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Paddling Against Cancer, Guatemala

Submitted by María José Girón Blanco de Font

I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer on April 12th, 2021. I then went through chemotherapy for four and a half months. Then I moved to Houston where I lived with my family for five and a half months.

As a patient at MD Anderson Cancer Center, I went through surgery and radiation. Right now, I am still on medications, traveling back and forth to Houston every two months for my checkup labs and follow- up appointments.

While living in Houston I joined a support group where I met Yadira Pena, who has been an amazing friend. Yadira is a member of the Pink Phuree Dragon Boat Team. She has been explaining to me and giving me the opportunity to know and learn about dragon boat teams for breast cancer survivors.

Cancer has been very painful for me, not only physically but also emotionally; so painful that I cannot even put it into words. Even though this has been a roller coaster of emotions, as time has passed, I have learned how to offer all my pain and suffering for a cause and a purpose.

My purpose when I returned to Guatemala has been to form the first Dragon Boat team in my country; to spread the news about dragon boating, about its benefits for our health and arm condition (the risk of lymphedema); to promote the importance of physical activity; to emphasize early detection; to support and welcome cancer survivors; and let others know that there is life after cancer. I am determined to do this, because I owe it to myself, I owe it to my parents and family who have supported me along this journey, I owe it to my friends who have been there for me, but specially I owe it to God for the blessing of a second chance, for the blessing of being alive!

I began contacting friends, friends of friends and so on. No one knew anything about dragon boating for breast cancer survivors, so they have been very enthusiastic and motivated. After a while, my purpose became other women´s purpose. Right now, we are fifteen women, breast cancer survivors, and growing. We chose our team´s name based on what we have in common: force.

That interior force that has made us fight along the way, that force that we have received from our family and friends, but specially, that force that we have received from God when we lost ours.

That force that has taken us till this day, to be able to start the first dragon boat team of breast cancer survivors in Guatemala. We are: FUERZA ROSA GT. “Para ti, para mí, para ¡TODAS!”