Every other Monday on the waters of Lake Las Vegas, a group of women is rowing. They are paddling for health and to win the fight against depression, physical weakness and cancer. Not all have been diagnosed with breast cancer, but most have.
Jet Mitchell joined the Pink Paddlers Dragon Boat team less than a decade ago as a supporter of other women, all strangers, who had been diagnosed with cancer.
“I found this active, fierce group of women who were in all different stages (of cancer),” said the College of Southern Nevada business administration department professor.
Within a few years, she would join them as a survivor. Mitchell was diagnosed in 2015 with breast cancer. She is currently battling stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.
“I’m a fighter with a badass support group,” Mitchell said of her team.
Mitchell is known for her vivacious personality and strength, joining panelists and going on talk shows to rally others who have cancer. But strength is not always easy to tap into.
“Of course I have fear; I have stage 4 cancer,” she said. “I could die of this, too. That is very real. But I don’t have to be superwoman. I just have to be alive today.”
When Mitchell was initially diagnosed with cancer, she took charge and made sure she didn’t traverse the unknown alone.
“What surprised me in the most profound way was people have stepped up in ways both big and small, and that is very important,” Mitchell said. “Any life difficulty of loss or pain only brings out those you know matter most.”
When she received the news that the cancer had returned in other areas, the Pink Paddlers shored her up as she gathered all the information she could to fight the disease.
“When the cancer reoccurs in distant places, it goes all throughout our bones; that’s metastatic,” Mitchell said. “Therefore, it is not as simple as cutting out a tumor.”
A metastatic diagnosis can put a cancer patient through a slew of emotions. She urges other patients to reach out. Getting involved with a support group that focuses on moving can help in unexpected ways.
“Sometimes when I feel the many side effects chemo has, I may not be 100 percent, but I believe moving always makes me feel better,” she said. “I feel very good today because I’m moving.”
She hasn’t stopped moving as the cancer has progressed. She has since run a half marathon in all 50 states.
This year she and a handful of women from the Pink Paddlers joined 121 dragon boat teams from 18 countries to compete and celebrate at the International Breast Cancer Paddler’s Commission Dragon Boat Festival in Florence, Italy. The international noncompetitive festival gathers breast cancer survivor dragon boat teams every four years.
“It was an opportunity for more conversations as the world becomes more global,” Mitchell said. “We can connect with a woman in Argentina just as quickly as Summerlin.”