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London bound

CATHERINE HEALY
Last updated 05:00 09/05/2012
Dragon Boats
DIAMOND PADDLER: Dragon boat crew member Deb Stevenson is heading to London for the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant.

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More than a thousand boats will fill London's River Thames on June 3 for the Diamond Jubilee Pageant.

Boats of all shapes and sizes will be dressed in streamers and Union flags as Londoners gather to celebrate the Queen's 60-year reign.

Deb Stevenson of Mission Bay will be there with a special purpose.

She is part of Busting with Life, an Auckland-based dragon boat team for breast cancer survivors.

New Zealand was invited to be part of an international dragon boat crew for the London pageant as a member of the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission.

Mrs Stevenson is Busting with Life's manager and has been asked to travel to London as a reserve for the squad.

"It's too good an opportunity to turn down," she says.

She is training just as hard as the rest of the crew even though she may well end up watching from the riverbank rather than paddling the boat.

"If I am on the bank I'm going to get from the start line to the finish line as fast as I can among all the people," she says.

Busting with Life began in 1998 and was the first breast cancer dragon boat team in New Zealand. There are now nine teams and more than 100 worldwide.

"It's great that there are nine teams but also a bit of a sad reflection of how many women there are with breast cancer in this country," Mrs Stevenson says.

The concept came from Canadian specialist Dr Don McKenzie who thought paddling would be beneficial for breast cancer survivors.

Previously it was thought that strenuous upper body exercise would be unhelpful after treatment.

Dr McKenzie discovered that the exercise and camaraderie of paddling had nothing but positive effects.

"I had breast cancer in 2006 and I joined Busting with Life the same year," Mrs Stevenson says.

"I soon got a call saying you're on the team and you're going to Singapore."

She had no paddling experience but was physically fit.

"I went to my first practice at Lake Pupuke and the ladies were so welcoming.

"I got given a paddle and that was it. It was a steep learning curve, but it's great fun. There's a lot of team spirit."

Busting with Life is always looking for breast cancer survivors to join the team.

Members need to be reasonably fit, be confident in the water and able to commit to training. Visit bustingwithlife.org.nz or phone Mrs Stevenson on 5210129 for more information.

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- East And Bays Courier

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