Barbara Meyer shows off her gold medal.
Barbara Meyer shows off her gold medal.

When people think about breast cancer awareness events, walks and rides come to mind. Dragon boat races not so much. However, thousands of breast cancer survivors participate in local and international competitive dragon boat racing events every year.

Barbara Meyer, manager with Royal LePage Triland Realty in London, Ont., is a breast cancer survivor and has been a member of London’s Rowbust Dragon Boat team since 2015. The team won three gold medals (200 and 500 metres and 2,000 km) in Hungary this year in the breast cancer survivors division. On the same trip, they also participated in an international event in Florence in the breast cancer survivors division. The event drew 4,000 participants of all ages and from all walks of life.

It’s a club no one wants to belong to, but those who do feel privileged to do so, says Meyer, a glass half-full kind of person. She was blind-sided one day in January 2015 when she went in for a mammogram, expecting to be on her way to the gym a few hours later. However, she was sent for numerous tests, was diagnosed with breast cancer and learned that she would undergo a double mastectomy a few weeks later.

Not too long after, an acquaintance told her about Rowbust. It would be the first of three people who told her she’d be perfect for the team. She had crossed paths with all of them in the past, and all were connected to Rowbust. She said she thought the angels were trying to tell her something.

Meyer says she believes everything happens for a reason that’s positive even though it may not seem to be at first, and that every person she meets, she meets for a reason.

Rowbust was started in 1995 in Vancouver by Dr. Don McKenzie, a sports medicine physician and exercise physiologist researching rehabilitation after breast cancer treatment. He determined that regular exercise benefits everyone, including breast cancer survivors.

A few years later, Dr. Annette Richard encouraged survivors to attend an information session, and Rowbust Dragon Boat Racing Team was born, the Rowbust website says.

Coincidentally, or not, Meyer had been a student of McKenzie when she attended the University of British Columbia decades earlier. Richard had once been her physician. They were two more signs that she should join the team.

Meyer says if something feels right, go for it. “Believe in signs. Listen to your inner goddess.”

When Meyer, 49, joined she was one of the youngest of the London club’s 70 members, she says.

Meyer’s husband, broker/manager Peter Meyer of Royal LePage Triland Realty, put together teams to raise awareness in the community.

Meyer has been with Royal LePage for more than 10 years. She jokes that she’s been the guinea pig for the training programs developed by her husband, who is in charge of training and development. “The training programs work. It works if you do all the steps,” says Meyer, who sold houses for more than two years before Peter bought out the partners. “I didn’t want to be a selling manager or owner who competes with the agents in the office,” she says. She is still licensed but provides referrals to the other agents in the office.

Triland has 230 salespeople with offices in London, St. Thomas, Woodstock and Ingersoll. “It’s amazing how people come together, she says. People in her office have also been supportive.

Rowbust is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2019 with a two-day dragon boat race/festival on June 8 and 9.

“We invite teams from all over the world to come and participate. We are still looking for a title sponsor and encourage anyone interested to reach out. We are a registered charity,” she says. Meyer encourages any Realtors across the country who have been affected by breast cancer or know someone who has to see if there is a dragon boat team in their area. “It’s empowering,” she says. “I’m so proud to be part of Rowbust and the amazing group of women/athletes it represents. I’m honoured to be coached by world-class coaches former Olympian Cheryl McLachan and Sarah Shellard.”


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