Hope Chest Buffalo gets ready for big race at Buffalo Riverworks

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) —A group of breast cancer survivors are coming together as a team for the 17th year. They are just some of the thousands of people impacted by breast cancer every year. But this group beat the odds and are now working together to stay healthy.

Friendship, exercise, and a diagnosis of breast cancer brought the group now known as Hope Chest together. In the past, it was believed by medical professionals, that exercising, while suffering from the illness could potentially make things worse. Since then, a man named Dr. McKenzie dispelled that myth and actually proved the opposite to be true.

One woman who is part of the dragon boat team Jane Rung explained what Dr. McKenzie was thinking. She said, “He would start dragon boat racing because he felt that the story that women should not be doing exercise of the upper body was incorrect. so he started dragon boat racing for breast cancer survivors and it has grown throughout the world.”

This year, 10 teams of breast cancer survivors, plus a bunch of others, will be at Buffalo Riverworks to compete in the Buffalo Niagara Dragon Boat Races. But what exactly does that entail? Another team member explained. Dee Folger said, “There are 20 women that are paddling, ten on each side, and then we have a steer person in the back and then someone who keeps the beat, the drummer in the front. And that’s what keeps us in sink. We all have to stay with the drum beat.”

And the amount of weight these women are pulling and propelling through the water is impressive! If you add up all the bodies, plus the boat, it equals out to over 3,000 pounds! Rung explained, “It takes a lot of strength and a lot of training!”

This training takes place year round. In the winter season, the racers train at the Buffalo Athletic Club. During the summer, they are in the water at RCR Yacht Club. But strength is just one of the bonuses these women gain through training. The friendships they make and the support system they have is the biggest draw.

Folger said, “If somebody has a recurrence, we’re all there for each other and we help each other out with meals and cards and all kinds of things. If they need transportation back and forth from appointments or whatever, someone is always there to pitch in and help.”

And winning is a plus and something the team hopes for, but it’s not what it’s all about or these women. Both the participating women told News 4, “We may not win but we sure love what we do. We’re always the first in our lane!”

So if this Saturday if you’re free, head out to the water to see these women in action!

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