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April 12, 2013

Breast cancer survivors win when teaming up for community races

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Breast cancer survivors training together for a spring walk or run not only challenge images of being sick with cancer, but also personally benefit physically, emotionally and mentally, says a Purdue University expert.

"Breast cancer survivors who team up and take an interest in exercise after dealing with the disease not only live but thrive from the physical and social benefits of exercising with other survivors," says Meghan McDonough, an associate professor of health and kinesiology who studies exercise and social relationships.

She has found that the women participating with other survivors in regular fitness activities also meet emotional, information and social needs. For example, these women develop positive images of themselves as cancer survivors and report that the camaraderie helps improve confidence and empowerment. Everyone's experience is different, but McDonough says many women fall into profiles of either developing a feisty spirit of survivorship, wanting to help others or focusing on the fitness and competition.

"It is moving and empowering to see women dressed in pink and walking with other survivors in community events, and it is these times where their inner strength is really visible," McDonough says.

McDonough has spent more than 10 years interviewing and observing breast cancer survivors who participate in dragon boat racing. Most women are unfamiliar with the sport, but they team up in community races to paddle these 43-foot vessels propelled by 20 people. McDonough is an affiliate member of the Oncological Sciences Center in Purdue's Discovery Park and the International Breast Cancer and Nutrition Project at Purdue.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: Meghan McDonough, 765-496-9483, mcdonough@purdue.edu