Dragon Boat racers help support UWindsor cancer research

When the time came to decide what to do with the money her Dragon Boat team had raised, it only made sense to Alexandra Shoust that it should go to a local researcher trying to help find a cure for breast cancer.

“I think the research that’s going on at the University of Windsor is just awesome,” said Shoust, a former captain of A Breast or Knot, one of two local teams made up exclusively of breast cancer survivors. “We thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if a cure, or a key to a cure, was found right here in our community.”

The Dragon Boat Festival for the Cure is annual event to help raise awareness about breast cancer, as well as funds for patient care and research.  Members of A Breast or Knot – which won the event in 2009, the first year it moved to Tecumseh – will be on campus this afternoon to donate $2,000 to the lab of Lisa Porter. A researcher in Biological Sciences, Dr. Porter devotes much of her time to understanding the basic cellular mechanisms that cause certain cancers to spread.

“I find it awesome that the Windsor community is so supportive of local research,” Dr. Porter said.

Maureen Hayden is the member who proposed to the rest of her team that a portion of their funds should go to Porter’s lab. For the last several years she’s been reading articles about Porter’s work in The Windsor Star, clipping them out and saving them for the rest of the team as evidence of the progress being made here.

“I thought, ‘That’s really wonderful that this is going on right here in Windsor,’” she said. “It seems that we give a lot of money for after-care, which is great, but according to our mission statement we should have a portion going towards finding a cure.”

Joan Morrissey, an associate professor in Computer Science, is also a member of the team. She was diagnosed in 2007 and went through a year of chemotherapy. She hopes a method of treatment that targets specific tumour cells without harming healthy cells around them can be found.

“Some of the chemotherapy is absolutely awful,” said Dr. Morrissey, who has been cancer-free since 2008. “For all of us who have gone through it, we want better treatments for our sisters down the road.”

Since their team was formed nine years ago, three members have lost their battle against breast cancer and another woman – a 42-year-old mother of two – has recently suffered a recurrence of the disease.

“She’s just a darling, darling woman,” Hayden said. “It’s just tragic.”

Shoust, who has been cancer-free for six years, said it’s the memory of those who have died and the fight that so many women are still battling that motivates the team to keep paddling.

“There are women in that boat who can’t swim and are terrified of water,” she said. “Every time you put that paddle in the water, you’re overcoming something.”