WOMEN’S LIVES: How to befriend a dragon

By Finola Brennan


By Finola Brennan

WOMEN’S LIVES: How to befriend a dragon
“This was when I got excited for the first time about having Breast Cancer”!

“This was when I got excited for the first time about having Breast Cancer”!

If you have had cancer, male or female, if you are interested in improving your health, reducing the percentage of reoccurrence of cancer, extending your life span and live in County Donegal then read on.

You too could be a dragon like Deborah Bonner of Donegal Town. There are no age limits, there is no experience needed, just feel free to come along and give it a try. It may change your life!

Last October Deborah travelled to Sarasota, Florida to compete in the International Dragon Boat Festival specifically for Breast Cancer Survivors.

Since then she has set her heart on having our very own Donegal Dragon! If you were in Donegal Town for the St. Patrick’s Day parade you will have been able to see the first of the legendary creatures proudly meander around the Diamond and up the Main Street.

It was a sight to behold and the kids absolutely loved it. They weren’t the only ones as ‘The Donegal Dragon’ & Donegal Rowing Boat was awarded the prize of best Community float.

It was truly magical and yet managed to convey a powerful message. It is a message of hope, solidarity, friendship and healing.

Have you had cancer? Have you completed your treatment and found yourself asking ‘how do I now get back to normality?’ Deborah Bonner, a young woman and mother whose journey with cancer began four years ago at the age of forty, believes “the truth is it changes your life for ever”.

It was the inspirational Jim McGuinness who first introduced the Dragon into Deborah’s life when he spoke at the Relay for Life Conference last year. “Jim spoke of the new facts that were just released proving that fitness greatly reduces the percentage of reoccurrence of cancer, and as a breast cancer survivor I instantly sat up to listen carefully to what Jim was saying,” Deborah recalled.

“Jim specifically referred to the benefits of paddling especially upper body rowing for breast cancer survivors.”

In 1996 this concept was the brainchild of Canadian Dr. Don Mc Kenzie, a Sports Medicine specialist. There are now over 150 Breast Cancer Dragon boat teams all over the world including Italy, Canada, Australia, China, England and America.

In some countries like Canada and Italy the Local Dragon Boat Club is incorporated into the hospital care treatment plan.

Deborah’s vision is to have a Dragon Club for the county. “If I had a genie my three wishes would be: Two Dragons for Donegal. One for men and women who are both cancer survivors and people who just want to try something different; the second solely for Breast Cancer survivors.

Survivors of all ages

“Every Saturday cancer survivors of all ages, with experience or none at all, can meet up and take to the waters. This could be a morning or afternoon once a week or once a month. The base would be at the pier in Donegal Town and at the Lakeside in Ballyshannon and I would love a club house with a kitchenette so people could sit and chat, the upper floor would have a balcony overlooking the bay with a history of Donegal on the walls.

“This building will be part of the community, and it would be great to have it built on friendship, solidarity and love.”

Deborah’s vision for Donegal is not just a dream it is well under way and has the support of Mr Michael Sugrue, Consultant Breast & General Surgeon, Letterkenny General Hospital.

Thanks to the Conaghan family from Killybegs, a state-of-the-art Dragon Boat is currently being made in England.

The Conaghan family, whose mother Susan died of breast cancer, are the main reason that the Donegal Dragons will take to the water this year.

This boat will be named ‘The Inspire’ in memory of Susan Conaghan.

And the Conaghan family said their mum would be first in the boat if she were about today as the upper body exercise really helps with lymphedema patients.

A second boat has been donated to Donegal Bay Rowing Club & Donegal Dragons from a Rowing Club called the Thames Rowing Club from London.

So keep an eye out in the newspapers and an ear out on the radio for further information.

You can also check out on Facebook, the Donegal Dragons, The Plurabelle Paddlers, the Cork Dragons.

For further info contact Deborah Bonner at 0877752549

Happy Paddling to all Donegal Dragons