In early 2010, a Dublin woman called Fiona Tiernan had an idea: A dragon boat racing team for survivors of breast cancer.
She had no crew, no boat, no paddles and no money. As a sport, dragon boat racing was non-existant in Ireland.
But, just six months later, two forty foot long dragon boats – “Anna” and “Livia” – were filled with a crew of forty women, all dressed in pink, paddling on the Grand Canal Dock in Dublin.
The “Plurabelle Paddlers” was launched.
This documentary records their journey getting there.
About dragon boats and breast cancer:
After surgery for breast cancer, the lymph nodes are often removed. As a result, even if a woman completely recovers from breast cancer, she can be left with a condition called lymphodema. It causes the affected arm to swell up and is uncomfortable.
Dr. Don McKenzie, a sports medicine physician at the University of British Columbia, Canada, was the first to come up with the idea that - contrary to popular belief at the time - repetitive upper-body exercise could help control or prevent lymphoedema in women who have had breast cancer.
He launched Abreast in a Boat in 1996.
Dr McKenzie believed that by following a special exercise and training program, women could avoid lymphoedema and enjoy active, full lives. The initial group were carefully monitored by a sports medicine physician, a physiotherapist and a nurse. Dr McKenzie's theory was proven correct. No new cases of lymphoedema occurred and none of the existing cases became worse.
From a medical study involving one boat of 25 women in 1996, the organisation has now grown to over 150 teams worldwide.
The Plurabelle Paddlers is the first dragon boat racing team for breast cancer survivors in Ireland.
Recorded and compiled by Nicoline Greer
Production supervision by Eva Roither.
Sound supervision by Richard McCullough.
This documentary was made as part of the EBU Masterschool for documentary makers. It won the Outstanding Interview Program/Feature category at the 2011 Gracie Awards; Gold Radio Winner in Health Documentary Cateogry at 2011 New York Festivals and Best Consumer Broadcast Radio programme at 2011 GSK Medical Awards.
First broadcast Saturday 30th October 2010.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
For more information on the Plurabelle Paddlers click here.
For information on Breast Cancer Ireland click here.
On 6th August 2014, Fiona Tiernan lost her long battle with cancer and passed away, aged 51. She leaves behind many legacies, one of which is the Plurabelle Paddlers.
An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries.