A mom’s journey from battling the ‘Big C’ to a ‘champion’ dragon boat paddler

By: Immae Lachica March 30,2019 - 06:27 PM

Elenor Mercado holds the Philippine flag at the dragon boat competition in Keelung City in Taiwan. | Contributed photo

CEBU CITY, Philippines — Elenor Mercado, 46,  is a mother of two, a breast cancer survivor and a dragon boat paddler.

Mercado, who is a member of the Cebu Pink Paddlers that won gold medals in Dragon Boat competitions in Taiwan and Singapore, says that she wants to inspire others, who has been diagnosed with cancer, to go out and live life to the fullest.

Read more: Cebu Pink Paddlers ready for tougher competition

This is what Mercado learned about her journey from being a mother with cancer to an athlete, a winning dragon boat paddler joining Dragon Boat competitions abroad.

Diagnosed with cancer

Her journey started in December 2015 when she felt a lump on her left breast which she just ignored thinking that it would just subside after her menstrual cycle. 

In January 2016, she started feeling pain in the area where the lump was.

“It was alarming, so I decided to see a doctor. I went through a series of examinations until I was told that it was positive” Mercado told CDN Digital. 

Mercado was diagnosed with Invasive Lobular Carcinoma Her-2+ or breast cancer stage IIB. 

Upon hearing the news, her world was filled with sadness, worry and fear. 

“I thought that I may not live longer, and may not be there for my family for some time. Back then, everything was limited” she said. 

Elenor Mercado shares her journey from a cancer patient to a dragon boat paddler. | contributed photo

But her faith was stronger than all her fears, on March 30, 2016, she went through with her operation to remove the lump on her left breast. 

Recalling the days, weeks and months of her not knowing what lies ahead after being diagnosed with cancer, Mercado says she still maintained that positive outlook in life. 

“Yet, I take it as a blessing not a punishment. I went through 6 sessions of chemotherapy (that) started May 5, 2016, then another 18 sessions of a targeted chemo for a Her2+ like me. With 30 days of radiation, it was tough, but I made it through my last chemo just this January 2018. I surrendered everything to God and believed everything happens for a reason” said Mercado. 

Mercado’s faith was her driving force in battling breast cancer, having been dancing for the fluvial procession for six years for Señor Sto. Niño, she said that it was only through him that she had the strength to keep moving forward. 

Life as a paddler

It was on May 2017 when she joined the Cebu Pink Paddlers. 


Joining a dragon boat team was the least Mercado would want to do because she had no background in living an active lifestyle, and furthermore, she was still on chemotherapy.  

But her oncologist encouraged and invited her to join the dragon boat team,  this made her take a closer look at her situation with the “Big C” having nearly taken her life away, so she decided to choose living actively as the best way for a fresh start in life.

“Before man gud nag join ko ani dragon boat na man gud koy pain and numbness sa akong arm — sa operated na side — but after I joined wala na gyud na ang mga pain ako gi feel sa akong arm,” she said. 

(Before I joined the dragon boat team, I had felt pain and numbness in my arm — the side where I had my operation — but after I joined, the pain in my arm had gone away.)

She attended all the needed training to be able to not just compete but to actually feel like she was living life anew. 

“I love my daily routine since paddling. From Monday workouts to pool trainings, then sea trainings. It makes me blissful and alive as an athlete. It is inconceivable that having a cancer is having a disability” she said. 

Read more: Cebu dragon boat teams make waves in Taiwan

Her first competition was back in 2017 in Taiwan where they took home the gold medal and followed by last 2018 in Singapore where they also took home the gold medal. 

Now, the Cebu Pink Paddlers are preparing for their next big tournament in Hong Kong this June. 

“We would like to spread man gud na we give inspiration for those nga nadiagnosed  nga naa pay life after diagnosis nga dili pwede nga kami nga na diagnose mag stay nlang in one corner.Why not go out and live your life to the fullest?” said Mercado. 

(We would like to inspire those diagnosed with cancer that there is life after being diagnosed, that one should not stay in the corner. Why not go out and live your life to the fullest?)  /dbs

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TAGS: cancer, Mercado, paddlers, pink
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