Helen Hynes, Sydney, April 2007

The day before Easter we heard the very sad news that Helen Hynes had joined our Angels Abreast. Helen was a lovely woman and a very keen paddler.

Many of you won’t have known her, as she left us back in January 05 to return to Ireland. We farewelled her back then at a riotous and rowdy lunch at the Little Snail.

Her breast cancer was five years behind her and she was clear when, upon arriving in Ireland, she was suddenly brought down cruelly by a completely new primary cancer in her stomach. After a gruelling battle Helen fought that off and they moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where she started paddling again.

She was talking to the people there about getting in touch with us about the Dragons Abreast movement when the cancer flared up once more. Her husband, Julian, is trying to arrange with the organizers in Arizona to have Helen’s paddle available for “newbies” in the Breast Cancer Survivors branch that, he believes, they have up and running now.

Julian wrote: Helen loved “paddling” so much, it was a life changing as well as life affirming activity that always delighted her. One of my favourite memories of Australia is Helen’s happiness at the prospect of a paddle, she looked forward to it so much. Your comradeship was a strength she always remembered. She had a brilliant time with the Pink Ladies, you changed her life and she really missed you all when we left.

I am devastated, but I want to thank you all for being so great with Helen, with each other and as a bunch of people, please pass on my gratitude to all the women. Please remember her in your thoughts and the petal scattering service you perform at the dragon boat races for the Chinese New Year.

We did better than that – we had a special, private Flowers on the Water Ceremony for Helen the following Saturday. Our Memorial Paddle had sadly acquired its third plaque – this one for Helen. It was a beautifully warm, sunny autumn morning when three boats paddled quietly across the bay for the ceremony where we silently remembered Helen and those who have lost their battle with this dread disease.

Then the drifts of pink petals slowly spread out across the glistening, unruffled waters towards the Anzac Bridge as the procession paddle–tapped its way back to the ramp.

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