Reflections of a first-time competitor. Wrangling 113 participants. Missabittatitti (MBT) from Australia did just that.
Submitted by Sally Ball
IBCPC 2023. What can I say but WOW!
18 months ago, I attended my first come and try session with Dragons Abreast Brisbane – Team Missabittatitti. After one session I was hooked – not only to the paddling but being surrounded by others who had also been through a breast cancer diagnosis. With IBCPC only 18 months away, plans were already in full swing for the team to attend. As a keen traveller, it didn’t take much convincing for me to say ‘yes!’.
There are many veterans in my team who had attended the festival before, but even all their tales of years gone by couldn’t prepare me for what was to come. The Meet & Greet function, where I got my first taste of being surrounded by international competitors. Attending the Congress with our club president & witnessing the inner workings of the committee that makes IBCPC run. The Parade of Nations, where, as the youngest competitor in our team, I had the honour of carrying the banner with the oldest competitor. Nothing could prepare me for the privilege of leading the wonderful group of women (and men) I call my teammates through the streets of Cambridge.
After the formalities were over, came what we were all here for – the racing! Suddenly all those hours of training – the early mornings, the double sessions on Saturdays, the training with our sports club, Brisbane River Dragons – paid off, and my boat placed 8th in the 500m races. Not bad for someone who was always picked last for the sports team at school and 12 months ago was happy to be coming first in the lane at regattas.
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t permit as much racing as we would have liked on Sunday, but safety must come first. It gave me more time to soak up the atmosphere with the teams from around the globe, including swapping some coveted Missabittatitti clothing items. Sharing in the Circle of Life was a humbling experience. I was in the inner circle, with those with a breast cancer diagnosis within the last five years. It was inspiring to see those circles added to, up to the point of people who were 35-40 years since their breast cancer diagnosis. Hopefully one day I’ll be back to be in one of those circles.
Participating in the Flowers on the Water (on land) ceremony brought a flood of emotions.
My pink flower represented so many wonderful women in my life who have been affected by breast cancer – including my beautiful Nan, who passed away 11 years before I was diagnosed, and my friend Angela, who has been living with metastatic disease for 6 years.
Knowing that I was surrounded by thousands of people from around the globe who had similar stories meant that the tears flowed freely. To have the ceremony concluded with the haka was especially memorable.
A huge thank you to all the organisers, volunteers and officials who made my first IBCPC a truly memorable event. The many hours of organisation that went into the event didn’t go unnoticed and meant everything ran smoothly. Breast cancer may be the thing that brings us all together, but the zest for living life after a breast cancer diagnosis is what unites us. One thing is for certain. Lake Karapiro might have been my first IBCPC, but it certainly won’t be my last. I’ll see you all in three years.