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With her coach, Holly Metcalf, Olympic Gold medallist and founder of Row As One Institute, Diane found 8 other women from across the country who were willing to announce to the world that they were breast cancer survivors.

The team, aptly named "One in Nine", was out to prove that with great coaching, hard work, and determination, breast cancer need not be a handicap, but rather a challenge to be faced and overcome.

powering on- from mag. articleMy fabulous cancer story begins with a rather casual self -exam in Spring l997 when I discovered a lump which turned out to be the "big C", and this was just 3 weeks after a clear routine mammogram! I had a lumpectomy and then radiation for 6 weeks during the summer of 1997. Other than my arm feeling numb and swollen, I felt pretty well. In the fall, I attended my first "head races"( 5000 meter races) to watch my daughter's high school team compete. I loved what I saw and made a pledge I would learn to row that Spring.
My feeling about rowing and cancer is that rowing lifts you out of the day to day worry you have with cancer, somewhat as the boat lifts itself out of the water when everyone is pushing off the foot stretchers together. You need to focus so intensely that you really can't think about anything else, and that is such a relief, even through the pain of rowing. The strength you feel in rowing is very reassuring, because being affected by cancer detracts from your optimism and trust in your own body. Finally, and most importantly, rowing with other people who are joining together to put forth their greatest effort is the greatest of inspirational experiences. The feelings of connection and harmony from rowing are the greatest therapy any cancer survivor could have!

candaceWhen I was 31 years old (1981) I discovered a lump in my breast. I was slow to respond to the finding, as I knew this couldn't be me with a real problem. This was early in the use of "lumpectomy". At that time more generalized chemotherapy and radiation was the natural course. I was a divorced Mom, starting a new business, returning to my hometown and desperately wanting to " do this on my own". I did accept some help from my male business partner and my family. Everyone wanted to help but I just couldn't let them.

I had returned to a normal life when, in the-mid 1980's, I found another lump. This time it was not conclusively malignant but I went through some chemotherapy prophylaxis. I was beginning to see that I needed help. I was healthy with occasional benign lump scares up through the early 1990's.

In 1994 I was sitting on the banks of the river in Columbus, Ohio where my son was participating in a small high school open regatta. There in front of me were four women about my age laughing and sharing stories about a race they had just completed. They didn't look nearly as old as I felt. I approached them and they explained that they, too, had sat on the sidelines and then they decided to get into a boat. A few weeks later I took a learn-to-row class. In the late fall of 1994 I pushed away from the dock on the Ohio River in Cincinnati. I knew, from the very first minute, I had found my athletic home.

In the Spring of 2000, I was diagnosed with a malignant lump. I was devastated. Rowing became a focus for getting well. The members of the four were so supportive, found substitutes for my seat and made themselves available whenever I needed them. I could not ask for better friends. Rowing is a way of life for me. I got out of bed to row when I wouldn't have gotten up for any other reason. Today I am 53, alive and very well. I will admit that secretly I feel terrific as we row back to the dock after a race and I see all those spectators looking at us old ladies. I see in their eyes what I once felt. I have health and friendship from rowing. It doesn't get any better than this.

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My rowing friends picked me up and carried me. They put a team of doctors together for me, took me to all of my appointments, and carried me until my husband and I could handle it together.

I am a 50-year-old woman who found a lump on my left side around March of 1998. I went to a doctor who sent me for a mammogram. The radiologist said, "let's keep an eye on it" - it got bigger. I went for a sonogram, but the results were sent to the wrong file. I went back to my doctor for my annual physical and the lump was larger. A referred surgeon performed a biopsy, which was "suspicious". Surgery was scheduled to remove the 'small' lump in the office. I mentioned to one of my team mates I couldn't row for a couple of days because I was having this "little thing" taken out. On April 20,1999 two of my rower friends simply showed up to take care of me at the hospital. Good thing. The doctor was unprepared for what she found. I had a 5x5cm tumor that she removed under local anesthesia. I was screaming at the top of my lungs.

Ten days later when I went to have my stitches taken out, the doctor said "oh by the way, it's cancer, and we really need to address how to deal with this, are you here alone?" Thank God, once again a friend had shown up to be with me. I was told I could have lumpectomy or mastectomy and that I should buy Susan Love's book to decide.

My rowing friends got together, got me out of that facility and had me seen at the Gillette Center for Women's Cancers at Dana Farber Hospital. I had three more lumpectomies aiming for breast preservation but never getting clean margins. An MRI showed a spot on my lung which the doctors feared had metastasized. Lung surgery showed I was clear. I had a lymph node dissection. They found two microscopic cancer cells in the nodes. I then had a mastectomy with tramflap (a type of breast reconstruction) surgery on 6/29/1999 followed by three months of chemotherapy. My hair fell out. I bought a wig. All in all I had 9 surgeries in 8 months.

JoyceI MISSED THE HEAD OF THE OHIO, BUT I NEVER MISSED A STROKE. I am an eleven year success story! I had a partial mastectomy two weeks before the Head of the Ohio in 1989. This was one month after my father passed away; I was selling my mother's home and getting her settled into a new life. It was also during a time when my husband was gravely ill, incapacitated and I was his caretaker. I didn't need this!

I missed the Head of the Ohio, but kept on rowing and training. Rowing took me away from focusing on troubles to focusing on strengths. When you are focusing on rowing technique, it allows little room to focus on anything else! The physical training helped build self-confidence and self-esteem that was desperately needed. It also helped me in getting over the effects of chemotherapy and radiation more quickly, both physically and mentally. Rowing friends, male and female are special. In many ways they are more intimate friends because of the teamwork required in a boat. I refused to let the disease take over my life and rowing friends helped to keep that from happening. They were sympathetic and supportive, but now, can we get on with the workout, OK?

Their boundless sense of humor was priceless. 70 years before my surgery, my grandmother died from breast cancer. Last week I found out that my co-worker was diagnosed with breast cancer. Can we make more progress in the next 70 years than we've made in the last 70 years? I'm excited about rowing in our "One in Nine" boat, in celebration of those who have survived this disease including me, and in memory of those who have not been as fortunate. Every day of my last 11 years is a special day.

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January, 1969 as a junior in college I was diagnosed with stage 1A, Hodgkin's disease at the University of Vermont Medical Center. I underwent eight weeks of X-ray therapy while continuing to attend classes. The therapy was successful and there has been no recurrence.

In January of 1972 I was diagnosed with a cancer of the salivary gland behind my right ear at the University of Maine Medical Center. It was believed that the cancer was caused by the radiation treatments for the Hodgkin's. The tumor, which was wrapped around the facial nerve, was successfully removed and there was little damage to the nerve. No further treatment was needed and there has been no recurrence.

In May of 1992 I was diagnosed with breast cancer in my left breast. The local San Jose doctors felt that the lumpectomy was sufficient. However, I wanted the second opinion. So I went to Stanford Medical Center where a team of specialists did a complete work up. They determined that the cancer was most likely caused by the treatment I had received for the Hodgkin's disease and that a mastectomy was needed since they could not determine if all of the cancer had been removed. I requested a biopsy on the other breast so that, if needed, the major surgery could be done once. The second biopsy did not show any cancer. I had the mastectomy done plus a reconstruction using a free tramflap (they gave me a tummy tuck and used the fat, skin, and blood vessels to make a replacement breast). There was no need for chemotherapy or radiation. So once I recovered from the surgery, I was just fine.

One side effect of the reconstruction is that when I gain weight it is the left breast/tummy tissue that gains it first - so I must be careful or I will get lop sided - but it is a good incentive to not gain weight!

Michelle, rowerMy mother died of cancer and my aunt had bilateral breast cancer (I'm not sure if she's still living). I also had three first cousins with breast cancer. I found a lump 3 years ago, had it and two other small ones removed by lumpectomy then had radiation and chemotherapy. I was clean until October, 2000. That's when I found a lump on my other breast, which a needle biopsy confirmed was cancer. I've had conflicting reports since then with one doctor saying the size of the new tumor was 3cm while another estimates the size at 7 cm. I decided to go to The Gillette Center for Women's Cancers at Dana Farber Hospital for a second opinion during the week before the Head of the Charles race, in between practices. I knew that I WOULD be rowing in the race.

My rowing history: I started rowing about 4 years before I had breast cancer the first time. Rowing helped get me back into doing things again. I started urging, then going out on the water with a group that was not very serious about racing.That was hard to deal with - I am a little competitive. I had the opportunity to join a weekend rowing camp with coach Holly Metcalf, I volunteered to do anything (e.g. driving a launch boat) just to be around and suck up the information. I knew I would be back in racing form soon. I also went to Holly Metcalf's "Row As One" camp that summer. I was feeling great and viewed that summer as my comeback. I had to prove to myself that I could go back to my regular life and be better than before. I made the Head of the Charles competition that year. My rowing friends were and still are some of my biggest supporters! The women I row with are great!

In 2001, I had a bilateral mastectomy with reconstructive surgery. As soon as possible, I began to prepare for rowing. Having a goal - to race again - helped push me through recovery and the pain of surgery.

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Nancy, rower, One in NineI came to rowing nine years ago from a non-athletic background. I was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago during October, Breast Cancer Awareness month. There is no breast cancer in my family and I don't believe I fit the usual criteria. My routine mammography taken six months earlier did not indicate any concern. I truly feel the act of rowing saved my life by causing me to become bruised on my left breast, where the oar would possibly touch if rowing port side.

I followed through by seeing a doctor, convinced it was from practice and trying to lengthen my stroke etc. This was a month or two before Nationals races out in Long Beach CA. I wasn't terribly concerned. I did follow up, and because of location we decided to wait. When I was at Nationals I became very concerned because it wasn't going away. When I returned they did a needle biopsy and the doctor's experience led her to believe it was malignant. The up side was that the following year I stroked (set the pace for the rowers) my Veteran 8+ (an age category in races) to a silver medal at the Nationals in Kansas.

The rowing not only had put me in great shape but allowed me to go through my treatment program as well as I did. The following August, I was stroking my 8+ at Nationals in Kansas, to a silver medal.

Pat, rower, One in NoneI was diagnosed in June of 1990, when I was 53. Had lumpectomy and radiation. Turned down very soft suggestion for chemo. No lymph node involvement following lymph node removal (I hear the newer surgery really cuts down on this) Staged at stage 1.

Recurrence in June of 1992 (at age 55) in the same site. Had mastectomy, reconstruction (implant) at the same time as the surgery. Began chemo in September of 1992 and finished in March of 1993. Had very difficult time. Spent two weeks "on", two weeks "off". Had treatments as an inpatient for four days and recovered over the weekend. At work, two weeks on, two weeks off. Lost all my hair, wore a hateful wig, preferred myself bald.

After all treatments finished, I accelerated on my "LIST". I have always had a list of things I wanted to do since I was a teenager. I'd cross stuff out as I'd do them and kept adding to the list (like learning to fly a plane and being on a school board.) I bought a Miata sports car and had my first perm on my salt and pepper hair (because my previous thick, wavy was now thinner)...then I started highlighting and now I am a blondie and think it is quite chic.

Rowing was way, way down on my list as something I never thought I would be able to do. Being on and around water for me is the most healing and healthy thing I can think of in life. I was a high school swimmer and swam in rhythmic swimming in college. I love the ocean and spend as much of my time there as possible. I play in an ocean kayak and on my list is one day owning an Alden and also to have a home overlooking water.

Once I learned how to row, I have been in love since. I went to "Row as One" camp two summers in a row. I think that life is richer and the list will never be accomplished and that adds to the joy of it and the unknown of it.

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Suzy, rower, One in NineIn August 1998 I noticed a lump in my left breast and immediately had a mammogram. As nothing showed up, it was diagnosed as a blocked milk duct that I "should do something about." My gynecologist confirmed this diagnosis three months later and also my primary physician in March 1999 at my annual physical. She, however, suggested I have it looked at by a surgeon since it was not getting any better.

On April 19, 1999, the duct was removed. On the 23rd, it was pronounced cancerous. May 6th I had a lumpectomy and ancillary dissection with six months of chemotherapy followed by six weeks of daily radiation, and now tamoxifen. For many reasons I was determined to miss as few beats as possible. I kept working full time and rowing - until the searing bone pain from Taxotere made it too hard. My extraordinarily sensitive coach, Donald Webberplank, had me rowing in a double within a few days of surgery when I could barely raise my arm above my shoulder.

Through chemo I rowed with a bandana over my naked head, swathed in long sleeves and tights topped off with a broad brimmed fly fishing hat. I even resurrected my seventh grade ballroom dancing school white gloves as blisters needed to be avoided.

Though I certainly was not lucky to have gotten cancer, I have been lucky in the care and support I have received. My surgeon, oncologist, radiologists, and particularly the Ontological Nurses, treated me with care and respect. My family has been most indulgent. And, I was lucky to be able to participate in the Commonwealth Cancer Help Program Retreats in California to reorder life's priorities and learning how to live under the cloud of possible recurrence.

I have managed to be out in my lovely single almost every morning - feeling the strength in my back, legs, lungs, and heart build day by day as the air against little prehensile strands of hair tickles my head. Yes, I am very lucky indeed.

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