My main role with Row to Recovery is as the coach. This includes coordination and coaching most of our twice, sometimes thrice, weekly rows. I also am the person who looks after people interested in joining Row to Recovery, explaining what the programme is and how it works. I also coach the learn to row sessions in the summer months. As with most sports, or most things in life really, the learning and improving is never done. So, no matter how long our members have been rowing with the crew there are always ways in which their rowing can be improved. I am also in charge of the safety of the crews on the water and the maintenance/repairs of the boats. As with most volunteer groups, we all wear many hats.
I’ve been with Row to Recovery since its inception in 2014. I was the captain of a rowing club when someone rang and asked if there was a Dragon Boat team in Galway for people who have had breast cancer. Since the 1980’s Dragon Boat teams are extremely popular around the world as a post cancer, return to exercise sport. My sister, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer 14 year ago, was part of a Dragon Boat team and I saw the physical, emotional and mental health benefits the team had for her so I thought being involved with starting a rowing group for those diagnosed with cancer would be hugely rewarding for me. We didn’t know how it would work with rowing rather than Dragon Boating and the first few years were a bit trial and error, but it’s been absolutely great.
My favourite part about working with Row to Recovery - the people. It’s such a pleasure to see someone fall in love with a sport I have such a passion for. I also can’t say enough about how much our group welcomes and embraces everyone who comes down to the river to give rowing a try with us. They’re a special group.
Sport is important at every stage, every phase of life. Beyond the physical benefits there are the immeasurable mental and emotional benefits and such a feeling of inclusion/belonging and support.
I think what makes this team special is their bravery. Each of them has had one, if not multiple, cancer diagnoses. The majority of them have never rowed before. Yet, they came down, on their own, and gave rowing a try. That’s brave.
I’m originally from Chicago and have lived in Galway for 20+ years. I never knew that Galway and Chicago are sister cities. We were recently contacted by the Galway-Chicago sister cities committee and are now working with them and Recovery on Water (ROW), a Chicago based rowing group of cancer survivors, to build ties between Row to Recovery and Recovery on Water. We are starting with small steps (discussions, workshops) with a bigger goal of getting both organisations across the Atlantic for rowing and group discussions and learning opportunities on recovery after cancer diagnosis.
Thanks to Robin for her time in contributing to this article. We hope to introduce more of the group in the coming weeks.
Rowing is a cerebral low impact sport that utilizes the whole body and is accessible to all, regardless of fitness level. While a certain level of fitness is helpful, full training is offered by certified coaches and absolute beginners are welcome. Nor is age a barrier, our members range from early forty to late sixty.
Regaining a level of fitness, learning the skill of rowing, training and being part of a rowing crew in a very supportive, non competitive, fun manner are just some of the many benefits cancer patients have found when they join our crew.