Monday 10 December 2018

Dragon rower Jean makes TV appearance

Jean Henry with the Plurabelle Paddlers.
Jean Henry with the Plurabelle Paddlers.

Margaret Roddy

When this year's Operation Transformation team leaders were taken to Dublin's Grand Canel Docks recently to try their hand at dragon boat racing with The Plurabelle Paddlers, the task of leading them in the boat fell to Blackrock resident Jean Henry.

Jean has been a member of the club, which is comprised entirely of women who have had breast cancer, for the past seven years.

She told presenter Kathryn Thomas how much rowing with The Plurabelle Paddlers means to her and ended up accompanying the Operation Team leaders when they were told to get into the dragon boat and paddle on their own!

Despite moving to Ard na Mara, Blackrock with her Dundalk-born husband Vincent three years ago, grandmother Jean was determined not to let the 100 mile round trip prevent her from rowing with The Plurabelle Paddlers.

'I love it so much that I wasn't going to allow moving to Blackrock stop me being a member of the group,' she says.

Jean joined The Plurabelle Paddlers in 2011 following her treatment for breast cancer.

The diagnosis had come out of the blue, at a time when she was looking forward to doing things she enjoyed as she had just taken retirement from working in a bank.

'It was a big shock,' she admits.

After undergoing treatment in St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin, she was encouraged by a friend and fellow breast cancer survivor, to join The Plurabelle Paddlers.

'I was terrified of water and struggled to get in and out of the boat the first week I went,' she recalls. 'I hated it and wasn't going to go again, but my good friend brought me down the next week and it went okay.'

From then on, Jean was hooked. 'I'm still afraid of water but I don't think about it when I'm in the boat as it's all about the rowing and exercise.'

Dragon boat racing has become a popular sport for women who have had breast cancer after a Vancouver doctor found that it improves health and well-being in women post treatment.

Jean would definitely agree. 'I love the exercise and there's a great bunch of women in the group,' she says. 'It's not about illness but about paddling and getting exercise and having fun.'

'There's wonderful camaraderie and as we've all had breast cancer, you can pick up tips or you can give someone else advice,' she says. 'I just love it and it's something I never thought I would do.'

There are twenty-two women in the club and Jean travels to Ringsend to row with them.

'We paddle every Saturday and also on Wednesday evenings in the summer.'

'Jean travelled with The Plurabelle Paddlers to France last summer for the European Dragon Boat Federation championships.

'It was great fun and we won two silver and one bronze medal,' she says.

Following the Operation Transformation visit to the club, The Plurabelle Paddlers are running 'try it out' sessions in April. Open to all who have had a breast cancer diagnosis and are least three months post treatment. Email Ann on for more info.

The Argus