Thousands of breast cancer survivors from all over the world have gathered in Florence this week for the International Dragon Boat Festival. This incredible event, which is held every four years and organized under the guidance of the International Breast Cancer Paddlers’ Commission, has drawn 120 teams of survivors from all seven continents. The venue is the beautiful Cascine Park in Florence, and the message is inclusivity, strength, and support for the global community of breast cancer survivors.
There are currently around 4,000 breast cancers survivors in Florence practicing (as seen in the photo above) for the weekend’s big races. The important thing about the festival is not who wins, but the community that comes together. Dragon boat teams bring survivors together all over the United States. New York City even has its own team, the Empire Dragons NYC, who are participating in this year’s festival. SurvivorNet community member Judy Perkins, who made headlines for being the first person to be declared cured of metastatic breast cancer after a round of immunotherapy, is also a dragon boater.
So what is dragon boating? And why does it appeal to so many survivors? Dragon boating is a paddling sport that’s been around for centuries. Most boats consist of 20 seats for paddlers, and the races can be either sprint or endurance. People of all sorts come out to participate in this festival, which began in 2005. Some had cancer 20 years ago, and some just finished treatment.
The Dragon Boat Festival races don’t begin until this weekend. The week is dedicated to practices and community events aimed as raising awareness. The races will kick off Saturday morning after a “Pink Parade of Nations” and an opening ceremony on Friday.
SurvivorNet will provide updates throughout the week of the goings-on at this awesome event.