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  • Writer's pictureMyrna Driedger

Chemo Savvy Dragon Boat Racing

Published in the March 2022 edition of Lifestyles

By Myrna Driedger, MLA for Roblin

Dragon Boat racing is a fun and exciting activity. Recently, I saw a video of some hearty Winnipeggers using their dragon boat on our beautiful Nestaweya River Trail. What a testament to their athleticism and dedication to the sport during this frigid winter!

Although some of our fellow Winnipeggers have used the river trail in the winter, most of us know about dragon boat racing in its warmer weather version- racing along our rivers.

According to Chemo Savvy “Dragon Boat racing is an ancient Chinese Ceremony that symbolizes the human’s struggle with nature and the fight against deadly enemies. For Breast Cancer survivors, this symbolism is a poignant reminder of the struggle against the cruelly random nature of breast cancer and the fight to control the disease. As a result of medical study in Vancouver in 1996, dragon boat teams for breast cancer survivors now exist worldwide.”

Years ago, I had two breast cancer scares. Luckily, for me, it was just that, a scare but I will always remember that terrible feeling of fear while I awaited my results. I am so grateful to all of the incredible healthcare workers in Manitoba who helped guide me through the process to check in on my health. It is incredibly important for all of us to check in with our doctors and health care practitioners regularly.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers). While breast cancer in men is rarer, it can still occur. Find more information online about breast cancer at

Chemo Savvy is an amazing dragon boat team. Its members are made up of breast cancer survivors. And you don’t need experience in dragon boat racing to join their team, some members are new to the sport entirely. Team members spend three months participating in indoor training exercises before trying the real thing on the Red River. After practicing hard, Chemo Savvy participates in races.

For those of you who have seen this team in action, you might be interested to know about the unique and colourful paddles used to push the dragon boat toward victory. Chemo Savvy holds an annual paddle-painting workshop for its team members. What a great way for members to express their style and uniqueness through art!

This amazing group is meant to offer fun, exciting experiences to people undergoing a similar challenge. Surviving breast cancer is a feat in itself. But undergoing the challenges of cancer can have an enormous impact on a person. Joining a team like Chemo Savvy, participants get the opportunity to exercise, have fun, laugh, and bond with others who have similar experiences.

It is not just dragon boat racing that Chemo Savvy participates in. This impressive team also holds fundraisers in the community, walks, interviews with the media, speaking with classrooms, public information displays, golf tournaments, fashion shows, parades and so much more. One special fundraiser is their Dragon Wing Begonias. As an avid gardener myself, I absolutely love begonias and the dragon wing begonia- Chemo Savvy’s signature flower is stunning. These gorgeous begonias are available throughout the month of May and proceeds go to making sure that the fees for participants on the Chemo Savvy team stay affordable.

Chemo Savvy also holds a flower ceremony. Team members bring with them a pink rose into the dragon boat during the competition to throw into the water. These pink roses are a beautiful and special representation of hope. In addition to these pink roses, there are also some white roses. The white roses are a way to honour teammates who have passed away over the last year. What a special way to honour friends and loved ones during a competition.

If you or someone you know might be interested in joining the Chemo Savvy Dragon boat team, I encourage you to check out their informative website at

In honour of breast cancer survivors, I’ve arranged to have the tower at the top of the legislative building lit up pink. I hope this serves as a uniting reminder that Manitobans all stand together with everyone affected by breast cancer.


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