The hot day, with rising humidity, reminded me that summer is almost here. This was the last lesson of our first class of Row Beyond Diagnosis participants, making the morning more poignant as we gathered at the launch site. Waiting for us was our teacher Gary, and 7 or 8 teen students who gave up sleeping in Saturday morning to help with equipment and mentoring. Gary, who knows how to put everyone at ease, told two humorous, true stories of past rowing adventures that created laughter, and a secret satisfaction, because none of us had done anything as extreme as the people in his stories.
How different we all felt today compared to our first lesson! Eagerly we stepped into our boat (doing it correctly because we now had lots of practice) and prepared to launch. Now the commands from the coxswain were familiar and we knew what to do as we stroked our way into the Indian River Lagoon. Under a cloudless sky we practiced maneuvers and different strokes under Gary’s direction and the coxswain’s encouragement. The most exhilarating part was when all of us were rowing at the same time because we entered into the bliss of complete rowing harmony, streaking our slender, quiet craft through the water with speed and accuracy. No motor noises interfered with the wind song through the trees, or the birds calling to each other. What a way to spend a Saturday morning!
As we slipped peacefully through the water, I began thinking about the life lessons I was having. Rowing requires concentrated teamwork and cooperation to be successful. Any one rower out of rhythm, or not following directions, affects the performance and safety of the whole boat. In life no goal is achieved without the willingness of a group of people to work together for the good of the whole. Following directions means that sometimes our oar is rowing, and sometimes it is being held in the boat balancing position. In life we are sometimes asked to channel our energy to push ahead, while at other times we’re asked to hold still and balance ourselves. Both are essential for reaching whatever goal we are working toward.
And in life, when we are working our way through cancer, or any major challenge, it is best done surrounded by the support of caring people who are willing to match their support to the various strokes we must take to create harmony as we go through the treatment process needed to regain health and well-being. That’s why support groups are so effective – we are supportive companions to each other whether the waters are smooth or troubled. We know how share the journey and row together!
So, as this class ends, I will take the rowing and life lessons with me to remind myself of the beauty and harmony that can be achieved when we work together. I will also take with me the image of Gary and the teens receiving our thanks when we presented them with a table of refreshing food, a very large card full of pictures taken through the weeks of class, and a big THANK YOU for all their time, patience, expertise, encouragement and support while we celebrated being cancer survivors by trying a brand new sport. What a thoughtful and kind gift to the survivors and their caregivers! Another Row Beyond Diagnosis Class will be offered this fall, so the richness of this experience is available to any breast or women’s cancer survivor and caregiver/supporter who is interested. See you at the boat landing in August!
Until Next Time – Sylvia