Our guest blogger is Robyn McMurray Hurtig, a breast cancer survivor and member of ROW.
This year I am in my fourth year of being a cancer survivor; eight more months to go before I reach that magical 5th year mark. It has been quite a four years, but the highlight has definitely been when I discovered Recovery on Water (ROW). It happened while I was recuperating from surgery, and I ran into my friend, Gwen, at the neighborhood gas station. She asked how I was doing and told me about this rowing team that she knew about. It was a rowing team created for breast cancer survivors. This sounded great to me, and I thought how perfect, I could row on the Skokie Channel close to home. Not so fast. After emailing the coach, Jenn Gibbons, I discovered I wouldn’t be so close to home, I would be in Bridgeport.
While I would give anything to have ROW closer to home, I’ve come to love the drive because I get to share it with two or three of my teammates, who have become some of my closest friends. I would be hard-pressed to drive more than an hour for exercise, but ROW is so much more than a great workout. ROW is a community. A community of wonderful, compassionate, funny, strong, beautiful women of all sizes, ages and athletic abilities; a community of women of which I’m so honored to be a part. ROW is a community of women who row despite having chemo treatment that day; a community of women who arrive on crutches to the Sprints to participate in a 2k race; a community of women who make me feel stronger and more capable than I ever have in my life.
ROW has changed me and that’s what I love most about it. Before cancer, I played tennis, went on power walks, occasionally did yoga, and considered myself in great shape. With ROW, I feel like an athlete. I have pushed myself to achieve more than I thought possible. I love being in a boat with seven other women, knowing we are trying to kick some serious ass, cancer’s ass. I know every single woman in my boat understands my journey, and I understand theirs. We don’t always have to talk about breast cancer, but when we do, we have a team of supporting women, full of love, good advice, lots of resources, and always a hug.
Since our rowing site is so far and I have kids who need to be carpooled to their own activities, I limit my participation to once a week, but it’s my time and I don’t give it up easily (in this scenario, I come first). Even in the winter when we aren’t on the river, but in a room full of ergs, I come away feeling strong and proud, as if I could do anything. ROW has empowered me. With ROW I’ve competed in races and did better than I ever believed possible. Every time I get out of the boat or off the erg, I feel empowered, and I feel supported and loved.
Before being diagnosed with cancer I never thought of getting in a boat or being a part of a team. Now, I can’t imagine life without it. Rowing, for me, has been cancer’s silver lining. This year I am in Prague, and I have been rowing on the Vltava River, which was a dream of mine when I learned we’d be moving here. ROW gave me the opportunity to learn how to scull last summer and because of that, I’ve been able to scull here in Prague. ROW gave me the courage to pursue my dream of rowing outside the comfort of ROW.
ROW is certainly not convenient for those of us on the north shore, but there are a lot of carpools coming from north and south Evanston and further north, that I encourage you to give it a try. It’s worth the trip, I promise. I hope to be a part of this team for many years to come, racing with my teammates and fighting the good fight. If you would like more information about ROW, please check out the Recovery on Water website www.recoveryonwater.org.