Karin Horen of New Zealand was devastated to discover a cancerous lump in her right breast. Only 26 years old, Karin had to undergo a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, before returning to live as normal of a life as possible. Vigilant about her health, she began encouraging everyone who would listen to her to tune in to their own bodies, to pay attention and to enjoy every moment. Fourteen years after successfully beating the cancer, the mother of three young daughters again found suspicious lumps. These also turned out to be cancer. A skin-sparing mastectomy removed all of Karin’s remaining breast tissue. Then came aggressive chemotherapy, more surgery, radiotherapy and breast reconstruction.
Manu Horen, Karin’s partner and the father of her daughters introduced Karin to stand up paddling almost two years ago. Karin found the relaxing, floating, calming qualities of this new sport to be exactly what she needed. She admits that at times she will “race like a warrior” and at other times, she allows herself to just drift, enjoying the incredible sense of well being that stand up paddling delivers.
Every year in New Zealand, 1 out of every 9 women gets the terrible news that they have breast cancer. Early detection, bold new treatments, and sheer will make survivors out of most of those women. Karin began paddling just months after her own most recent surgeries. “I just take it gently, on clear days in the marina. For me the emotional and holistic benefits of getting out on the water with my friends are just as important as the physical benefits. Just a few months after the surgery to remove my breast, lymph nodes and tissue from under my arm; my flexibility and strength are returning faster than I could ever have imagined. Stand up paddling helps me feel healthy and normal again.”
Karin is determined to get other survivors that are recovering from breast cancer on the water to experience the emotional and physical healing that stand up paddling promotes. Fellow paddlers Kristin Percy and Victoria Stuart are working with Karin to develop a clinically-endorsed stand up paddle rehabilitation center for people recovering from breast cancer. NZ Stand Up Paddling Incorporated, the Paddle For Hope team and NZBCF are funding a clinical study of the physical and psychological benefits of stand up paddle boarding in breast cancer rehabilitation.
“It is so important for women to be active after breast cancer surgery. So many women don’t do sports, putting themselves at risk of a slower recovery, painful or unpleasant complications like lymphoedema, and even permanent loss of flexibility and strength. But here is a sport that is easily accessible by women of all ages, and one that uses the whole body: core, back, arms and legs. The impact on your joints is low but the impact on your well-being is very high. You don’t have to race or surf on a stand up paddle board. It really is just like walking, on water. We already know how amazing stand up paddling is on every level–that’s why we paddle. There are so many benefits—from the incredible healing power of the ocean and the meditative effect of paddling on it, to the camaraderie of going together with your friends, or even just the feeling of getting out in the fresh air and doing something physical with your whole body. This is different than any kind of rehab program you can do with a physio or in a gym. We are really excited to be funding a study that, as far as we know, will offer the first clinical assessment of the benefits.”
Karin’s amazing Paddle For Hope continues to raise breast cancer awareness. “No surgery will remove what I have in me and what I have to give, no chemo will erase and no radiotherapy will burn. I am meant to be here and with my passion, experience and love, to help others. My message is as always: Know your body, love and trust yourself. This is the only way. I have been training consistently for the past 12 years and it gives me strength and positive energy. It clears my mind and makes me more aware of my body. I totally recommend good nutrition and a weekly exercise routine. I am 40 today and ALIVE!
HOPE. COURAGE. LOVE. FAMILY. WISDOM. This is what I carry with me in my heart.”
The link between stand up paddling and success for breast cancer survivors is undeniable. In November 2013, Paddle For Hope held stand up paddle races in both New Zealand and Israel (Karin’s birth country). With title sponsor Starboard, and presenting sponsor Hawaiian Airlines, hundreds of participating paddlers turned out in costume in both locations; creating floating, moving seas of pink. Paddle For Hope has raised close to $100,000.
If you would like to participate in future events or can donate right now to this incredible cause, please visit: http://www.paddleforhope.co.nz/
Event galleries and video here:
Air Video <http://vimeo.com/79042897>
[author image=” http://standupjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Marina-Andriola.jpg”>Marina Andriola is Standup Journal’s Online Staff Writer. She is a lifelong Californian. She blogs about surf culture, food, design and people. Her Facebook page: Women of SUP inspires paddlers of all sizes and abilities; pro surfers to grandmothers. “Waterwomen are all that. Our common bond is we’re happiest wet!” [/author]