Dragon boats are long, colorful vessels and are adorned with a dragon head at the front and tail at the back - with room for about 20 paddlers, a drummer, and a stern. Dragon boat racing became connected with breast cancer in 1996 as a result of studies that challenged the prevailing medical thinking that women treated for breast cancer should avoid rigorous upper body exercise.
The studies not only debunked the prevailing myths about exercise; in fact they revealed that the participants experienced physical and mental health benefits as a result of dragon boat paddling. Breast cancer dragon boat groups have been living proof ever since.
As of 2022 there are over 260 Breast Cancer Survivor dragon boat racing teams internationally. The Dragon Divas launched on White Bear Lake in April, 2006 with 8 survivors on board. Since then, the team has grown with each season to the current membership of 85 survivors.
As a team of thriving breast cancer survivors, we live our core values:
We emphasize the benefits of exercise in living longer and thriving following a diagnosis of breast cancer and demonstrate how to live a life without limits following the diagnosis.
We promote awareness in the wider community about the importance of early detection and the benefits of an active lifestyle in fighting this disease.
We are dedicated to helping survivors attain their personal wellbeing in body and spirit. We support and encourage each other’s journey through mentorship and our unique camaraderie.
We honor those who have gone before us for what they have taught us about living with and dying from this disease, and what their journey has taught our physicians and researchers about curing this disease.
We pull together as a team to live our values and attain our goals.
We conduct ourselves with authenticity tempered by compassion in the spirit of love. We demonstrate our spirit by being gracious in victory and defeat.
We empower survivors to thrive as the strongest and most courageous versions of themselves in the boat and in their communities.
We face difficulty and adversity with courage, resolve, and unwavering integrity.
We embrace hope that a cure will be realized within our lifetimes. Until then, we practice active, healthy lifestyles to promote longevity and counteract the risks of recurrence.
The Dragon Divas were founded in 2006 to bring the message of hope to the Twin Cities community that those diagnosed with breast cancer could return to active lifestyles and full quality of life. This was the second team organized in Minnesota and the 100th team internationally at that time. Launched on White Bear Lake with 8 survivors on board, as of 2022 the Dragon Divas have grown to more than 85 paddlers.
For the first 5 seasons, a boat was rented for practices. In 2010, through the passion and determined effort of all members, the Dragon Divas bought their own boat, along with the life jackets and paddles for the team.
The Dragon Divas continue to turn survivors into thrivers after cancer treatment through camaraderie, healthy lifestyle choices, and physical exercise. We are dedicated to the physical, emotional, and spiritual well being of breast cancer survivors.
Breast cancer support groups play a vital role in helping survivors cope with the effects of diagnosis, treatment, and, for some, living with this disease. Survivors have a need to connect with others who have traveled the same road. While all breast cancer support groups are valuable, the Dragon Divas are unique in our approach.
We turn the customary model of meeting around a table in a medical facility upside down. Our support happens on the water, in the gym, and during events. We embrace the growing body of medical research supporting the role exercise plays in extending and improving the quality of life for survivors. Feeling strong, fit, and vibrant boosts a survivor’s outlook on life.
While winning races isn’t our primary emphasis, raising awareness about the importance of early detection, being part of a cohesive team both on and off the water, and empowering each member to reach their personal health and fitness goal is.