Rowing pilot program launches for breast cancer survivors

ASHLAND, Ore.– Four women received a special opportunity this weekend to try their hand at rowing as part of the Rogue Rowing Club’s community outreach work. The group met at Emigrant Lake where these women received training and a chance to go out on the water and try their hand at it.

While it was the first time rowing for these women, there’s something more that connects them all together and it’s the reason Dr. Deborah Gordon, a rower herself, helped to organize this special event.

For Susan Minor, one of the four women trying out rowing, she wanted to try something new. On a crisp Saturday morning, this was the perfect option.

“I’ve never been in this kind of a boat before,” she said. “Just sitting on top of the water is so different than being on a raft or a kayak or something.”

Along with three other women, Minor is a part of a new pilot program launching from the Rogue Rowing Club. According to Gordon, she has wanted to try this for some time. So she reached out to her connection Melanie Dines, the breast cancer nurse navigator at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center. They brought these four survivors together to try rowing.

“I actually do think rowing is the perfect exercise for mind, body spirit, community,” said Gordon. “It’s like it’s beautiful out here and we all had to work hard with our minds and our bodies.”

There’s excitement in the new experience. But it’s also a way of helping wash away the troubles each of these women share.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago, yesterday so that kind of chokes me up. Sorry…” apologized Minor. “Course it was very shocking. I didn’t have any history of it in my family and I’m otherwise pretty healthy, fit and active.”

Minor says the diagnosis, the surgeries, the chemo – it all takes a toll.

“The most challenging experience I’ve ever been in my life,” she said. “Both physically and mentally.”

Minor says she still has five to ten years of medication to prevent a return of cancer. On top of that, the drugs bring joint pain.

But on this Saturday, gliding over gilded waters, those thoughts are long gone. In these moments on the water, if only for an hour, that pain hardly showed.

“You know, life gives you stuff and I figured here it is, now what?” said Minor. “Now what, is I face it. Accept it and keep a positive attitude.”

The Rogue Rowing Club says it plans to have more of these programs come springtime if more breast cancer survivors show interest in it. The club also has other “Learn to Row” programs including adaptive rowing for people with disabilities.

You can find out more about the programs at the Rogue Rowing Club website.

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