“Never give up; never give in” This is the motto of the ‘Knot A Breast’ Dragon Boat Team founded by Kathy Levy in 1998. The team was comprised of breast cancer survivors from the Burlington/Hamilton area. They came from varied backgrounds but all of them had waged the battle against breast cancer and through this initiative they continued to fight the illness, give support to others while showing family and friends that they can experience a fulfilling life after breast cancer.
Kathy Levy is described by all who know her as “an amazing, passionate and dedicated person” who has made a tremendous difference in the lives and health of many women in our community. She is a sportswoman in the broadest sense of the word: she is an athlete, team builder, manager, motivator, and visionary. Very few athletes put aside a life-and-death struggle to participate in their sport and infuse others with the same passion and determination.
Each of the team members has, at some time in their life, received the disheartening message that they have cancer. Kathy has heard those words more than twice and she chose never to give up or to give in. She has faced other devastating health challenges including a diagnosis of lupus at eleven years of age. In her twenties the lupus flared again and her spleen was removed but, soon she was back to work as a nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, an example to all of her indomitable strength and courage.
In 1998 she borrowed a boat from the local Chinese Community, found a coach and learned to paddle. Soon, Knot A Breast was on the water. She became a very good paddler but as the team grew and the competitions became more challenging she learned how to steer. In spite of her size, (less than 100 pounds), she became a master at steering the 1500 pound boat. The team progressed from women with breast cancer to real athletes who formed a competitive Dragon Boat racing team. Successes culminated In June 2010 when Knot A Breast won the International Breast Cancer Dragon Boat Challenge (held every four years) defeating 73 teams from around the world.
Because of her prowess at the helm she was asked to join the Canadian National Dragon Boat Team in Germany for the World Championships. She steered the women’s Grand masters boat and the Grand Masters Mixed boat to Gold Medals. None of the teams knew she was living with cancer. Kathy has taken her expertise internationally providing coaching and assistance to several American teams who are beginning Dragon Boat Teams. She always makes it known that she comes from Burlington Ontario and is no doubt one of our city’s finest ambassadors.
Kathy Levy is that rare, indeed exceptional individual who took a negative event in life and turned into something wonderfully positive. The team continues to thrive. It was the first in the world to have a male member join. They work in the community providing guidance and support to others facing the challenges of cancer. Kathy has been recognized for her tremendous community service having been awarded the Queen’s ‘Golden Jubilee Award’. Kathy Levy and her inspiring efforts have left a legacy to which all of us can aspire: to meet life’s challenges with grace, dignity and hope, and to “never give in”.