Judy Anne joined Knot a Breast in 2006. She paddled in four IBCPC (International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission) Dragon Boat Festivals, including the most recent festival in New Zealand. When the opportunity to paddle in the New Zealand festival presented itself, Judy Anne knew that she wanted to take part. Having been to three prior festivals (Peterborough Ontario in 2010, Sarasota Florida in 2014 and Florence Italy in 2018), she knew the impact that these events had. According to Judy Anne, the emotional impact and the positive impressions that she experienced at all of the festivals solidified her decision to go. The event brings everyone together and acknowledges how dragon boating has affected us as breast cancer survivors. “When you look around you and see nothing but a huge sea of pink, it’s so emotional in a very positive way.” 

Judy Anne Sleep 

So, it was a little more than disappointing to go halfway around the world for a world championship and then have the races cancelled because of weather.  No opportunity for a final race.  No opportunity to win.  Not that I expected to win…. 

Winning isn’t always about being first in a final race.  I feel like a winner every time I am out on the water – even if it’s at a practice where I’m struggling to keep up.  I’m an average paddler at best, but there is always room for improvement in dragonboating and ALWAYS something to learn.  After 17 years, I am still learning so much.   

There is something about being on the water and I feel so strong on the water.  When that magic happens and your teammates are placing their paddles in the water at the same time and you feel that movement – it’s indescribable.  I know in “the boys in the boat” it is described as “swing”.  They also describe the resiliency of the team;  (I’m not quoting exactly – have changed some of the words “rowing” “him”): 

One of the fundamental challenges in paddling is that when any one member of the crew goes into a slump the whole crew goes with her.  The movements of each of us are so intertwined.   (Page 87)

We need to feel connected and I am so grateful that this team has done this for me.  I am so proud to be a part of KAB and what we have accomplished and achieved together.   

Feeling confident to practice with other teams on my way to the Worlds was something I got from our team.  The team allowed me to move at my own pace and grow according to my skill level at the time.  Since joining the team, I have had three major surgeries (Zenkers diverticulum, two new hips) and this is something that breast cancer survivors often have to go through.  I never felt alone through any of them.  I felt supported and loved by this team and welcomed back when I was ready and able to come back. 

So, I feel that going to New Zealand was a “win” for me, as I felt prepared to be a proud member of KAB. 

Another “WIN” for me is knowing that I belong to the best club in the world.  The partnerships that we have (Warlocks, Tim Hortons, Macassa Bay, to name a few) mean that we have access to practicing and meeting that other teams just don’t have.  We don’t have to drag our boats into water every time we practice.  We have the luxury of changing our clothes (and even a shower) after practices and a washroom !!!  We have a low membership fee and opportunities to fundraise.  We have a voice and can choose to go to open board meetings and even put our names forward to participate as a board member.  There are many people to go to for advice and we have a lot of talent on our team! 

No one told me that it was addicting – that this feeling that I get every time I am out on the water, that I feel connected to my dad (who died 16 years ago) and to my teammates and to God – is something that sustains me and keeps me grounded.    

So that is why I paddle. 

I wanted to add the chant we did in New Zealand. The Maori have a whakatauki saying – “ehara taku toa | te toa takitahi, he toa takitini”. My strength is not as an individual, but as a collective.