Ten breast cancer survivors met at Killen’s Pond State Park on Wednesday, August 20, in order to “Nurture with Nature” on a sunset kayak ride on the pond. The event, part of the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition’s Aquatic Activities Program, is the latest in a monthly series designed to allow survivors to discover nature while sharing their experiences with other survivors.
“We have been doing these each month for the last five or six years,” said Lois Wilkinson, coordinator of the event. “We have taken boat rides, gone on a dolphin watch and done a lantern tour at Cape Henlopen State Park. We even participated in an official horseshoe crab count at Slaughter Beach.”
Ms. Wilkinson said that she and a friend, Delores Donnelly, who is also a breast cancer survivor, began doing nature walks many years ago. Ms. Donnelly was a volunteer at Abbott’s Mill, so they often chose nature-focused areas to take their walks. Eventually, the women began inviting other survivors to come with them and the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition felt it would be a good program to establish.
The group was led by Kara Okonewski, a guide at Killen’s Pond. The women were given the option of single and tandem kayaks or paddle boats. The majority of the women decided to kayak, while a few chose paddle boats.
“We will go out around the pond, into the small creeks and tributaries,” Ms. Okonewski explained. “I’ll talk to all of you about wildlife and give you the history of the pond.” Most of the women had been in kayaks before at other events similar to the one held at Killen’s Pond, but a few had no experience. Ms. Okonewski gave them brief instruction on how to paddle, assisting the women as the entered and exited the watercraft.
One of the women who took the sunset kayak trip had just completed her treatment for breast cancer in June, while the other women had been cancer free between three and fifteen years. As they waited for the tour guides to organize the boats, a few of the women spoke to each other about handling their treatments and provided the young woman who had recently finished treatment with insight into their life during and after treatment.
After the kayak tour, the group often stops for an optional meal on the way home in order to recap the event and continue their discussions. This provides even more interaction between the survivors to gain information from others who have been through similar experiences.
For more information on the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition and events like the “Nuture with Nature” Program, individuals can visit them online at www.debreastcancer.org.