Dubuque Dragonboat team paddles for a cause - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque Dragonboat team paddles for a cause

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Miller Riverview Park and Campground drew hundreds to Dubuque this weekend for the 26th annual Dragon Boat Race. In a dragonboat race, teams of usually 20 members compete against one another on a human powered watercraft.

Sue Miller is President of the Dubuque Dragon Boat Association.

"Everything is under our own power here, we have to work as a team," she said. "You can't do your own thing out here."

Dubuque's annual dragonboat race attracts many from the area, including teams from Canada. This year's dragonboat race attracted 43 teams. This year, 3 of those teams are racing for a cause, breast cancer. Bonnie Bell is an 18 year breast cancer survivor. She found a lump on her breast and immediately went to a doctor.

"I was 39 at the time. When I went to the doctor and he said you are too young, you have no history. He said to come back in six months," Bell said.

Bell returned to the doctor in two weeks asking for a biopsy. That was when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"When the doctor told me I did have breast cancer, he had tears because he couldn't believe that I did," Bell said.

Susie Freeze was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000.

"I was diagnosed with stage one cancer. I only had stage one and I was eight years clear, and it came back." Freeze said.

The cancer had metastasized to different parts of Freeze's body, including her lymph nodes and both lungs. After undergoing treatment, Freeze was cleared once again, only to have cancer return.

"Then it came back in my neck, she said. "Again, I went through treatment and intensive radiation and then that cleared and now there are spots on my liver and I am in treatment right now."

Freeze and Bell are both founders of Dubuque's Breast of Friends dragonboat team. In 2002, the women were approached by the Dubuque Dragon Boat Association. The association asked the women to form a crew of area breast cancer survivors to compete against a Canadian survivor team that was coming to paddle in the festival.

"Susie and I thought well, we would do it for a year and it will be a lot of fun," Bell said. "Here we are 11 years later and some of the original women from Canada still come down to our festival."

Breast of Friends is a group that is currently more than 40 members strong featuring women from all walks of life. The group was created originally to race their dragonboat, but has turned into a support group for each other.

"I wish I had all these women in my life then [when I had breast cancer] because I really didn't even know anybody who had breast cancer." Bell said.

Breast of Friends hopes to spread hopes to others, and show all that life goes on after cancer.

"Look at us, we are living, we are going out and paddling a boat," Susie Freeze said. "We are strong women and we want people to know to really get a mammogram."

Sunday, Dubuque's Dragon Boat Festival will host a pink carnation ceremony to honor those who are fighting and those who have fought breast cancer.

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