Local rowers, runners take on cancer

Though October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a rare individual that has not been touched by some strain of cancer.

Thus, congratulations to several Central Coast heroes battling, surviving, supporting those stricken by and working to eradicate cancer.

Los Osos Fitness and Morro Bay’s Sub-Sea Tours teamed with Central Coast SurviveOars to create Morro Dragons.

With 40-plus breast cancer survivors ages 30 to 90, members row around Morro Bay Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 8:30 a.m. in a dragon boat donated by oncologist Tom Spillane.

Dragon boating celebrates life in Chinese tradition. The 40-foot canoes hold 20 rowers, a caller and steer person. The canoers know that rowing strengthens the body parts weakened by the disease.

At 10 a.m. on Oct. 25 at Tidelands Park in Morro Bay, they will dedicate their first dragon boat by ceremoniously adding the head and tail. They hope to have another dragon boat soon and a future “dragon festival” in Morro Bay.

Survivor Patricia Nolan said, “We want to show women what they can do even under the most grueling circumstances.”

Open to anyone, the group has discovered another voice to confirm their vitality — competition.

On Aug. 1, the Morro Dragons won the Long Beach Dragon Festival Cancer-Survivor Division.

Morro Bay’s Leslyn Keith is group team leader, and each member is testimony to the fact that the exercise and camaraderie are life enhancing and mutually supportive.

When you see a group walking or running up Morro Bay’s Radcliffe Street, honk your approval.

They are likely members of the Central Coast Team In Training preparing for the Nike Marathon in San Francisco on Oct. 18.

Senior leader Barbara Saia got involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society after her neighbor was diagnosed. She wanted to do more than babysit her neighbor’s children.

“Sixty participants are doing the Nike. They’ve raised $200,000. Six are legacy participants, so this will be our sixth year,” Saia said. Her mother, real estate agent Janet Whitlock, is back for her sixth run.

Judy Golla, one of three participating, joined daughter Sondra last year after her doctor said the training would be strengthening. She’s still in remission.

Finally, retired Navy chaplain and prostate cancer survivor Bill Huston of Cayucos is on a peer review panel in Washington, D.C., that evaluated 800 potential prostate cancer research grants to suggest funding.

Huston was encouraged that the 2009 proposals might be the most promising of his four-year participation. Gene research appears to more effectively diagnose cancer tendencies and suggest the most aggressive treatment options.

Huston and wife Mary, herself a breast cancer survivor, mentor area support groups.

Reach Judy Salamacha at jsalamacha@yahoo.com or 801-1422.