Karen Holscher (center) paddling for Pink Phoenix, an inspiring team of dragon boat racers made entirely of breast cancer survivors.

Karen Holscher (center) paddling for Pink Phoenix, an inspiring team of dragon boat racers made entirely of breast cancer survivors.

Global Aviation’s Karen Holscher is a breast cancer survivor. She is also an inspiring representative for Pink Phoenix, a team of survivors who race dragon boats to inspire wellness, fitness, fun and camaraderie in life after breast cancer.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and this has extra meaning for Holscher and Pink Phoenix. Holscher and her specially selected team have been training for five months to race in Sarasota, Florida at the International Breast Cancer Dragon Boat Festival. Held every four years, this is the first time the event has been held in the United States. Over 110 teams from around the world will attend October 24-26, 2014 to compete and share an experience like none other.

Holscher’s team name, Pink Phoenix, is taken from the pink ribbons worn by breast cancer survivors and from the mythical bird that consumes itself in fire and rises from its own ashes. The Phoenix is a symbol of rebirth and renewal of human spirit, not unlike the renewed commitment to life after surviving cancer. Pink Phoenix is the United States’ first dragon boat team consisting solely of breast cancer survivors.

Holscher’s battle with breast cancer began in 2011. She was an active, athletic, healthy woman who just went in for a mammogram. The news from her doctor was shocking and life changing. The grueling treatment took over two years and motivated her to take advantage of her return to good health and live a quality life.

Pink Phoenix dragon boaters train on the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon.

Pink Phoenix dragon boaters train on the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon.

“While bald and sick at the hospital, I saw a flyer for the dragon boat team. I said to myself that when I was better and had some hair I was going to give that a try,” said Holscher. Months later, she received a free pass to try a paddle and she was hooked.

“This team is literally my ‘family,’” said Holscher.  “I lost my Dad to cancer in October of last year, and this team was my rock in dealing with a very tough battle for him. My Dad and I received our chemotherapy treatment at the same time and he was my best friend.  I leaned hard on my Pink Phoenix team.”

Holscher enjoys working hard and paddling three days a week with her team. Her competitive side loves the races. This year she has competed at the Portland Dragon Boat Festival as well as a race in Tempe, Arizona.

Pink Phoenix strives to provide hope to those newly diagnosed and to serve as a reminder to women to have mammograms regularly and to do self-exams. Early detection is the best fight against breast cancer. “I feel so lucky to be here today and encourage all women to get their mammograms!  It truly saved my life,” said Holscher.

To see the Pink Phoenix Dragon Boat team in action watch this local TV story from the Portland Dragon Boat Festival here and for more information visit the Pink Phoenix website.

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