Tag Archives: Racing

Head of the Charles Racing Plans Change Due to 2x Partner’s Cancer Diagnosis

The story starts a year ago. About this time last year, Pam and Brian were offered an opportunity to move to California, and they took it. Who wouldn’t? I’ve known Pam since college, and we met through rowing, of course. One of the cool things about the sport is that one can row for as long as they want. Since college, we have continued to row together. When both of us landed on the East Coast, we started racing the double together pretty regularly and with success. In 2007, we raced together at HOCR for the first time. We were in the Champ double. At 34/35 and being lightweights, we were out of our league, but we did respectable. Since that day, we’ve been waiting patiently for 2013. It’s the year we’d finally be old enough to enter the masters double (40+) at HOCR. Little did we know what 2013 would have in store for us, more so for Pam.

Pam and Michelle racing the Championship 2x at the 2007 Head of Charles Regatta

In January, Pam was diagnosed with breast cancer. The news rocked our worlds. What’s going to happen – surgery, chemo, what? We’ve always had the mentality of what’s broke, what’s the plan, ok, let’s go! The entire process seemed to take too long and understandably so. There were a lot of factors and things to work out. Thankfully, training has been a part of our lives for a long time, and it continues to help us through the process. Slowly, it became apparent that we would not be racing together at the Charles. We had talked about racing the Alumni 8 together. She would cox and I’d likely stroke. This would have been a blast, but we weren’t sure if there would be an 8 or that it would even get an entry. Pam and I talked often about what to do, what was going to be best for both of us. So much was unknown.

This is when the decision was made to enter the Senior Masters (50+) with a mutual friend, Paula. Pam was 100% behind this, and I thank her for it. I know Paula because of Pam. Sure, our paths would have crossed, but we wouldn’t be racing together this weekend if it wasn’t for Pam introducing us. While we are racing, Pam will be getting ready to cox the Grand Valley Women’s Alumni 8. I can’t wait to cheer the entire boat on.

Over the past few years, maybe since 2007, Pam and I have raced a quad at HOCR. The quad is a special event in which all the money raised benefits the permanent endowment of the HOCR and helps ensure the continued success of this event. I went into this fall, thinking I’d take Sunday off from racing. So much for that idea. A group of us put our heads together and decided to race a quad. We are racing as Beat Cancer Boat Club in the Mixed Quad event (bow #5). We decided what better way to show support for Pam and everyone else fighting cancer. All of us know people who have won, lost or who are currently fighting their battle with cancer.

Beat Cancer Boat Club is a community of rowers who have faced cancer as supports, survivors and thrivers. Our goal is to support each and every rower facing cancer, to share their stories and to encourage more to share theirs.

Pam and Michelle at the 2007 HOCR

Pam and Michelle at the 2007 HOCR

I’m honored to be wearing pink this weekend. Without realizing it, the amount of pink in my wardrobe has quadrupled. I will proudly wear my Beat Cancer Boat Club shirt and my tall pink socks as we fly down the river this coming weekend!


Michelle Nielsen

Written by Beat Cancer Boat Club Co-Founder Michelle Nielsen. Michelle is a rower, runner, crossfitter, coach, iphone photographer, project manager, accountant and help desk guru. She is also best friends and 2x partners with Beat Cancer Boat Club Co-Founder and Breast Cancer Thriver Pamela Besteman.