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Marisol Rodriguez

Why I Love Dragon Boating

Surviving cancer is a journey that seems to never end. During the process of being sick, we think that our life is broken, our body is damaged, and our soul is destroyed, due to the constant pain and discomfort that cancer inflicts upon us. I remember being scared and desperate with the thought of “who will take care of my daughters, Ariel (13 at the time) and Angel (four at the time) when I am gone?”

During this survival fight, damage was very evident in my body by visible muscle weakness and scars that I would caress, since they symbolized the proud evidence that my body was healing.

Fortunately, the prognosis after chemotherapy was good. It seemed like the cancer was gone. However, like any warrior, we know that surviving the battle is only step one, for the fight is not over. We have to deal with the aftermath. Step two could be as painful as Step one, since our bodies, minds and souls are still trying to function as normally as they can with all of the post-chemotherapy medication and interacting with the world.

I was dealing with the aftermath of the fight and discovering that my body was not able to walk, run or feel the same as it used to. We call it “Life Before Cancer” (B.C.) and Life After Cancer (A.C.) However, life A.C. was extremely surprising and disappointing since I thought cancer was over, but it was not. The actual cancer was gone, but the cancer damage was on me and pain has become my loyal companion since then.

Three years later I received a great gift from my doctor, who suggested that I join the Pink Phoenix Dragon Boat team. It was a team comprised of breast cancer survivors. I was astonished and impressed right away by their welcome and expertise.

At the first practice I couldn’t finish paddling. I had to pull out from the water and rest. My arms, torso and legs were weak. However, they encouraged me to come back and I did. For almost two years I sat at the very back seat of the boat. I wanted to learn but, at the same time enjoy the view of 20 paddlers moving the boat forward in unison, with each stroke, together. There were 20 paddlers, a caller, a tiller and a coach in one boat, all cancer survivors except the for coach. Each practice was like each stroke, done with power, love and hope. A boat full of missing pieces becoming a mighty one, in body, mind and soul.

The Pink Phoenix Team is group of powerful ladies, ranging in age from 32 to 91. Being in the boat, feeling the power of the team, the wind, rain or sunshine on my face became medicine for my body, mind and soul. Sharing the bench with my friend Elverine, 92 years young, inspired me and gave me the strength to try my very best; to look forward, to dream again.

Like the legendary Phoenix bird coming to life again from the ashes, the Pink Phoenix Dragon Boat team gave me the wings to fly high again, to dream and hope. It has given me the remarkable gift to live what is in fact the core of the team foundation, “a quality life after cancer.” It has enabled the healing in my entire body through the exercise of paddling, and healing my mind and soul with a positive attitude for me and others.

Being on a dragon boat team has not only created many a good day for me, but it has also created a good life A.C.

Marisol, Ford Warriors in Pink/Model of Courage