News | Oct. 21, 2019

Breast cancer survivors show strength on the water

By Connie Braesch DLA Energy Public Affairs

In observance of breast cancer awareness month, Defense Logistics Agency Energy Europe & Africa employees and family members participated in the Abreast in a Boat dragon boat regatta in Saarbrucken, Germany, Oct. 12. 

Nikita Crutcher, a breast cancer survivor and wife of DLA Energy Europe & Africa Quality Manager Michael Crutcher, has paddled with teams across the world. 

“I have paddled with several teams in my 13 years of dragon boating,” said Nikita Crutcher. “Breast Cancer survivors are a sisterhood without barriers. We show our strength on the water.”

Abreast in a Boat, a registered charitable society, began primarily as a community recreational activity to enable women living with breast cancer to reclaim their healthy lifestyles. There is now an International Breast Cancer Paddlers' Commission and more than 140 breast cancer survivor dragon boat teams paddling in 12 different countries.

“Dragon boating is an excellent team sport and a total body workout,” said Michael Crutcher. “The steersman, drummer, and 20 paddlers have to be in sync; 22 parts equal one machine. Just like fighting breast cancer, it’s about a team, family or community working together towards a common goal.”

John Phinisey, Deputy Director of DLA Energy Europe & Africa strongly supports breast cancer awareness. 

“Every day, we focus on supporting the Warfighter’s energy needs,” Phinisey said. “When I heard the reason why Mrs. Crutcher started dragon boating, I wanted to show my support. Each one of us has a unique story and that story enables us to be our best every day. We are more than energy, we are a family!”

According to, about 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Over the last decade, the rate of getting breast cancer has not changed for women overall, but the rate has increased for black women and Asian and Pacific Islander women.

Nikita Crutcher and her team, the Pink Ladies, competed in the Monkey Jumble Saarbrucken 2019, Europe's largest dragon boat long distance regatta to raise awareness about the disease and about life after breast cancer. 

“We are all survivors,” Nikita Crutcher said. “Someday, we will defeat breast cancer.