have reached more for by bike and less for my car keys. Cycling fits the bill to up my exercise level without adding something risky or completely new. I encourage you to find a form of cross training that gives you pleasure and keeps you motivated.

by Christine Carey, KAB member

A team isn’t built in a day. It takes years of learning a stroke technique (and then re-learning a new stroke), adaptability within the dragon boat and desire to succeed. Building on the expert coaching from Kathy Levy, Knot A Breast Breast Cancer Survivor dragon boat team has exemplified the definition of teamwork and demonstrated that great things can come from a difficult journey. The fundamental meaning of TEAM, Together Everyone Achieves More, remains a guiding principle for Knot A Breast in the dragon boat and as a cancer support group on land.

Recognizing that similar teamwork values remain the foundation and strength of effective companies, Knot A Breast provided a Team Building Opportunity for Stryker employees on July 26, 2019 at the Macassa Bay Yacht Club. Learning the intricate details of the stroke and role of each section in the boat, about 15 Stryker employees learned the importance of working together to achieve the goal of moving a one ton dragon boat (and of course, not tipping the boat). It was an hour of fun, under the hot sun, where Stryker was able to experience the success of working as a TEAM.

Stryker is one of the world’s leading medical technology companies and, together with their customers, is driven to make healthcare better. They offer innovative products and services in Orthopaedics, Medical and Surgical, and Neurotechnology and Spine that help improve patient and hospital outcomes. Stryker has about 38,000 employees worldwide and is #8 on Fortune’s World’s Best Workplaces in 2019. Stryker Canada headquarters is located in a new facility in Waterdown.

The corporate team building event touched on the individual elements of what helps a team succeed, both in the boat and at the workplace.

TOGETHER: Teams are more than just a collection of people; together poeple produce synergy and create an outcome that is greater than the simple sum of its individual members.

  • As in the workplace, the paddlers learned that various complementary strengths work together and move the dragon boat with greater ease.
  • Effective communication and collaboration in the boat helped Stryker successfully complete a 200m paddle.
Knot A Breast Coach Kathy coaching the Stryker employees about the essentials of dragon boating

EVERYONE: An effective team environment encourages people to realize and appreciate the strengths and unique contribution of everyone on their team.

  • The paddlers experienced the strengths and critical roles of each section within the dragon boat (Pacers first three seats, Engine Room next four seats and Rockets last three seats), a skill that will undoubtedly be beneficial in group projects too!  
  • Although assigned individual seats in the boat, paddlers were exposed to the role of each section, and that everyone has something to contribute to the team’s success.
Stryker employees with paddles up ready to move the boat as one team

ACHIEVES: Competition leads people to do their personal best, however excessive workplace competition can be counter-productive, ultimately affecting team objectives and company culture.  

  • Stryker employees had the opportunity to meet some of Knot A Breast’s Breast Cancer Survivor paddlers and learn how they overcame the challenges of breast cancer and their determination in leading a healthy life after cancer. They learned about the support offered to all members and their families. 
  • The paddlers learned the value of encouragement on the dragon boat and the importance of trusting your crew.
Stryker employees digging deep with encouragement from Coach Kathy

MORE: Teams are effective in achieving challenging goals when its members share knowledge and communicate well. They become even more effective when leadership and overall performance accountability is shared among its members. 

  • Observing the benefit of effective coaching and concise communication from Coach Kathy, there was noticeable progress in moving the dragon boat and improved individual performance from all paddlers.
  • Stryker learned to appreciate how the careful development of skills can improve overall confidence and better performance to achieve more.
  • They also experienced how positive activities and social bonding outside the workplace can unite employees and improve company dynamics.

Following the success of this Team Building Event, Knot A Breast plans to continue providing similar corporate team building opportunities in 2020!  We look forward to building on our successes and sharing the enjoyment of the team sport of dragon boating.

For more information on a Team Building Event with Knot A Breast Dragon Boat Team please contact us.

by Carolyn Lucier

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Dear Diary,

Hey, it’s me (again). Today was a BIG day! I participated in my first dragon boat race with the Knot A Breast (KAB) Breast Cancer Survivor Team at the Hamilton Waterfest Dragon Boat Festival.

I am what KAB calls a “newbie”. As new members of this high-caliber team, we spend our first year learning the dragon boat paddling technique, and how the team works together to move the boat, and we get to race in one “newbie race”. For me, that was Waterfest.

That’s me, on the left with the other 2019 “newbies” and Coach Kathy, 4th from the left.

There was so much going through my mind and body: the butterflies at the starting line, the adrenaline pumping as we fought our way through those 200 metres, my desire to do my best for our team. As I’ve gotten older, the adage “a first time for everything” has been used less and less… but not today! The exhilaration of doing something new is even better now than it ever was, especially thinking back to where I’ve been over the past few years.

And coming off the water today, that’s exactly what I was doing – thinking back to everything that brought me to that moment. Isn’t it strange how some of the best things can come out of our worst moments? Going through a life-altering event like breast cancer really made me realize how important my health was, and what I had to lose (and when you only have one body, that means everything). Anyways, you know how I started off slow, walking around the neighbourhood and paddle boarding at the cottage, inching my way towards going to the gym (the gym!). Finally, after meeting with other members of Knot A Breast, I took the plunge and joined the team at winter indoor training.

That’s our team, lane 4, 2nd from the left, at the start line with a mixture of butterflies and adrenaline!

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer and started noticing negative changes in my body, I vowed to get out of that place. Now, I only notice positive changes – I can do jumping jacks again!! I am in the best physical shape I’ve been in, in a long time. And I’ve been inducted into a community of amazing women that I can learn from and share with. Their mentorship and strength have been exactly the things I needed to push me along on this journey. I don’t look at Knot A Breast as being a group of women with breast cancer, I see us as a group of women committed to our goals, our health, and each other. Through every missed stroke (many!) and every accidental splash (sorry!), I have stayed motivated through my team’s words of encouragement.

And here I am! The race is over, my blood is pumping, and it feels sooooooo gooooood to be in this place. I knew what was important in my life all along, it just took a little coaxing, you know? I know you know. Anyways, that’s enough for today, dear Diary; I think the harbour water is going to my head!

With gratitude, Carolyn

PS: We won a bronze medal!

Knot A Breast Dragon Boat Team is literally moving forward with celebrating 20 years of paddling in Hamilton. Look for our team photo on HSR buses, the Hamilton Waterfront Trust Trolley, and at Macassa Bay Yacht Club!

Advertisement showing team paddling during race
Knot A Breast Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Team ad

The photo was taken by Don Wood, one of our fans and husband to teammate Kim Short, during one of our races. Jessica Combate, Graphic Designer specializing in healthcare and corporate communications (contact at 289-489-7048, jessica.combate@gmail.com), designed the advertisement. Knot A Breast would like to thank both of them for capturing the spirit of our team: Together Everyone Achieves More.

We hope the advertisement builds community awareness of our 20 years of showing women and men that they can lead full and active lives after treatment for breast cancer.

Knot A Breast Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Team presents:
Rock n’ Jeans fundraiser dance / party with live music by Freedom Train.

Friday, November 8th, 2019
7:30pm – 12:00am

Tickets $30 per person or table of 8 for $200 available from team members or contact us!
Food available for purchase!
Prizes!
Cash bar

Location: Canadian Legion, Branch 163, 435 Limeridge Road East, Hamilton

Looking up at the sun and leave shadows through the new team tent canopy

Last fall, the Knot A Breast Breast Cancer Survivor Team’s Executive decided to use a portion of the proceeds received from the City of Hamilton Enrichment Fund Grant to purchase a new team tent. After speaking to many teams at last year’s GWN races in Toronto, the work began to compare pricing, seek out a supplier and to design a new tent! Outlet Tags Canopies, Toronto, was the chosen provider with the best pricing and quick turn-around time. Several dragon boat teams have used this company and they produce a fantastic tent.

A special thank you to Steve Evans, who put in a considerable amount of time working on various colour and style templates. The KAB Board tossed around several colour schemes and decided on a nice clean look with white walls and canopy, and purple valance. Steve worked his magic on configuring the KAB logo to really stand out. The KAB logo is proudly displayed on the inside and outside of the back wall and on the canopy.

New team tent with KAB members resting under it
New Knot A Breast team tent

On May 26, 2019, as team members walked down the hill towards the team area at the 13th Annual Toronto Women’s Dragon Boat Festival, Heart Lake Conservation Area, Brampton, they were greeted with a brand new, 10 ft. by 20 ft. team tent proudly displaying a full view of the Knot A Breast logo! Thank-you City of Hamilton for helping us with our team shelter and team spirit.

Knot A Breast Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Team held their Annual General Meeting on May 11, 2019 at Macassa Bay Yacht Club (MBYC). Thirty members, the Board of Directors, Team Coach and Team Manager attended, approving the 2018 financial statements, committee reports and 2019 budget.

Important business of the meeting included presenting the H.T. Memorial Scholarship. This award is named in memory of Helen Therese Templeton, one of Knot A Breast’s biggest fans and supportors. Coined KAB’s “Mom”, she religiously attended water practices, and knew individual team members by name. Her smile and love of life were infectious. This year it was awarded to Grace Jones, granddaughter of long-time Knot A Breast paddler Nancy Jones. Grace is entering her 2nd year at Wilfred Laurier University, Waterloo, studying a double major in global studies and environmental studies. Congratulations Grace!

H.T. Memorial Scholarship
Nancy Jones, her granddaughter, Grace Jones awarded the H.T. Memorial Scholarship and Coach Kathy Levy

Members heard from the Team Coach, Kathy Levy. She reflected on a successful 2018 season highlighting the team’s first place win at the International Breast Cancers Paddlers’ Commission (IBCPC) Participatory Dragon Boat Festival, Florence, Italy, the third time in a row that Knot A Breast has held this title. She also looked ahead to our newbies (members that have joined within the last year) getting into the boat for practice, and our upcoming competition at the 2019 Canadian Dragon Boat Championships, Regina SK.

The new Board of Directors were presented including, as pictured above, back row: Past-chair and Team Coach, Kathy Levy; Anna Candelori; Kathy Martin, Communications Officer; Kim Short; Jo-Anne Rogerson, Treasurer; Geri Schweinbenz; Donna Reise, Secretary; front row: Michelle Lapointe; Liz Psutka, President. Joining them is Team Manager, Ann Hewitson, back row on the right.

Following the AGM, Knot A Breast members got the clubhouse and grounds at MBYC ready for the paddling season, and witnessed MBYC lift the team’s two dragon boats into the water. Knot A Breast is grateful for the generosity of MBYC to host our waterfront home on the Hamilton Harbour. It is a great start to the 2019 paddling season.

Fork lift lefting the dragon boat into the water
Macassa Bay Yacht Club lift-in of the Knot A Breast dragon boat at the start of the 2019 season

By Kim Short, KAB Member

There is no better way to kick off the dragon boat season than participating in a training camp, especially when one gets to paddle at the beautiful, world-class Nathan Benderson Park in sunny Sarasota, Florida. This year’s training camp was held on April 28 to May 4, 2019. Members of Welland’s SNCC Warlocks, Sarasota’s Survivors in Sync, and London’s Rowbust and Pendragons joined thirteen members of the Knot A Breast Breast Cancer Survivor Dragon Boat Team. Our practices were 90 minutes long, twice a day for seven days with expert coaching from Kathy Levy (Knot A Breast), Doug Jones (SNCC Warlocks) and Cheryl McLachlan (Pendragons/Rowbust).

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Training included team warm-ups and cool downs, technique drills, speed work, two video reviews with individual feedback, and endurance paddling. Over time, we learned to make adjustments to our technique and, by the end of the week, any on-looker would think we were one big crew paddling together. Amazing!

While the coaches worked diligently to help us improve our stroke and become better paddlers and teammates, and we did out best to execute their advice, we also had time for many laughs and enjoyment of the warmth and beauty of Sarasota, Florida. Most of us stayed at the Sun ‘N Fun RV Resort where we enjoyed full access to the swimming pools, hot tubs, gym, yoga studio and other amenities. Thanks to Tammy (Pendragons) for leading us in two relaxing yoga sessions to help stretch out our sore muscles and find some time to just breathe! We had fun evenings together, and an afternoon off to enjoy the hot and sunny weather (beach or shopping day!). Some of us also ventured out in the evening to sample the food at the local restaurants. We enjoyed paddling at the world-class, multi-use sports venue while admiring palm trees, native birds, turtles and alligators, yes, alligators!!

We celebrated at the farewell party, where newbies (first-time attendees to the training camp) were awarded with a special lei, and the men also received special recognition. Kudos were given to our awesome steerspersons, Donna and Terry. Great job everyone! Thank you to Steve, Verna, Lindsay and Sue (SNCC Warlocks) for organizing this awesome experience. Huge thanks to Kathy and Doug for your vision in offering this camp in Sarasota and giving so much of your yourselves to make us all better dragon boat paddlers.

As a third time participant in this training camp, I have to say it just gets better and better. It improves my paddling, I make new friendships, and I feel “ready, ready” to begin the dragon boat season. I can’t wait for next year!