Wednesday, 02 December 2015

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Cumbrian woman will be in dragon boat alongside Queen

A breast cancer survivor who found a new lease of life after her illness thanks to dragon boat racing will play a key role in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations this summer.

Judy Lewis, from Cargo, near Carlisle, will be among a group of Cumbrian cancer patients paddling directly alongside the Queen’s boat at the Thames Flotilla.

The June 3 event will be a focal point of the high profile Jubilee celebrations – with London Mayor Boris Johnson predicting it could even outshine the Olympics.

Judy has been chosen to take part due to her involvement with UK charity Paddlers for Life – an organisation she discovered following her own battle with breast cancer.

The mum-of-two was diagnosed the day before her 47th birthday after finding a lump in her right breast.

Within two weeks she’d had surgery to have the lump removed – only to find out it had spread. She went back into hospital for a mastectomy operation, which was followed by courses of both chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

“That took up the best part of 2006, then over the last four years I’ve had reconstruction surgery in stages.

“I’ve finished everything now and feel better than ever, but that’s down to Paddlers for Life,” she explained.

The breast cancer dragon boat movement was originally established in Canada as part of a study into the effect paddling would have on patients, who often suffer lymphedema – swelling of the arm or hand – as a result of treatment.

It concluded that this form of exercise had huge benefits, and the movement gradually spread across the globe.

Judy got involved in 2009. By this time the Paddlers for Life had set up base at Low Wood in Windermere.

She told the News & Star: “I went along to find out what it was all about. It was totally new to me, but I was hooked from that moment on.


“It has given me a new outlook on life. It’s great for your fitness but it’s more than that. It’s a team sport and there’s a real social side to it.”

The group has widened out to include all kinds of cancer patients, men and women, along with their supporters. They row every Sunday in the season, and meet socially during the rest of the year.

Judy said she has made so many new friends, all of whom have been touched by cancer in some way: “Rather than a breast cancer support group, which is fantastic if that’s what you want, I also feel like I’m doing something to help myself – to keep fit. It’s physical and psychological.”

The Paddlers for Life will have two teams taking part in the Diamond Jubilee Flotilla – Judy’s team from Windermere and an international crew, both paddling alongside the Queen as she sails along the Thames on a special barge.

To raise awareness of the sport she will be joining her youngest daughter Sian, in a sponsored abseil down the Carlisle’s Civic Centre on June 10. Pop along to find out more or visit


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