Talking about cancer in the first part of the evening on a national channel, “it’s a challenge and a tour de force”, explains during a press conference Stéphanie Pillonca, director of the television film “Le Souffle du dragon”.

Broadcast on the occasion of Operation “Pink October”, a month to raise awareness of the disease, it is inspired by the story of the first French practitioners of this ancient Chinese sport, recommended as a physical activity after breast cancer.

Like fencing, this discipline, which stimulates the natural drainage of the upper body, is indicated to prevent lymphedema of the arm, ie chronic swelling of this limb, a common complication after breast cancer.

The challenge is to “address heavy subjects by trying to appease and communicate without frightening”, develops the filmmaker who has already dealt with trisomy 21 on the small screen (“Learning to love you”, “I will go au bout de mes rêves”), disability (“Handigang”) and adoption in a documentary (“C’est toi que j’attendais”).

His choice this time was to show how women treated for breast cancer rebuild themselves morally and physically by the dragon boat, which consists of paddling as a team and in unison on a boat, close to the canoe, sometimes adorned with a dragon’s head.

To embody them, the director surrounded herself with actresses such as Julie de Bona, Julie Gayet, Bérengère Krief or Firmine Richard, but also authentic “dragon ladies”, such as Claire Fiaschi, president of “Together, for them”, the first French dragon boat crew created at the end of 2008 in Reims.

– A common breath –

Associating cancer and death, “it’s a devastating shortcut”, estimates Ms. Fiaschi, also an adviser on the television film and protagonist of a documentary devoted to the journey of “dragons ladies”, broadcast in the second part of the evening.

“There are still a lot of deaths but there are more survivors than deaths” especially among those affected by breast cancer, she underlines.

After diagnosis, the five-year net survival rate is 87%, according to the National Cancer Institute, which in 2018 recorded 12,100 deaths linked to this disease and 58,500 new cases.

“There is life after,” says Claire Fiaschi, who has found in the dragon boat “a big family”, where we welcome “without any judgment” and without performance obligation.

The dragon boat “forces us to straighten up”, she adds, “because often when you are operated on, as soon as you have had your breast removed, you withdraw into yourself”.

For Carole David, creating the “Dragons ladies of Paris” team in 2016 via the “Phoenix

This one, then in post-treatment cure, sets herself the goal of participating in the “Vogalonga” – an annual race of about thirty kilometers in Venice dedicated to rowing boats – after having seen this sporting challenge taken up in the documentary. “We will go to Venice” by the Reims ladies dragons.

A few months later, she won her bet, accompanied by a dozen women and under the leadership of a coach who, even today, continues to train them every Saturday morning with, for “icing on the cake”, the annual race in Venice in the spring.

“The idea is not to have a particular strength or physical form but to synchronize with others in a common breath”, explains Carole David.

“After cancer, the loss of self-esteem is very important, we have the impression that we are half a person: one foot towards death, the other towards life” and with this nature activity, “the women find a beautiful energy”, “it feels like being in summer camp, it’s super nice”, she smiles.