Carolyn Johnson, Bendigo, 17 September 2008

A long standing member of Dragons Abreast Bendigo finally lost her battle with breast cancer on Wednesday 17th September 2008 after living with advanced breast cancer for seventeen years.

Carolyn Johnson was just the most wonderful, caring and courageous lady who was still asking after the welfare of others in our team only days before her passing. Carolyn had been unable to paddle for some time and suffered a great deal during the last 12 to 18 months however she had a wonderful caring family and large friendship group around her. She achieved her aim of seeing her children grow to adulthood and independence and has left treasured memories for all those who knew her. Attached is a photo of Carolyn at the Masters Games in Adelaide (2005).

Below is a speech Carolyn made at Relay for Life in 2004 which tells some of her story and how much Dragons Abreast Bendigo meant to her.

Relay for Life Speech 2004 : Carolyn Johnson

Sixteen years ago at 38 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I have been living with breast cancer secondaries, or advanced breast cancer for the last 13 years.

I feel well.

I live well.

Thirteen years ago our sons were 17 and 16 years old and our twin daughters were 12 years old. To take the recent words of a friend, I felt like I was drowning.

We were drowning in sadness, grief and fear.

Family and friends helped to keep us afloat, but I needed to get a grip on myself.

A lifebuoy was thrown to me when I attended the Ian Gawler cancer residential in the Yarra Valley. I learnt many life skills, based around physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Putting these into practice on my return home kept me and my family, very busy. Action cut through the fear, the things I was doing made me feel better and together with the care of a wonderful oncologist, I began to reclaim my life.

There have been further secondary setbacks along the way, but on my current medication, I have been stable for the last six years.

Life goes on, even with a secondary cancer diagnosis.

So………

Picture this.

Lake Weeroona on a sunny warm day.

Late afternoon…..early evening.

A long wooden boat is on the lake

Sitting in it are 22 women, all paddling in perfect unison ( well…in theory!)

These women are all Breast Cancer survivors.

I want to send a BIG thankyou to Faye Arthur, Alison Woodman and Andrew Barling for establishing and running the Dragon Boat Breast Cancer Team here in Bendigo.

I joined last year and it has become an absolute delight to become a paddler!!!

Cancer can be emotionally very isolating and to be part of this team, to belong, to form lasting friendships within an atmosphere of support, fun and excitement, has been an enriching experience.

It’s a great way to become physically stronger, particularly in the lungs, arms and shoulders. Sitting quietly in the boat out in the water is very peaceful.

Thankyou to Marg who encouraged me to join when I expressed concerns about my lack of stamina. These women have their priorities right and are aware of and caring toward one another. It wasn’t a problem.

I’m so proud to be a member of this team. We recently competed in the Moomba dragon boat races on the Yarra, and were thrilled with our record race times.

Mind you we trained twice a week for some time.

Even though our particular section of the competition was small this year, we have come home with the breast cancer dragon cup.

Great Fun!!!

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