For Sarah Demmon, the toughest time during her bout with breast cancer was the interim period between the initial diagnosis and getting the test results back which would tell her how far the cancer had spread.
“It’s very emotional,” says Demmon, a 1988 graduate of Crown Point High School who works as senior research scientist at a pharmaceutical company in Indianapolis. “You don’t know what to do and what to expect.”
As a breast cancer survivor, Demmon decided she wanted to help other women who were diagnosed with the disease. “My whole intent is to help in a very frank and honest way,” says Demmon, who has written Thanks for the Mammaries: A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Story (Strategic Publishing 2010; $11). “I have a dry sense of humor and can be sarcastic.”
Indeed, Demmon, whose mother Cheryl Demmon lives in Crown Point, uses dark humor to describe dark moments. “I endured four months of aggressive chemo and a double mastectomy with DIEP reconstruction,” writes Demmon on the blog indysurviveoars.org. “I got the pleasure of 10 surgeries between ports and the reconstruction process.”
As Demmon was finishing up this arduous treatment, she took to heart friends who said that she should write a book about her experiences. “That was because I couldn’t find anything to read that gave me the type of information I was looking for and I thought other breast cancer patients would be looking for as well,” says Demmon, who was 38 when she received her diagnosis. “When I went to read something it was either highly technical or highly emotional.”
Demmon has always been one to face her fears. Afraid of the water, she joined Indy Survivoars, a group of breast cancer survivors that race dragon boats, a group whose mission is to provide breast cancer survivors with a strong message of hope. “When you get out of surgery you have all this scar tissue and it used to be taboo to work out because of it,” she says. “Often they will take the lymph nodes out and then you get swelling in the arm, which is called lymphedema, and the thought was it was better not to exercise as it would make it worse.”
But survivors like Demmon discovered it was better to work out and increase upper body strength. So about three years ago, breast cancer survivors in Indianapolis started racing 43–foot Chinese dragon boats, elaborate boats with dragoon heads and tales. It is the first pink dragon boat that long time manufacturer Swift Dragon Boats of China has ever made.
Though they wear pink life jackets while practicing and competing, Demmon had to learn how to swim and to overcome her fear. And though racing dragon boats might sound a little unusual, according to Demmon, it is considered the fastest growing team water sport in the world. Indy Survivoars is about the 50th dragon boat racing team to form in the U.S. She recently returned from a dragon boat competition in Orlando and hopes her book will help others with breast cancer.
“My goal is to share the information that I learned,” she says. “So that people know what to expect.”