Topic: Health

Paddle for Hope to support Māori breast cancer survivors

By Jessica Tyson
  • Wellington
Teams take to the water at last year's event. Souce: Paddle for Hope, Facebook.

Stand-up paddlers are getting ready to dress up in pink and take to the water to raise funds for a cancer rehabilitation programme to support cancer victims, including Māori women with breast cancer.

This Easter, teams will race at the Paddle for Hope event in Eastbourne, Lower Hutt.

Founder and breast cancer survivor Karin Horen says the event aims to spread awareness to the Māori community because Māori women have the highest death rate for breast cancer in New Zealand.

Recent Ministry of Health reports show that Māori women are 21 percent more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer and 72 per cent more likely to die from breast cancer than non-Māori.

“That means that we have a lot of Māori women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer that we can take and rehabilitate on the water, which is the most natural place for them because this is what they know. They know water, they know nature, they need the vitamin D and the equipment we use is so related to the culture as well,” says Horen.

Since 2011 the event has raised $350,000 for cancer rehabilitation. Funding this year will go towards paying for New Zealanders affected by cancer, no matter their age, sex or ethnicity, to participate in Pinc and Steel Cancer Rehabilitation Trust's PaddleOn Program.

“We are providing a program together with physiotherapists to help women get a better quality of life so they can go back to their whānau, they can be better versions of themselves despite getting breast cancer and they feel that they can share the story together,” says Horen.

“The government does not support rehabilitation after cancer.  A bit of physio and then we are left we scars for life, trying to fix side effects and complications,” she said in a post on Facebook.

The event includes a four-person team relay race in recognition of the fact that family and peer support is integral to fighting and beating cancer and that physical exercise is an essential part of rehabilitation. 

Each team member will complete a 500m lap course close to shore before handing over the board and paddle to their next team member.

The event is being held alongside the New Zealand’s premier extreme water sports event, Waterbourne on March 31.