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Written by Andrea Roane

Early sunrise on the Potomac River… When the water is calm and peaceful, members of We Can Row DC are ready to launch.

“They come in and they’re novices. They don’t know how to row or just have very basic skills. And after a few sessions they just pick it up.”

We Can Row, women enduring cancer rowing, is a program for breast cancer survivors that picks up where surgery and physical therapy leave off.

“When you’re told you have breast cancer you actually think the worse. And it’s only after you come to your senses and learn a little bit about the treatment process, you realize you actually can survive.”

And you can still learn something new. Doris Parker, an avid sailor, enrolled in her first rowing class three years ago.

“The very first stroke that you take on calm water in the morning is just, is just a wonderful experience.”

Cancer and its treatments zap patients of their strength, but these survivors say this ultimate team sport rebuilds their muscles and their minds. Nancy Kellner is a three-year-survivor.

“The sport has been a way to exercise my body, my mind and be with other women who have been through this, but in a supportive environment that doesn’t just involve the cancer. It’s actually like dance because you all move together. It’s very challenging.”

Liza Nelson, a young mother of two sets of twins, signed up right after she completed radiation treatments. It was her way of getting on with life.

“It just makes you feel stronger.”

And the power of this sisterhood has brought a whole new network of friends to survivor Amy Burrison.

“You’re out here in a social environment, but also an athletic environment. So you know you’re with folks who are doing the kinds of things you love to be doing.”

“It’s just such a transforming experience to be on the water in a peaceful setting with a group of people who have been through what you’ve been through, working as a team.”

“It’s total determination. It’s the will of the spirit and they just love coming out doing this. They’re champions.”

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