By Lauren Perry
Throughout this month, football teams can be seen wearing pink cleats and gloves, Caledonia and Spring Grove rival in a volleyball game where the fans are asked to sport the rosy color and awareness bracelets appear on the wrists of many Americans.
During the month of October, the entire country recognizes a disease that will take the life of over 39,620 American women in 2013 alone, making it the second deadliest cancer, only second to lung cancer.
Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare chose to recognize the disease with a Dragon Boat Race on July 6 where all proceeds would go Mayo-Franciscan’s Center for Breast Care.
A dragon boat is a long, brightly colored boat that resembles a racing canoe. Two kinds of dragon boats were available, and as the race was on the river, they elected to go with the boat that had the higher sides, giving the racers a little more stability.
Boats contain 18 paddlers, a drummer, flag catcher and steer person. Boats are sent in heats on courses ranging from 250-1,000 meters.
Mayo-Franciscan opened the race to survivors who had received treatment through their facilities to join and generated enough buzz to have two survivor and four cooperate teams.
Caledonia’s Kathy Klug, a 16-year survivor received an email explaining the race, and Klug expressed interest.
“There was an initial meeting where the race was explained. There were about 40 people who showed up, and pretty soon we were having practices to get us in shape.
“The practices were designed to slowly get us ready for the race. There were women who had only been in remission for a few months, so there were some physical challenges to overcome,” Klug said.
Practices were held once a week and originally began in pools where the paddlers learned the proper strokes.
“It’s a very different technique than a kayak or canoe,” Klug said. “Although the practices soon became physically intense, I found out that it wasn’t about the exercise, but the camaraderie. Everyone seemed to get something different from it. Women recently in remission really liked seeing survivors; one of the oldest survivors was 72, and it was very inspiring,” Klug said.
Although the survivors were invited up to Rochester twice to paddle, their first time on their own racecourse was the Friday night before the race.
Klug said, “I couldn’t believe how exciting Saturday was for me. Before the race, you just say that you’ll do your best, but when you start going, you just paddle and paddle because you want to beat the other teams!”
“I think the bond between the survivors was really incredible. A bad thing had happened to all of us, but we overcame, and this is the silver lining,” Klug said.