I found Team Survivor shortly after completing cancer treatment. Surgery had left me with severe lymphedema. I joined a Team Survivor walking group in the hopes that I would find a fitness-oriented support group. Even though the Orange County walking group no longer exists, I'm pleased to report that I still meet for breakfast periodically with two of my former walking buddies....seven years later! I've participated in a fitness class and trained for the Danskin Tri (swimming in the lagoon @ Disney's California Adventure!). I was one of the original group of curious gals who wanted to find out what dragon boating was all about 7 years ago. I've traveled all over the West Coast & Canada with the Los Angeles Pink Dragons. 20 breast cancer survivors, sitting side-by-side, paddling in sync. It doesn't get any better than that! We're always looking for breast cancer survivors to join our team.
Team Survivor California is truly a life-saving organization. I got involved in 1999, about a year after I finished treatment for breast cancer. My husband and I had spent six months training to climb Mt. Whitney, which we did in July of 1999. But after we came down, and got over the excitement of it, my question was "what next?" I wanted to keep up my level of fitness, but had no one to train with. I met the board president of TS at a breast cancer race, and she encouraged me to get involved. We put together a chapter in the San Fernando Valley, and during the next year everyone biked, swam and walked until we were ready to do the Danskin Women's Triathlon in June 2000. It was a blast, and many of us did four more after that -- some in relays, some as swim angels, and some as walk-only participants. As we were training together, members of the Valley group got to be close friends, and we have stayed that way. A couple of our members have died during the past ten years, but most of us have survived and thrived. Although we're not doing any more triathlons these days, we still walk together on Saturday mornings (some folks still bike before the walk) and have breakfast together. Several times a year we gather and celebrate birthdays. We're all thrilled to be alive!
I have seen the lives of many women profoundly changed by their participation in Team Survivor. For some women, being able to gently exercise in a supportive group setting helps them maintain a sense of control during their cancer treatment, and it helps them to manage the side effects of their treatment. Other women become even tremendously active and are surprised to find an athlete within themselves. Team Survivor provides programs that are a great fit for women in any stage of their cancer journey, and remains sensitive that each women's needs are unique.
As a strong believer in mental and physical strength as useful tools in fighting disease, I find the Team Survivor California mission and activities so important to the women in our community battling cancer. And, as a board member, I could not be more proud of the work Team Survivor California has accomplished over the past 10 years since it was launched. With over 20 classes offered each month in the Los Angeles and Orange Counties, Team Survivor directly impacts over 500 women every year. I was especially pleased when we were able to start offering yoga classes to low-income women awaiting treatment or screening at the USC medical center, giving them a much needed break from the stresses of cancer. As a participant in several classes and events, I am always awed and impressed with the women I meet and the stories they share. From the 70 year old who has never exercised a day in her life, but is training for the swimming leg of a triathlon, to the 30 year old who has always been fit but is thrilled to chat with other survivors while walking, sharing experiences about cancer but also life in general. As a survivor, I was never interested in support groups as they seemed to dwell more on the disease and less on surviving. Team Survivor is just the opposite, bringing together survivors who are thriving in spite of cancer.
Team Survivor California provides women with fun fitness opportunities in a warm, safe environment. Women living with any kind of cancer come together to walk, run, hike, participate in a yoga class, swim, cycle, train for a triathlon, and more. The feeling of strength and support at the end of a class is second to none.