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Dragon boat races part of survivor's plan to kick breast cancer's butt

Cynthia Gromada-Dominske launched an exercise routine late last year after a battle with breast cancer, but a new opportunity to ramp things up came this spring in the form of the Hope Chest Buffalo Dragon Boat Festival.

The 55-year-old Grand Island resident will be among 80 fellow breast cancer survivors from the region to participate Saturday in a series of races on the Buffalo River, off RiverWorks, 359 Ganson St.

“I feel a lot stronger after preparing for the races,” said Gromada-Dominske, who enrolled in December in an ongoing exercise study at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, and went to work fitness-wise. Treatment for her aggressive form of breast cancer included a lumpectomy, four rounds of chemotherapy and 34 bouts of radiation.

Her coworkers at Columbus-McKinnon, in Amherst, helped Gromada-Dominske build her endurance afterward by accompanying her on walks on the CrossPoint office park campus where the regional headquarters for the chain and hoist manufacturer is located.

Hope Chest Buffalo Dragon Boat Racing Team

Several of them will compete in a corporate challenge as part of the Dragon Boat races, which run from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. as part of the annual fundraiser for Hope Chest, a regional nonprofit that provides exercise and nutrition classes, emotional support, and paddling training for breast cancer survivors.

Races start at 8:30 and 11 a.m., and noon and 5 p.m.; visitors are welcome to stop by throughout the day to peruse vendors and learn more about breast cancer and its treatment. For more information, visit

Gromada-Dominske walked and gardened before her cancer diagnosis in April 2017, She also participated in two Century Rides for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and was preparing for a third when she learned she had breast cancer. She rode the Ride for Roswell last June, three weeks after her lumpectomy.

“I worked through it because I wanted the most normalcy in my days,” she said. “I had to get up and get dressed, which was very discouraging with no hair, no eyelashes. I only wore my wigs twice and went with a headband and hats. I wanted to be joked with at work, and everybody knew my cause: get a mammogram, find out if you have breast cancer in your family. It was such a rude awakening for me that if I could save somebody else’s life, I wanted to do it.”

Within several weeks of enrolling in the Roswell study, she was figuratively off to the races.

Roswell Park cancer patients help establish link between exercise, longevity

“It was a very, very slow start because of healing. You don’t realize how far back you went,” she said. “I got a FitBit. I started with walking, walked two flights of stairs; once at first, then several times a day. I enrolled in a Zumba study with an xBox at home. I tried weights at home. I needed a different environment. I needed the socialization. I needed people."

Her fitness schedule intensified by February, after she and some of her colleagues decided to participate in the Dragon Boat Festival and started to fundraise.

Gromada-Dominske enrolled in Hope Chest exercise classes free to breast cancer survivors at BAC for Women locations, and free LiveStrong classes available through YMCA Buffalo Niagara sites. She packed her weeknight and Saturday schedule with cardio, Zumba and spinning classes – at least two days a week, back-to-back - easing up a bit when twice-a-week Dragon Boat practices started in the Buffalo Harbor several weeks ago.

She continues to walk during lunch on weekdays with a couple of colleagues.

“I don’t do anything at home,” she said with a smile. “No laundry. No dishes. My husband, Randy, is supportive. He’s my backbone.”

Cynthia Gromada-Dominske, second from right, has lost weight, slowly, as she's ramped up her fitness program this year. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

Gromada-Dominske has lost 15 pounds since the start of the year.

“It’s coming off slowly,” she said. “I still struggle with my weight but I think that has a lot to do with the medication I’m taking, Tamoxifen.”

Her latest six-month exam came back clear – and Gromada-Dominske looks to include plentiful fitness among her healthy choices to keep things that way.

“Cancer kicked my [butt] and I kicked it back,” she said. “I want to be sassy. I want to be bold. I want to get up and dance. Exercise has changed my life.”


Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon


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