One of the 1,000-plus vessels that took part in the Diamond Jubilee Thames flotilla was a dragon boat from Vancouver, crewed by breast cancer survivors. Abreast From the West endured awful conditions—a cold rain drenched everyone for most of the event—while having to maintain a consistent paddling speed and position in the flotilla. One of the Abreast paddlers was Leanne Jacobsen, who recounts what she and her fellow Canadians saw and experienced while travelling through the heart of London:
This experience was incredible on so many levels. Visually it was like being dropped into the painting by Canaletto, which inspired the flotilla; the colours and shapes of a multitude of different people; powered boats set against the backdrop of so many iconic London landmarks, like the parliment buildings, Big Ben and Tower Bridge–all framed by thousands upon thousands of people standing on the banks of the river or crowding onto balconies. The noise of the cheering crowds, the chimes of the bells and the horns of the vessels accompanied the boats the entire length of the flotilla.
Passing the Queen and Prince Phillip, I felt so proud to be representing Canada as we honoured her 60 years of service. Her endurance at 86 years of age, never once sitting down as she in turn honoured all of us who participated in the flotilla, was humbling.
Finally, as we landed our dragon boat after a gruelling 22 km in the cold and driving rain, I felt great pride in my teammates, who did not falter and who showed the world that overcoming a cancer diagnosis can make one stronger. It can fill you with a passion to experience all that life may present.