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January 2, 2020

Ben Bengtson / North Shore News

The North Shore Dragon Busters, a team of dragon boat paddlers and breast cancer survivors, are recruiting new members. FILE PHOTO Paul MCGrath

For 19 years, Leanne Jacobson has been helping keep dragons at bay.

Almost two decades ago, Jacobson was diagnosed with breast cancer. Following successful treatment of the disease, the West Vancouver resident was looking to regain her physical and mental strength, she says.

After her sister prompted her to check out at a dragon boat team for breast cancer survivors which was practising out of Deep Cove, Jacobson decided to take the plunge.

“I tried it out and immediately loved it,” she says. “It was a great feeling.”

While Jacobson loved being outside and getting active again as part of the North Shore Dragon Busters team, what she revered most of all was “being with women who had been through the same journey I had.”

As the Dragon Busters prepare to start another season on the water, the group is putting out the call for new breast cancer survivors to join its ranks.

One of the main purposes of the team is to build camaraderie by paddling locally, or competing in other local, regional or international regattas, and reminding people that there is hope after a cancer diagnosis.

In the off season, which runs from September to February , the team continues to meet and train in order to stay connected and physically fit. They also participate in many local community events, such as the Run for the Cure and the 24 Hour Relay for Life, to spread their message, according to Jacobson.

“This, for me at least, has been a very supportive  and valuable way to heal after breast cancer,” says Jacobson.

If a breast cancer survivor is interested in joining the team, it’s a twice per week commitment once the season starts. There are also various competitive regattas the team participates in throughout the year, and the team is currently ramping up to attend the 2022 International Breast Cancer Paddling Commission dragon boat festival in New Zealand.

The team reminds prospective members that they don’t need to be an athlete or know how to paddle in order to join.

“I had never been what I considered athletic. I wasn’t a member of a team prior to this, but I think that the feeling of the energy that comes from being physically active on a regular basis really helped with the mental outcome,” says Jacobson.

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