What you have to give is NEEDED and ENOUGH!

For those of you unfamiliar with how ROW practice “goes down” every week, we are fortunate to partner with Ignatius Chicago Crew (ICC). Not only do they allow us to use equipment, but we also have student volunteers that work with us year round. We honestly cannot run a practice without their volunteer power.

Lymphadema, a pesky side effect of cancer treatment, is one of the many reasons volunteers are so important at ROW practice.

I’ll keep it simple: The lymphatic system helps you fight illness as part of your immune system, and lymph nodes process lymph fluid in the body. During breast cancer treatment, many women have lymph nodes removed or radiation can damage their lymphatic system. This makes it harder for fluid in the chest, breast, and arm to flow out of this area. If the remaining lymph vessels cannot drain enough fluid from these areas, the excess fluid builds up and causes swelling, or lymphedema. Basically, there’s fluid in your body that has nowhere to go. Not only is it really annoying and painful—it’s incurable. Doctors suggest that women at risk for developing lymphedema avoid weight on their shoulders; even a heavy purse on the affected side is discouraged. So imagine what an oncologist would say about the weight of a 200+lb boat on their shoulder (!!!). In one of many ways, this is where our ICC volunteers step in to save the day.

ICC members also hop in the boat to help row when our numbers are off or we have new members join the team. When volunteers become more senior to the program we allow them to lead workouts and drills as junior coaches. I’m constantly impressed with their commitment, consistency and genuine interest in actively attending and participating at ROW practice.

Another very unique detail: ROW members are 30, 40 and 50 years older than our volunteers—but the kids are the experts. They are proud to share their expertise as ambassadors of the sport—and to be honest; it is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen! Also, in a subconscious, round about way—these kids get to learn about cancer in a way that’s very real. It’s not always scary and sad to hear about cancer.  They learn that breast cancer survivors are just as normal, approachable, and human as their moms, sisters, aunts and grandmas.

My most recent beaming-proud-of-our-ICC-volunteers “moment”? Paul Frazel, a graduating ICC rower and committed ROW volunteer, wants to start a ROW satellite program for survivors when he gets to college this fall. Here is Paul coaching the women at the Indoor Rowing Championships in February.

It makes me so proud of this program and the fact that we can inspire not only survivors, but young people to give of themselves.

Everyone has something to give—so don’t be afraid to find your “best” way or ways to do it.  Try something that’s never been done before! What’s the worst that can happen? When I started ROW, I was afraid no one would want to join the team. In fact, no one came to the first handful of meetings I held! I just made myself of service and I shared something I loved. And in return, three years later: Every week I get to share my life with women who are thankful for every day they have on earth. I have made friendships that will last a lifetime. Next summer I get to row around a beautiful lake raising funds and awareness for an organization that I believe changes and improves the lives of every person it puts in a boat.

Feel inspired to do something? I sure hope so. Now go DO it! Don’t let any doubts in your mind tell you that what you have to give isn’t needed or enough. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Thank you for your continued support of ROW and this trip.GO ROW!

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