Jackie Mori was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and as she underwent chemo, she struggled to find a support group of fellow survivors. But one day in 2014, while driving by Nathan Benderson Park, she couldn’t help but notice a lot of pink. It was the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission Participatory Dragon Boat Festival—a paddling competition featuring teams of breast cancer survivors from all over the world.
Mori, now 58, has always been active and fit (she attended spin classes with a bald head while undergoing chemo), but the combination of camaraderie and exercise that the Dragon Boats offered drew her in.
“I got bit by the dragon,” she says.
Today, Mori is the lead stroke for Survivors in Sync, a local team that is traveling to Aix-les-Bains, France, in August to compete for a world championship. The team is one of seven U.S. squads participating. In a 2018 competition in Italy, Survivors in Sync placed fourth out of 125 entrants. The team includes women as old as 80, plus women who are currently going through treatment. “When you’re on the water,” Mori says, “you don’t think about what you’ve gone through.”