Crew of breast cancer survivors row their way through recovery

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CHICAGO — Breast cancer survivors are finding strength in an unlikely place: a boat on the Chicago River.

“When you push off in a boat and you’re out on the river there’s no room to think about anything but rowing,” explains Recovery on Water’s Executive Director, Jenn Junk.

The members of Recovery on Water (ROW) once fought breast cancer. Now they use every beat-up muscle to propel themselves forward. For many of the survivors, regular support groups felt like they were just skimming the surface. That’s where ROW felt they could fill a void, allowing a space for women to heal and grow stronger through rowing.

“It really made me feel empowered. You’re learning this new sport, learning to balance in the water, fight the currents and the wind,” new crew member Allison Romer said. “It’s kind of a rush.”

Since Recovery on Water began ten years ago, hundreds of Chicago women have found strength and solace paddling the river. They come with no experience on the water, but a determination and will to push forward.

“To be with other women who share a common experience but are not allowing themselves to be defined by it. That’s the beauty of ROW,” Junk said.

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