"It's powerful, uplifting. It's like strength," says Lynn Fritz.
Strength is exactly what Lynn Fritz found when she joined the Dragon Boat Dream Team, a team whose members share a common bond: they are all breast cancer survivors.
"We don't ever talk about it," Lynn says. "We don't have to relive it. We're mostly just very joyful that we're out here and alive, living life to the fullest."
Around the world, there are 130 all-breast cancer survivor dragon boat teams that promote breast cancer awareness, fitness and offer a place for breast cancer survivors to lend one another support.
The first survivor team began 15 years ago in Canada when a physician challenged the belief that breast cancer patients should not participate in strenuous upper body exercise. He conducted research with breast cancer survivors and found that dragon boat racing was both physically and emotionally beneficial.
The Dragon Boat Dream Team got its start in 2007 when Akron-based plastic surgeon Dr. Douglas Wagner offered to buy one of his patients, 76-year-old Jessica Mader, a dragon boat if she could find enough women to participate in the sport.
Today, the Akron-based team has 70 members and 40 active paddlers.
Dottie Pasher, 73, was an original member of the Dream Team. For the past 20 years, she has kept breast cancer is the rearview mirror, and she helps women on her team look ahead in their own lives.
"We just kind of listen," she says. "[We] try to reinforce that attitude is so important. A positive attitude."
And when race time comes, the Dream Teamers bring a unique outlook to the starting line.
"Sure we want to win," says Dottie. "But just the fact that we're focusing together, paddling together, that's enough."