Origins of the Movement.
Breast cancer survivor dragon boat paddling began at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada.
In 1996. Dr. Don McKenzie, a Professor in the Department of Sports Medicine and exercise physiologist, challenged the prevailing medical thinking that women treated for breast cancer should avoid rigorous upper body exercise for fear of developing lymphedema, a debilitating and chronic side effect of treatment. He developed a program to determine the impact of exercise on breast cancer survivors, choosing dragon boat paddling as the epitome of strenuous, repetitive upper body exercise. He trained twenty-four breast cancer volunteers in a gym for three months, introduced them to dragon boats and taught them paddling techniques. At the end of the three-month season on the water none of the volunteers had lymphedema.
While Dr. McKenzie’s medical experiment/project was underway, the women found they were fitter, healthier and happier. They loved the camaraderie and support of their fellow paddlers and had regained control of their lives.
They realized that dragon boat paddling could become a means to raise awareness of breast cancer and of the ability of survivors to lead normal lives.
They named their team ‘Abreast In A Boat’ and invited other survivors to share their exciting experience.
Over the years, the movement progressed to other areas in Canada and was introduced to other countries by breast cancer survivors who saw the benefits. These inspirational individuals started communicating across the miles, providing much support and encouragement to see other survivors reap the benefit of dragon boating and the health and fitness benefits it provided.
Special mention should be made also to the amazing awareness made to the public on breast cancer. Since 1996, as more and more interest came about, representatives from different countries joined together to paddle in different places including Canada, Australia, Italy, Penang, New Zealand, Singapore, Poland and the United States.
In 2005, a celebration of the start of Abreast In A Boat took place in Vancouver, Canada – an international event with over 2000 breast cancer survivors from around the world. Following this Festival, Australia hosted ‘Abreast in Australia’ in 2007. Further festivals followed in Peterborough, Canada in 2010, and more recently Sarasota, Florida U.S.A in 2014.
Each festival provided breast cancer survivors with the opportunity to network, attend workshops, paddle and celebrate life!
Selected Articles Authored or Co-Authored by Dr. Don McKenzie.
Understanding breast cancer patients’ preference for two types of exercise training during chemotherapy in an unblinded randomized controlled trial.
Courneya KS, Reid RD, Friedenreich CM, Gelmon K, Proulx C, Vallance JK, McKenzie DC, Segal RJ.
Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2008 Oct 27;5:52.
Predictors of supervised exercise adherence during breast cancer chemotherapy.
Courneya KS, Segal RJ, Gelmon K, Reid RD, Mackey JR, Friedenreich CM, Proulx C, Lane K, Ladha AB, Vallance JK, McKenzie DC.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Jun;40(6):1180-7.
Is there enhanced lymphatic function in upper body trained females?
Dolan LB, Lane KN, McKenzie DC.
Lymphat Res Biol. 2008;6(1):29-38.
Barriers to supervised exercise training in a randomized controlled trial of breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.
Courneya KS, McKenzie DC, Reid RD, Mackey JR, Gelmon K, Friedenreich CM, Ladha AB, Proulx C, Lane K, Vallance JK, Segal RJ.
Ann Behav Med. 2008 Feb;35(1):116-22. Epub 2008 Feb 20
Moderators of the effects of exercise training in breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy: a randomized controlled trial.
Courneya KS, McKenzie DC, Mackey JR, Gelmon K, Reid RD, Friedenreich CM, Ladha AB, Proulx C, Vallance JK, Lane K, Yasui Y, Segal RJ.
Cancer. 2008 Apr 15;112(8):1845-53.
Six-month follow-up of patient-rated outcomes in a randomized controlled trial of exercise training during breast cancer chemotherapy.
Courneya KS, Segal RJ, Gelmon K, Reid RD, Mackey JR, Friedenreich CM, Proulx C, Lane K, Ladha AB, Vallance JK, Liu Q, Yasui Y, McKenzie DC.
Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2007 Dec;16(12):2572-8
Effects of aerobic and resistance exercise in breast cancer patients receiving adjuvant chemotherapy: a multicenter randomized controlled trial.
Courneya KS, Segal RJ, Mackey JR, Gelmon K, Reid RD, Friedenreich CM, Ladha AB, Proulx C, Vallance JK, Lane K, Yasui Y, McKenzie DC.
J Clin Oncol. 2007 Oct 1;25(28):4396-404. Epub 2007 Sep 4.
PMID: 17785708 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]
Effect of upper extremity exercise on secondary lymphedema in breast cancer patients: a pilot study.
McKenzie DC, Kalda AL.
J Clin Oncol. 2003 Feb 1;21(3):463-6.