Breast Cancer Survivors Prepare for Boat Race

Veterans Freedom Park-is a place to honor those who’ve fought for our country.

But Thursday, it was home to another group of fighters-dozens of breast cancer survivors who are gearing up to compete in the Big Blue Dragon Boat races Saturday.

One of those rowers is Corry Van Aelstyn.

“I had stage two breast cancer with lymphadenoma impact,” Van Aelstyn said.

Five years ago, Van Aelstyn received the gut-wrenching news.

“I didn’t believe that it was me. I have cancer. This happens to other people. And it was shocking,” Van Aelstyn said.

Before she could even process what was going on, Van Aelstyn had surgery and started chemotherapy.

“I was in oncology at Mayo and I walked out of the infusion room and I saw a brochure. With these women in a boat. I’m like, what is this?,” Van Aelstyn asked.

With that brochure ,Van Aelstyn discovered big blue dragon boat racing,

“The next thing I know, I’m out on the water,” Shesaid.

She joined a team where all of the rowers are breast cancer survivors.

“We are literally all in the same boat. We’ve all been through the breast cancer story,” Van Aelstyn said.

Van Aelstyn thought she was joining a sport, but discovered she was gaining a family.

“It’s the women, the camaraderie, the knowing that they’ve got my back and I’ve got theirs,” Van Aelstyn said.

Fellow rower, friend and breast cancer survivor Debbie Koenig said the sisterhood is what makes the sport so great.

“This is like a community of sisters. Everybody has a story and I love all [of] these women they’re just wonderful,” Koenig said.

“I did learn during breast cancer and the oncology bit of it that the most important thing is your family,” Van Aelstyn said.

And now she’s got dozens of new sisters cheering her on.

“I say to people–and they think I’m a little nuts–I’m glad I got the cancer because without it I wouldn’t know any of those women,” Van A elstyn said.

The races take place on Saturday in Copeland Park.

Proceeds from the event go towards breast cancer research and the Boys and Girls Club.

More information about the event can be found at Mayclinichealthsystem.org.