In 1999, Gail Poliszczak and Dorris Rossi helped to create Thunder Bay’s first breast cancer survivor dragon boat team, the Dragons of Hope. Now, 18 years later, Poliszczak and her 24 teammates are throwing their first ‘Boobie Boogie’ to help raise funds for their team and to celebrate life, their ability to live it, and their connection to one another through breast cancer.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1991. I have always been active, and I went every year for my annual check-up with my doctor, so it was a surprise when I was diagnosed,” explained Poliszczak. “When I went through my surgery and treatment, there wasn’t a support group for me. Eventually, I joined a breast support group that was started, and ladies from this support group decided to start a dragon boat team based on a study that was published that showed a positive relationship between dragon boating and its effect on women with breast cancer.”
Since then, the Dragons of Hope haven’t missed a single season, travelling to different dragon boat festivals in Northern Ontario and the United States. However, they have their targets set on next July, when they plan to travel to Italy for the IBCPC Dragon Boat Festival – an international dragon boat festival targeting breast cancer survivor teams. The event, which is only held every 4 years, attracts teams from around the world in a unique experience where every boat must be filled by breast cancer survivors.
“Our team is so looking forward to this event for many reasons,” said Poliszczak with an excited and hopeful smile. “Our team will be competing in a festival where we’re all in the same boat – we are all breast cancer survivors, we are all women, and we are all living life. We can’t wait for what this experience holds in store.”
The Dragons of Hope are composed of a very dynamic and positive group of women. Another member of the team is Lorraine Mandziuk. Mandziuk also happens to be the owner and manager of the widely known musical group, the Thunder Bay Legends, who will be presenting their “Tribute Artist Extravaganza” at the upcoming Boobie Boogie on September 30th. “I’m really looking forward to the Boobie Boogie because it’s bringing two of my passions together – music and dragon boating. I’m looking forward to a double rush of adrenaline that night,” said Mandziuk, who brings to the stage a tribute to the legendary Patsy Cline.
Mandziuk was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, and as soon as she finished treatment the first thing she did was look up the Dragons of Hope. “Joining the Dragons of Hope team, along with my music, is what got me through my breast cancer experience. We’ve had so much fun over the years, and this trip to Italy will mean so much to us.”
The Dragons of Hope are about so much more than paddling to the beat of a drum – they celebrate life, embrace camaraderie, exemplify courage and strength, and provide a safe environment for women who are currently going through or who have had breast cancer. In addition to their festivals and practices, the Dragons of Hope have also encouraged women to get educated about breast cancer, screened with a regular mammogram and to be breast aware. They have become an important component of our community.
On Saturday, September 30th, join the Dragons of Hope and headliners, the Thunder Bay Legends, at the CLE Coliseum from 8:00 pm – 1:00 am. The Thunder Bay Legends show will be from 9:00 – 10:30 pm, and feature tribute performances from Neil Diamond and Lady Gaga to Elvis and ABBA. After their show a DJ will take over with great dance music until 1:00 am. Search for the Dragons of Hope on Facebook to find out where you can buy tickets.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women with 1 in 8 expected to be diagnosed in their lifetime. Regular cancer screening can detect breast cancer early when it is less likely to have spread and easier to treat. Call (807) 6684-7777 or 1-800-461-7031 to book your mammogram today. For more information about cancer screening, visit www.tbrhsc.net/cancerscreening.