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Warriors of the Water

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WSVN -- Chanting: "Everywhere we go people want to know who we are, who we are."

Every single woman in this boat shares one thing in common.

Chanting: "We are survivors. Mighty, mighty survivors."

All of them have faced the fight against breast cancer.

Kim Bonomo: "Women are left with a ravaged body. We've been cut, chemo'd, poisoned."

And are winning.

Four years ago, a small group of breast cancer survivors started a dragon boat team called "Save our Sisters."

Most of the women didn't know anything about the ancient water sport.

Judi Koslen: "My big thing was I had a tremendous fear of the water, so just getting into the boat was tremendous for me."

Not to mention how physically hard it is to paddle this heavy, narrow boat. Especially for someone whose upper body has been ravaged by cancer.

Kim Bonomo: "At first I said 'This is like too hard, I can't do this.' But after the first practice session was over, I would have such a feeling of accomplishment."

Now the team has grown to more than 40 members.

Fleur Lobree: "We were caught by the dragon."

And these women have become fierce competitors.

Coach Harry Schelmety: "I work them hard. I used to treat them light, not anymore. I've found out that they're not that different from anyone else."

They practice twice a week on Biscyane Bay and race against regular teams, who are half their age and in much better shape.

Bonnie Cooper: "The adrenaline kicks in, and you just want to pull that water, and beat whoever you're against."

Coach Harry: "This is the biggest thing that has happened to me working with survivors. To see someone who's been near death and then compete against younger, stronger women is awe-inspiring."

Some of the women on the team have been in remission for years.

Judi Koslen: "I'm a 27 year breast cancer survivor."

While others are still enduring harsh treatments and reconstructive surgeries.

Bonnie Cooper: "When you've undergone cancer treatment you've lost control of your body. Being in the dragon boat you've got that control back."

Racing doesn't give them a lot of time to talk, but the boat has become some what of a floating support group.

Judi Koslen: "You share your problems, you comfort each other."

Fleur Lobree: "We all know the hurdles we face in the past and will face in the future."

But the main thing keeping them on the water is the will to keep on surviving.

Kim Bonomo: "Reoccurence is our biggest fear so to be able to do something that gives us the power, that gives the confidence that we're doing all we can to keep the disease at bay, it's very empowering."

Whether or not they win another race, doesn't matter to these warriors of the water they'll keep fighting their own dragon, breast cancer nnowing they're all in the same boat together.

Kim Bonomo: "If I had the opportunity to go back in time and somehow I could take a road that would spare me the disease, I don't think I would take it, and that's a very difficult statement. I like what it has done for me, and I love what I'm doing for these other women."

Lynn Martinez: "Save our sisters just finished a dragon boat race in Canada this weekend. They finished 18th out of 75 teams.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.teamsosmiami.com

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