The Yearlings

Every new season brings some changes to Breast Friends.  As with every year, we always welcome a group of newbies to our team. The 2016 season was no different, with most of the new ladies returning this year. They have dubbed themselves the “yearlings”.

We asked the yearlings 4 questions about their thoughts on Breast Friends and dragon boat racing…


Why do you paddle?


“It’s the team. The energy, the heart and commitment of each and every person that shows up for practices and festivals trying their best to do something very difficult. It’s also our trainers who believe in our strengths and relentlessly push us to believe in ourselves and try our best.”


“I paddle because it is the most physically challenging thing I have ever participated in. I love being part of a team and the support and love we give each other is awesome.”


“I do it for me and to set an example for my grand-kids.”


“I paddle for the 3 min or less (preferably less) thrill of the race and the spirit of the team.”


“It’ll be fun! they said…”


Why did you decide to come back?


“Once I understood that the drive of our coaching staff was a positive motivational experience, how could I not?  We have excellent trainers, facilities, and I have to admit I got hooked!!”


“Wonderful group of ladies. Also want to do better!”


“I came back for two reasons. First, joining this group is all about me – looking after me, doing something really hard and being proud of it. I come home from practice and my kids ask about my workout and they are impressed when we compare workouts! Secondly, I feel comfortable with this group of women – it’s a safe environment, we encourage and support each other, and we have a lot of fun. I have had some incredible experiences – without BF I would not have those. (Go Italy!)”


“I need the motivation to maintain my fitness and overall I have enjoyed the challenges, in spite of the sore muscles, etc. Besides I’d really miss you guys!”


“The friendships I made last year mean so much to me, being with these ladies is like being home. We have a special comfort level with each other and I would miss the fitness.”


“It was fun! I convinced myself…”


What was the highlight of 2016?


“I think it was the Edmonton festival, my fourth and final one for the year.  Feeling proud of myself that I could paddle and stay strong, that I could focus and fight to the end of the race.  Knowing I had still a lot to learn and many skills to develop but I had tried my best.  A hard won sense of accomplishment.  And also feeling closer to other team members, a beginning sense of belonging.”


“My highlight of 2016 was the Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival. It was an opportunity for your family and friends to watch us in action  and I was so proud to share the occasion with them all.”


“One of the highlights for me was winning a race. I’ve never been a part of a team sport and the experience of winning was so exciting.”


“For me the highlight of last year would be my first race in Lethbridge! Also the many new friendships made through the year!”


What impact has paddling with BF’s had on you?


“I am fitter, stronger and I am enriched by the relationships with so many spirited women.”


“It has made me more determined to stay fit and keep going!!  To never give up!!”


“Positive people…show myself I can do more than I thought.”


“hmmmmm…BF has given me the most comprehensive, incredible, intensive, hardest, and cheapest workout that I could imagine. I have been able to meet similar people, have made some incredible friendships, and have been exposed to the crazy dragon boat world. I am exhausted after each workout but feel great about what I have accomplished. I feel like I am part of an amazing team – and I am so appreciative that given the bleep we have all gone through, we have all been able to come together for this incredible activity.”


“Paddling with Breast Friends has enriched my life. I realize I am stronger than I think I am. The coaches encouragement has helped me both physically and mentally to become a stronger person. Knowing that all the team has been through breast cancer we can rely on each other for encouragement and comfort.”


“Made me ‘dig deep’ exploring my strengths & weaknesses. Made new friends and added a new excitement to my life.”


“What I take away from this wow, if I was told tomorrow I could no longer be part of this group I’d be devastated. I feel more complete that I have a strong commitment to my team.”


“Breast Friends has brought positivity and happiness back into my life.”


“It’s given me: an amazing sense of belonging; an identity with others who have walked the breast cancer journey and admiration for their positivity, optimism and encouragement; a new passion to strive to be better, faster, stronger (hear “Rocky” music in background); my daily recommended number of hugs. Thinking about paddling with breast friends brings tears to my eyes, and a grin on my face.  Thinking about all of the amazing women in the group makes my heart happy!”


We would agree!

2017/18 Calendar of Events

A fearsome dragon is race ready

  • Sunday, August 20, 2017 at 12 noon – Come watch the Pink Ribbon Challenge Race at the 2017 Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival at Louise McKinney Park.  The race will be followed immediately by the Pink Flower Ceremony, in honour of women who have lost their battle against breast cancer. 
  • Sunday, August 27, 2017 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. – Join us in Dawson Park for our annual Paddle and Picnic, where we invite sponsors, friends and family to learn about dragon boating and share a meal with us. 
  • Sunday, January 21, 2018 – Join Breast Friends and the Edmonton Oil Kings for Pink at the Rink at Rogers Place. Proceeds of evening’s fundraiser will go in part to Breast Friends Society of Edmonton.
  • Saturday, May 5, 2018 – Join Breast Friends for our annual Dinner and Silent Auction, our primary fundraiser of the year, held at the Sawmill Banquet and Catering Centre. Email info@breastfriendsedmonton to buy tickets or make an in-kind donation.
  • September 30, 2018 from 1 to 6 p.m. – Breast Friends members past and present will come together to celebrate our team’s 20th anniversary at the Edmonton Greek Cultural Centre.

First year Breast Friend shares her story with new members

Breast Friends paddler Edith Phillips gave a short speech at the 2017 orientation session for new paddlers:
“It is hard to believe that a year has passed.
I was diagnosed in 2000, had a mastectomy and went through chemo treatments and for the next few years I was on an emotional roller coaster of ups and downs. During those years I was participating in the Run for the Cure and at the 2015 Run I was approached by Breast Friends to see if I was interested in becoming a part of their dragon boat team. I was undecided but gave my email to be contacted later.
Just like you, I came to the meeting. It turned out to be one of the best days of my life so far.
I was really interested in what I was seeing and hearing. This was just what I had been looking for: A chance to make new friends, have positivity in my life and most importantly, people that understood what we go through after being diagnosed. I had hit the jackpot!!
I felt welcomed and part of the team right away. Everyone is very encouraging and supportive. A wonderful group of ladies that I am proud to be part of.
Now the fun part starts. Phase one… three times a week at the gym. I said it was maybe five years since I had really done any kind of physical activity, but it was more like 10 years. It was hard work  and I was happy with my progress. When I started I could not do a push-up on my toes… today I can do seven in 20 seconds on my toes! I am also happy to say I lost 20 lbs. Phase two… is similar to phase one with some indoor paddling included. But phase 3 is awesome – when you get to actually paddle on the river!
We have a great coach, she encourages us to be the best that we can be. 
One of my best memories as a “newbie” would be my first race in Lethbridge. There, I was bitten by the dragon boat bug. It was a great feeling. I was sad when the season ended cause now I would be missing my new friends. I was finally starting to understand what Dot had been trying to teach us.
Now we look forward to the new season and a new group of newbies. We happily pass the title….
I truly hope my experiences I have talked about will help others take the initiative to get involved!  Being a part of the Dragon Boat team has allowed me to become more active and have a healthier lifestyle… I even want to eat healthier!
The emotional benefit I get from this group I would say is one of my biggest reasons why I love Dragon Boating! Emotionally it helps knowing that we are all in the same boat… knowing that we have all gone through a similar journey. You can just look them in the eye and it’s there, the support and understanding.
These ladies have now become my friends!   It is extremely FUN to be part of a team and work toward common goals! To show everyone that you can lead active and productive lives after Breast cancer.
In closing, why wait to join tomorrow when you can take action today and become a member of a Dragon Boat team!!! Our team.”


Breast Friends 2017 training season starts


And we’re off!

Training has begun for another great season of dragon boat paddling. While the North Saskatchewan River is still frozen solid, Breast Friends members are getting ready for the challenges we’ll face on the river – by working out at the gym. We get lots of encouragement from our head coach, Dot Laing, and the rest of our trainers.

We meet three times a week at the Don Wheaton YMCA in downtown Edmonton. Our main cardiovascular workout is spinning on stationary bikes. We spin for 30-40 minutes, powering up and down virtual hills to the tune of everything from ABBA hits to heavy metal. For strength training we use our own body weight against the pulleys in the Synergy Room or we do a boot camp circuit in the main gym. Our brand new team mates (“newbies”) are learning about weight training using the equipment upstairs in the weight room.

No matter what we are working on, we get tips from trainers Raymond, Sue, Kim, Lynn and Debbie. We are so fortunate to have so many watchful eyes making sure we get the most of our workouts. As Dot says, there’s no point in practicing poor form!

Edmonton Oil Kings support Breast Friends with Pink at the Rink 2017













A big shout out to the Edmonton Oil Kings for choosing Breast Friends as one of the charities to benefit from Pink at the Rink 2017. Along with Sorrentino’s Compassion House, Breast Friends was the charity of choice at Saturday’s game, which raised money and awareness for breast cancer.

Breast Friends sold tickets to the game against the Prince George Cougars. We also sold pucks for the “chuck-a-puck” game, in which contestants compete to see who can throw their puck the closest to centre ice. And we sold commemorative pink Edmonton Oil Kings ball caps.

More than a hundred people stopped by the Breast Friends info booth to learn about our team and test their knowledge of breast health.

All in all it was a great night for Breast Friends. The Oil Kings weren’t so lucky, as they lost their game 11-3. But they were winners in our eyes —we are most grateful for their support!