Dragon Boat Racing for Breast Cancer Survivors

Pam Reckner was treated with proton therapy for triple negative, stage two breast cancer at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute in 2021. Her treatment was managed by radiation oncologist Julie Bradley, MD, MHCDS, associate professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Florida College of Medicine. Pam sees Teena Burchianti, MSN, APRN, ANP-BC, OCN post-treatment as a part of the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute survivorship program.

Following her treatment, she was concerned about lymphedema, the abnormal buildup of fluid that causes swelling. The removal of lymph nodes during breast surgery and/or radiation treatment can damage the lymphatic system, which can cause lymphedema, typically in the arm.

A post-treatment physical therapist recommended that she purchase a compression sleeve to help with the swelling. Pam visited In the Pink to purchase her sleeve and was surprised to learn about Dragon Boat racing for breast cancer survivors while at the shop.

pam reckner

Why Dragon Boats and breast cancer survivors?

Dr. Don McKenzie, an exercise physiologist in Canada, thought that upper-body exercise might benefit breast cancer survivors by improving the lymphatic system.

He began research and trained the first group of breast cancer survivors to compete in the 1996 World Dragon Boat championships.

Now there are teams on all continents that compete all over the world! Florida currently has ten teams.

What is a Dragon Boat?

A 42-foot-long canoe with ten rows of two paddlers (20 paddlers total), a drummer in front facing the paddlers and a steersperson in back guiding the boat.

The Mammoglams

The Mammoglams are a part of the larger Jacksonville Dragon Boat Club. Pam is proud to be a member on the Mammoglams' team as well as races often with the Jacksonville Dragon Boat Club in general races.

The Mammoglams is a group of breast cancer survivors ranging in age from 35-82 years old, in all stages of survivorship. Some are just beginning the journey, while others completed treatment long ago. The participants are also of all fitness backgrounds, and many come to the team with no Dragon Boat experience, like Pam.

The founders of the team are Marty and Jeri Millard. Jeri is the Founder and CEO of In the Pink, a local non-profit caring for cancer patients. She raised money for the Jacksonville Dragon Boat team to start the team and support breast cancer survivors.

Pam competes on a world stage

Pam says while she had kayaked in the past, she didn’t know what a Dragon Boat was prior to joining the Mammoglams. She admits to being nervous the first time she got out on the water with the team, and she also says it was hard at first. But the support and encouragement from the other breast cancer survivors on the team pulled her back to try again and again. She eventually became comfortable at paddling and found she liked the movement, the competition, and most of all, the comradery. Pam says the team calls themselves a “floating support group.” First and foremost, that is what the Mammoglams is about.

The Mammoglams compete in races against other teams in Florida and in places as far away as Italy and New Zealand. In New Zealand this year, the team went from 56th to 13th in the world in the breast cancer survivor’s division of Dragon Boat racing.

Pam says the Mammoglams are always looking to expand their team and welcome breast cancer survivors of all fitness levels, shapes and sizes to come out to a paddle once and see what it’s all about. You can email Pam at bcscaptain@gmail.com or visit www.mammoglams.com or follow www.facebook.com/mammoglams to learn more.


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