MEET THE TEAM
Mary Carrillo | President |
Veronica Stanfield | Vice-President | My name is Veronica Stanfield. I’m 55 and I’ve been a flight attendant for 35 of those years and in a loving relationship for 27. I was diagnosed in January of 2015 with ductal carcinoma, stage one, estrogen positive.
I was one of the lucky ones. It may sound strange, but my journey was simple compared to so many brave and heroic women. I did not require chemotherapy or radiation. My bilateral mastectomy was, of course, painful, but successful. I was also fortunate to have great doctors and the support of many loving friends and family.
Being a survivor has introduced me to a group of women that I feel so blessed to be associated with. Their kindness, knowledge and support has made the journey easier. I hope I can do the same for other women in the future by bringing them to dragon boating. There is a saying in the sport of dragonboating that if you fall in love with it from the very first time, it means you’ve been “bitten by the dragon”! I was bitten and bitten HARD! I love it and the especially the women on my team.
Someone once asked me if I could choose one positive word to describe my journey, What would it be? It would be “lucky”. I know that sounds CRAZY, but when I see the struggles of other women, I consider myself so fortunate. The inner strength that these women possess is awe inspiring. I’m not sure I would have been that strong, so I guess thats why I feel “lucky”.
Emily Pigula | Secretary | Born and raised outside of Rochester, NY, I’ve been an athlete since my early 20’s. I started out by running around the block, then around the block twice and, lo and behold, I was competing in 5k and 10k races, winning/placing/showing in my age group. I’ve run two marathons, countless half marathons and cultivated about 25 years’ worth running mileage. I interspersed racquetball, aerobics, weight training in between. I moved to Florida in 1981, got a job, made new friends, dated, bought my house, traveled when I could and lived life the way I wanted to live it. The bump in the road came in 2003 with a totally unexpected breast cancer diagnosis. Yes, I was scared but I made a demand of God that He make this an quick and easy because my life was not over. It was quick because I was up every doctor’s ass when I needed to be to get the process moving. It wasn’t easy, but I was spared a long, drawn out experience. After a double mastectomy and immediate reconstruction, I went through 4 chemo treatments and was finished. During this time, I walked as often as possible as an exercise release and after seeing a nutritionist, I ate more healthfully. My family and friends could not have been more supportive. I believe that God was by my side every minute and continues to guide and protect me. I am perpetually grateful.
Now 15 years later and, although a little older, I feel better than ever. Still traveling. Yoga, Pilates and walking have kept me in shape, but dragon boat racing with my new BFF friends has raised the bar in my life. Every person involved is an important asset to the team and as we solidify as such, we will reap the benefits, both personally and athletically. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity!
Tamara Roth | Treasurer |
Cibe Ricarte |
Alicia Melara | I had a lump on my right breast for five years and was treated with topical hormones. That was in Germany, by the way.
After moving back to the US and a few years of routine mammograms, which were read as benign, my gynecologist suggested a second opinion which resulted in a lumpectomy, at age 48. I have been involved in sports all my life, and that helped me go through radiation.
It has been almost nine years and I am cancer free.
Two years ago, I meet the wonderful ladies of the BFF Dragon Boat paddling team and after trying for the first time, I was bitten by the dragon.
The paddling has helped me regain in full the reach of my right arm and also a stronger upper body. But mainly, it has given me an extended family of sisters and the confidence that I can beat anything that comes to me.
Aniela McGuinness | Aniela McGuinness is a Film and Television Actress with over 13 years of improv comedy experience but she is best known for her breast cancer experience in which she went internationally viral and was featured on DailyMail, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan, and much more. Four years ago, she was diagnosed with cancer, a year after her mother passed away from ovarian cancer, and she decided to do things a little differently by using humor and honesty to share her entire cancer experience. Aniela created a photo-series using color and humor to represent each of stage during her mastectomy process that was picked up internationally and shared around the world. During chemotherapy, she co-wrote and performed a one-woman show, “I Don’t Have Cancer”, to sold-out audiences, and her oncologist stated, “ I thought I knew all there was to know about cancer until I saw her show. This will change the way I treat patients.” In 2017, a year and a half after finishing treatment, she walked in New York Fashion Week in a historic runway show for AnaOna Intimates and #Cancerland, featuring all breast cancer bosses, and again, the coverage went internationally viral. After cancer treatment, Aniela helped co-found an organization called Cancer Grad that is "Redefining the Cancer Experience from a War to an Education."
Aniela has been a member of BFF since the first paddle in Broward and she attributes the team and the sport with finally helping her feel strong again.
CA Tolchinsky | Dr. CA Tolchinsky has spent the past 30 + years working as an educator, coach & administrator. Her motto is, “I'm no longer fighting. I'm winning!” Diagnosed in Dec 2010 with DCIS Invasive Stage 1, CA chose a bilateral mastectomy with immediate tram flap reconstruction, followed by six rounds of chemotherapy, which she endured with her teammate, Debra Zebersky. She lost her mom to bc when she was 22 and her sister who was diagnosed one month before her with LCIS, chose to undergo a preventative bilateral mastectomy. She says, “after practice, on three, we yell, ‘BFF’ and as I gaze upward, I ‘let go’ of this damn disease and enjoy the moment of bonding with my team.” CA and her son Cade wrote a book titled Dear Cancer: You Messed With the Wrong Mom, which answers questions children have. It is for sale on Amazon and proceeds go to the chemo center where CA received her treatment. You can read more about her fight at:
Debra Zebersky | Debra Zebersky, a graduate of Columbia University and University of Miami, has spent her life as a social worker and elementary school teacher, always focusing on others, especially her three sons and husband, Eddie, a prominent local attorney. In January, 2011, she was diagnosed with DCIS Invasive Stage 2 and chose to undergo a bilateral mastectomy, followed by six rounds of chemo, along with her teammate, CA. Side by side, they laughed (as much as they could) through treatment, and continue to enjoy life everyday, especially when on the water with BFF!
Denis Rheaume-Gomez |
Donna Vazquez | I have to first start off by thanking God for healing me and getting me through a very rocky path with cancer. I was diagnosed during a family vacation in June 2014. I was terrified and unprepared even though cancer had already taken my Mom and big sister Diane. I swore I would never do chemo or radiation, but of course I did both. My younger sister Darlene was diagnosed with breast cancer in April, has finished chemo and is doing well, we call her our Warrior Princess.
At one point I gave up on trying to find a good support group and just tried to live in a positive way with a forward motion since 2014. Luckily, last year I met Veronica and she recruited me for the dragon boat and I am forever grateful. Joining the team has changed me, I feel stronger!! Getting to know all of my team members and Coach is awesome!
I look forward to paddling, bonding with the team and making a difference in other women's lives. GO BFF !
Gayle Workman |
Irma Rey |
JoAnn Zangle |
Kristina Schlueter | I felt a lump when I was 29 years old. I saw a doctor who explained it was most likely cystic fybroadenoma. I did nothing about it for 2 years then during a routine gyno visit my new doctor thought we better get more testing done. A month after my 31st birthday I had a lumpectomy and was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer with no family history. After 2 more surgeries, 16 rounds of chemo and 34 rounds of radiation I am cancer free. I was very athletic all my life and even coached gymnastics through treatment but the meds and treatment have made my bones very weak and after two different broken bones I realized I needed a new outlet. I moved to Florida in 2018 and through a Young Survival Coalition meetup I was introduced to dragon boating. I loved it since the day I started no matter how hard it may be. I love to push myself and am excited about this new family I have found.
Natalya Goldfinger | In July I celebrate my own anniversary of survival, since 2016 surgery and PAT scan that confirmed that I am cancer free. I was diagnosed with stage 3 advanced cancer in December 2015 right before Christmas.
It was saddest Christmas in my life when was sitting with my children and we're singing "Jesus loves you" song, I had a 102 fever, couldn't show it to my kids, I wanted them to have a great Holiday, maybe the last one together. Since that Christmas I don't have any material wishes, all my wishes are health and peace.
I was fortunate to meet real professionals from Memorial Breast cancer center like Dr. Write and Dr. Velez. All Memorial team gave me hope, love and my health back. When time came for rehabilitation I was lucky again when I attended pink tea party at Weston's YMCA, where I learned about Dragon Boating, and realized that it was what I needed. My oncologist Dr. Velez approved my Dragon boating and supported me since.
I can't describe that feeling when I met Broward Fierce Fighters. It was like long lost family finally got together. We went through the same experience, and each of us heard that horrible sentence: You have cancer... But there is a life after it, a wonderful and beautiful life when you appreciate every moment...
Norma Seegal |
Peg Richardson | A very healthy person, I rarely get sick, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. In August 2014, less than a year after my husband passed away from cancer, I was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma, Stage 1, after a routine mammogram. My first reaction was that I could not deal with this, having spent the previous year as the primary caretaker during my husband’s illness while holding down a full-time job. Thanks to my cancer care team at Cleveland Clinic, they educated me about breast cancer and treatments available. After two lumpectomies and six weeks of radiation, I moved on! I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Early diagnosis, Stage 1 - a reminder that routine mammograms are valuable. Four months after my treatment ended, I placed first in my age group in the Cleveland Clinic 5K. However, I was looking to do something more… and I found dragon boating. It has changed my life – the thrill of being on the water with a synchronized team of women, the dedication, laughter, bonding, and even a trip to Florence, Italy, to compete with thousands of breast cancer survivors from around the world. I’m thankful every day that I was bitten by the dragon!
Sharon Hatch | Breast cancer. Ugh. Not the tour de force I was looking for to finally get in shape. And teams? I am more of a loner. I only told a handful of my closest family and friends about my diagnosis. No matter what the cancer, it is life changing in one way or another. My diagnosis came at a very annoying time, during high stress at work as a director of health care quality in managed care, while finishing my doctorate, and with a young child who I didn’t want growing up without a mother. So I did what any other physically and emotionally exhausted person would do after a myriad of surgeries and hospitalizations... got talked into joining a dragon boat team (by the great and powerful Aniela…it is truly futile to resist!). It took one day of paddling, and I was bitten by the dragon. To my amazement, I was so hooked I couldn’t sleep the night before morning paddles and couldn’t focus at work before evening ones. This crazy former New Yorker, found her 2nd love…after family and friends…in a dragon boat. I would NEVER EVER ask for cancer, but there is something to be said about taking cancer lemons and making dragon boat lemonade! Much thanks to my family, including my husband and daughter, for supporting my new obsession, my great doctors for putting humpty dumpty back together again (Dr. Low and Dr. Cheung, and the amazing Claudia who kept me from losing my mind), and my team…this team of incredible, vivacious, brilliant, adventurous, supportive, and FIERCE women (and coach!) who have become everything to me. I have been born again in a dragon boat on peaceful waters, with paddle in hand, a renewed competitive spirit, and even more love in my heart.
Susan Jacobson |