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Dragonboats help women with cancer
The Shannon Dragons on its maiden voyage in Castleconnell with cancer survivors, families and supporters. Photograph by Brendan Gleeson

Dragonboats help women with cancer

A NEW group in Castleconnell, just over the Limerick border, is looking to help women who are recovering from breast cancer by dragonboat racing.

An ancient Chinese sport, dragonboat racing dates back over 2,000 years and has been in Ireland since the 1990s. Chairperson of Shannon Dragons, Bríd O’Connell, says it is very helpful for women in recovery.

“It’s the upper body movement. It aids recovery and it helps to minimise lymphedema, which is a complication you can have if you’ve had the lymph nodes removed.”

Originally from Birdhill, Bríd has close ties to Clare, having gone to school in Killaloe and having a role with Sixmilebridge Scouts Group.

She says some women from Clare are already involved with Shannon Dragons but she wants to spread the word a bit.

“We have women coming from Shannon and Ennis but we want to reach into the community in Clare; we want women around the county to know about this. We have a good group, there are about 28 members at the moment.”

This time last year, Bríd was herself receiving treatment for breast cancer but has made a lot of progress since. “It’s good. If I’m struggling with anything, it’s the medication that they put you on. I have to be on it for 10 years and some of the side-effects are quite difficult, you can have fatigue and stuff like that. It’s a bit of a balancing act but I’m working, I’m kayaking, I’m out on the dragonboat, so I’m not complaining at all.”

As well as people recovering from cancer, some of the regular members are there to support friends. “Sometimes you will have someone who is in the early stages of recovery and might feel a bit vulnerable, so they have a friend come with them. We keep it open, there is no one excluded. To be honest, there are people recovering from other kinds of cancer who I think would benefit hugely from something like this. It’s the social dimension as well that’s huge. After treatment finishes, a lot of people then feel isolated. The medical support is no longer necessary if you like, so there is no place to go or to feel connected.”

While there are physical benefits to the activity, she feels the atmosphere of support is also crucial.

“What research is showing now is that the element of camaraderie and social connectedness is as important for our health as physical activity is,” she concluded.

paddling dragonboats can help women on the road to recovery from cancer.

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