DEARBORN - One of Csilla Gutay’s best friends passed away recently from breast cancer, and another one of her good friends is currently batting the insidious disease.
That’s what inspired Gutay, who works in Vehicle Integration, to form a new team within Ford Employee Recreation Association (FERA) organization’s Ford Canoe & Kayak Club called the Motor City Dragons, a dragon boat team.
What does dragon boat paddling have to do with breast cancer? Quite a bit, says Gutay.
“Dragon boat paddling was researched in Vancouver almost 20 years ago by a professor and medical doctor who challenged the prevailing medical thinking that women treated for breast cancer should avoid rigorous upper body exercise for fear of developing lymphedema, a debilitating and chronic side effect of treatment,” she said.
“The doctor recruited 24 breast cancer survivors and put them through a three-month training program paddling in a dragon boat and at the end of the three-month season on the water no new cases of lymphedema arose.”
After doing further research online, Gutay – who enjoys canoeing – says she set her sights on establishing a Ford team.
“Dragon boat paddling really fosters team spirit and provides a great support system for breast cancer patients and survivors. It also provides good physical resilience and research shows that the exercise portion of it may help prevent a recurrence of breast cancer,” she said. “I also believe the team can be a great source of information for people affected by breast cancer.”
Gutay says she’s learned through experiencing breast cancer with her two good friends that there is a “new normal” that people go through after being diagnosed and treated for the disease.
“There are a lot of issues that people don’t really talk about, such as limited range of motion where you can’t lift your arms above your shoulders,” she said. “You don’t have the strength to do things for yourself. And there are a lot of side effects – like depression – that can occur.”
Gutay says there are a number of organizations available to help people struggling with breast cancer that they may not know about.
“For example, Cleaning for a Reason is a nonprofit group serving the entire United States and Canada that partners with maid services to offer professional house cleanings to help women undergoing treatment for cancer,” she explained.
According to Gutay, 22 people are needed to form a Dragon Boat team – 20 paddlers per boat, a drummer in the front and a steer person in the back.
“Ours would be the first Dragon Boat team in Michigan for breast cancer survivors,” she said. “We’re looking for both survivors and supporters to join and would like to start paddling in the spring of next year.”
If you are interested in learning more about the Motor City Dragons team, you may e-mail Gutay at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the team’s Facebook page by typing “Dragn Boat” in the search box.