Monday, October 2, 2006

Hope in a Boat

“Hope in a Boat” was the name of my Dragon Boat Racing team. We came in second in the Plate Finals for the inaugural Breast Cancer Dragon Boat World Championship Race. Our fellow teammates in the other Singapore boat, “Paddlers in the Pink”, took first in the Plate Finals. There were teams from all over the world, including South Africa, Canada, U.S., New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, U.K., and Italy.

It was quite a festive and lively sporting event. There were paddlers with their entire families who’d flown out to support them. Upbeat dance music played in the background, people broke out into spontaneous dancing, teams were doing their chants, kids running around, pink balloons flying everywhere, women greeting each other with hugs and squeals. It was like a big outdoor party with hundreds of people. Such a happy atmosphere. Then you think, “Hey, all of these women are here because they’ve had breast cancer.” I looked around at the faces -- most were in their 50s and 60s, but when I saw young women in their early 30s with little kids, I felt a bit sad and angry. Angry at what? I don’t know. Just angry that these little kids had moms with breast cancer.

We had one man on our team who was taking his wife’s place. She died earlier this year. He was one of our most enthusiastic paddlers and cheerleaders. I think Dragon Boat racing must give him some comfort after losing his wife, but I also think how sad it must have been for him that his wife didn’t make it for the big race. I’ve never seen him with anything but a smile on his face though. What an amazing man.

All the women at the race were so warm, cheerful, friendly, and energetic. I wonder if they were always like this, or if their personalities changed after their diagnoses. I always hear about people who are more optimistic, appreciative, happy after they’ve been through cancer, but I don’t think cancer’s changed my personality at all. I was pretty cheerful and optimistic before my diagnosis. I’d love to see a study on this aspect of cancer -- do people’s personalities change after cancer? And why hasn’t mine? Why hasn’t cancer completely altered my life and personality? Why hasn’t cancer been a mind and life-altering, earth-shattering experience for me? Am I missing something?

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