'Through my actions I've proved my strength'

Agnes Lam

Even before she developed breast cancer, Anita Wong Sau-lin never thought she could hold a paddle.

So, after undergoing treatment for the illness, taking part in a dragon boat race seemed to be out of the question. But, encouraged by her coach Katherine Lynch, the 52-year-old mother is now one of the most enthusiastic members of a team.

'It is a breakthrough in my life,' Ms Wong said. 'I never dreamt of going paddling with a group of women in a race, as I rarely exercised. But dragon boating has changed me.

'I was very unhappy when I found out that I had breast cancer ... but I am sporty and cheerful after taking up dragon boating.'

Ms Wong's daughter teased her when she told her family that she had decided to join a dragon boat team for breast cancer survivors.

'My daughter said that I was not young any more and that I could not even swim. She doubted if I could really do it. But through my actions I have proved my strength,' said the proud boater.

'Once I get on the boat, I feel like I am a healthy athlete and I am no longer a patient. I love it so much, to an extent that I could never have imagined. I used to hate getting into water,' she said.

Ms Wong's teammate Mingi Yeung Wai-ming, 42, shares her passion and said dragon boating made her forget about the pain of battling breast cancer.

'I consider myself as an athlete who is capable of racing against those without cancer. I forget about my illness,' she said.

Ms Yeung, who has always been active at sport, was forced to stay indoors after being diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2004.

'Dragon boating has always been my favourite sport, and I felt very sad when I had to stop doing it. But I am happy that I can be back in the boat again thanks to coach Katherine Lynch.'