“Are you a survivor?” Debbie is direct.
The question comes as we prepare for an early morning practice session with the Dubai Sea Dragons.
Although this is my first experience in a dragon boat, I know what lies behind Debbie's query. It isn't about boating, it's about breast cancer.
I’m acquainted with several Tickled Pink Paddlers, amazing women who also happen to be breast cancer survivors AND dragon boat racing enthusiasts (who, by the way, were silver medalists at the 2007 Penang Dragon Boat Festival, their first-ever competition).
Debbie’s asking if I am a breast cancer survivor. If I am, it might mean a preference for paddling on one side of the boat or the other.
The Survival Instinct
Some statistics say one in three people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime, and one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
So far I’m not one of those statistics, and I should answer “no.”
But I think for a split second, and say:
“Yes, I am a survivor. I’ve never had cancer, but I’m a survivor.”
Most of us are survivors. When the chips are down, there’s something about the human spirit that pushes us to go on, to take another step, to breathe another breath.
It’s coded into our DNA, this survival instinct.
Our collective fascination with survival, the desire to win, to come out on top, sometimes against overwhelming odds, has spawned reality TV series such as Big Brother (which was first broadcast in the Netherlands in 1999 and went on to become a prime-time hit in 70 countries), and Survivor (complete with encyclopedic-sized website and cultish following).
The Real Thing
I don’t own a TV, so I don’t know much more than that. For me, real life beats reality TV hands down. The artificial drama created by cast of characters cooked up by a television producer for the voyeuristic entertainment of the rest of us doesn’t interest me.
Instead, I’m inspired by the real lives of real people, of real women in particular (that's what this site is all about) – the day-to-day heroes among us whose struggles to survive are often extraordinary.
Among them are millions of women who fight, and beat, breast cancer.
You can find some of their stories at these links: