As the 25th Annual Dragon Boat Festival kicks off Saturday, Team Papetista hits the Wascana Lake waters to celebrate their survival of breast cancer, and to remember those they have lost.

About 20 years ago Canada's first dragon boat team for breast cancer survivors took to the water in British Columbia. Today that movement is strong in Saskatchewan and all across Canada.

Jean Baker Lynch was diagnosed in December 2004, and has been 11 years cancer free. She was inspired to join the dragon boat team in British Columbia because she underwent her cancer treatments there.

When she moved back to Regina two years ago, she joined Team Papetista.

"It's great to finally be part of something that I've been wanting to be for a number of years," said Baker Lynch.

"I don't think anybody that goes through cancer and comes out on the other side is left unchanged," she added. "When I look at some of these ladies … I think we've all made it, we're here. It just adds to the miracle that some of us really do survive."

Team Papetista

The dragon boat team on Wascana Lake. (Submitted to CBC)

What they're made of

On Team Papetista, half of the boat is survivors of breast cancer and the other half are those that have had their lives touched by cancer through loved ones.

Sarah Hall is the manager of the dragon boat team, and she joined the team because her mother is a survivor. Her mother is also a paddler on the team.

Hall became manager of the team when her predecessor retired.

"It was either manage it myself or don't put the boat in the water, and they're just such a great group of ladies, I just couldn't say no," she said.

For Team Papetista, it's about fitness, health, fun and support. But it can get competitive for these paddlers as well.

"I'm all in for the winning," said Baker Lynch.

There are two teams of cancer survivors competing this year, with one from Medicine Hat. There is a trophy for the winning team.

"We want our name on that trophy again," said Hall.

Rose ceremony

After the second race of the day, there will be a rose ceremony in remembrance of those that have lost their battle with cancer.

The festival provides roses that are thrown into the water, and there will be a moment of silence.

"We use it as a time to remind everyone that there are people that we've lost that aren't with us today, and some of those people were in the boat with us a few years ago," said Hall. "There are a lot of women still fighting and we'd like to just lend our support."

The team paddles at 11 a.m. and 1:48 p.m. on Saturday. The final race time is to be determined.

With files from Saskatchewan Weekend