July 24th, 2024

Rose ceremony honours battle against cancer


By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on June 28, 2022.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Members of the Sistership Dragon Boat team, alongside other survivor teams, take part in the rose petal ceremony Saturday during the ATB Financial Lethbridge Rotary Dragon Boat Festival at Henderson Lake Park.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

After having scaled back Rose Petal ceremonies for the last couple of years, the Abreast Of ‘Bridge Dragon Boat team held their ceremony surrounded by many on Saturday.
The ceremony during the Dragon Boat Festival honours survivors and those who have lost their battle with cancer.
“It’s great to be back on full swing in the festival like we had been for almost 20 years prior to COVID, where everyone can come and enjoy the ceremony, remember those who they may have lost, and celebrate those who are survivors and still paddling every year,” said Jennifer Yanish, president of Abreast of ‘Bridge Dragon Boat Club.
This year the team was joined by survivor teams from Calgary, Edmonton and Medicine Hat during the Rose Petal Ceremony on the shore of Henderson Lake.
“In previous years we’ve had survivor teams as well from Montana and British Columbia but being the first year back it may take a little longer to get back,” said Yanish.
She said it was reassuring to have the support from all the other teams and the crowd during the ceremony.
On Saturday, the Abreast Of ‘Bridge team members along with the teams from Calgary, Edmonton and Medicine Hat walked over the bridge leading to the peninsula, where attendees created a walkway to cheer on and high-five the teams after each member received a rose, prior to approaching the bridge.
Atop the bridge, paddles were hoisted creating a tunnel for team members to walk through on their way to the peninsula, where they lined up with their roses to listen to a speech, while a crowd watched from shore.
While Bette Midler’s “The Rose” played, some team members waved their roses before approaching the water to toss in the rose petals in memory of those lost to cancer, while others could not contain their tears already tossing their petals.
A member of the Abreast Of ‘Bridge Dragon Boat team, Rosemary Gattiker said she is usually OK while walking to the peninsula but once the music starts to play things quickly change.
“I usually walk out there and I’m fine, and as soon as the music starts which is Céline Dion singing “I’m Alive” it’s very moving and when Eva sings the Rose it’s even more so,” said Gattiker.
She said the rose ceremony is really emotional because it fills her with gratitude of being alive and relatively healthy after her battle with breast cancer.
The team used to be made up by breast cancer survivors like her, but a few years ago they opened their membership up to women survivors of any cancer.
“To be inclusive and recognizing that doesn’t matter what kind of cancer you had, there is still the recovery period and the need to be physically active, the social aspect, the team comradery and the support behind you,” said Yanish.
She said she joined the team around a year after her diagnosis and could not put into words, how important that support is from others that have gone through a similar experience.
Gattiker, who has experienced the support for many years, said that she is very grateful for it and the festival remind her every year about how lucky she is to have it.
“They invited me back into the boat, even though I’m no longer paddling as I have shoulder issues, and so that was very special,” said Gattiker.
The boat she mentioned is called Christine after Christine Van Raay who was a team member until she lost her battle with breast cancer in 2005, but made sure to continue supporting her teammates by leaving money in her will to purchase the boat.
Christine’s act was highlighted during the rose petal ceremony speech and Gattiker said they continue to remember her every year while using the boat.

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