Recovery on Water is a rowing team that gives survivors of breast cancer the unique opportunity to interact, become active in their recovery, and gain support from fellow survivors.

Triple negative breast cancer left me feeling like I was hanging out on a limb, with no ongoing treatment to keep it from coming back. ROW gave me an opportunity to put my health in the forefront and feel powerful again in my life choices.
— Margaret, ROW member


Founded in 2007 and incorporated in 2008, ROW began as a collaboration between Sue Ann Glaser, a breast cancer survivor, and Jenn Gibbons, a high school rowing coach. 

The Need

Patients and survivors of breast cancer will undergo or have undergone surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of all three in attempts to treat their disease. Such treatments may leave patients with significant complications, including lymphedema, obesity, depression, and poor quality of life. Many studies demonstrate the beneficial effects of exercise on breast cancer survivors, showing significant reduction in depressive symptoms and fatigue, and improvements in lymphedema, bone mineral density, body mass index, quality of life, and most significantly, recurrence rates.

Exercise is an integral component in the evaluation and management of breast cancer survivors, no matter where they are in the treatment course. There have been multiple studies that demonstrate that not only is exercise safe, but as long as performed in a safe and supervised manner, it is beneficial to the medical and functional recovery we strive for. The problem is that survivors often don’t know where to go or where to start. With an organization like ROW, Jenn has created an environment where survivors can engage in safe exercise knowing that are receiving that needed supervision while enjoying the camaraderie that comes along with this activity.
— Samman Shahpar, MD, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago


Our programs

The goal of the ROW program is to increase exercise consistency in people diagnosed with breast cancer and to improve their quality of life.


    • Chicago, IL: ROW provides free exercise programs seven days a week, year round: in rowing shells on the south branch of the Chicago River during the spring, summer, and fall, and on indoor rowing machines during winter months. Our indoor rowing programs (offered year round) are located at the Eleanor Boathouse, at Bluprint Fitness and Alliance Rowing Club.

    • Peoria, IL: In early 2018 we launched programs for survivors in Peoria, IL which includes two days a week of indoor rowing (learn more about this program here).

  • HOSPITAL OUTREACH: ROW has a significant outreach presence at UIC and Stroger Cook County Hospitals. Along with hosting yoga each week, we educate patients going through treatment on the benefits of exercise and its role in survivorship, combating side effects from treatment and beyond.

  • POWER10 CAMP: A four day rowing camp for breast cancer survivors to create community, gain support and to empower women to reclaim their bodies after diagnosis. More information about Power10 Camp can be found HERE.

  • COMMUNITY PROGRAMS: Alongside our programs for those with a breast cancer diagnosis, we also host a free community indoor rowing program at the Eleanor Boathouse. This growing program serves over 300 people a year and counting, offering free exercise on Tuesday and Thursday nights at the Eleanor Boathouse in Bridgeport.


Through data collected from the current ROW team, we’ve learned that ROW has significantly increased the quality of life for breast cancer survivors on the team. 95% of team members shared that ROW makes them feel part of a community and less alone. 97% say that ROW has helped in their efforts to maintain a healthy body weight and 100% of our members would (and do) recommend ROW to other patients and survivors of breast cancer. 

After joining ROW, our novice rowers were able to increase the frequency of their exercise by 78% (an additional 1.75 workouts per week). Based on their workout habits, this adds up to more than three additional hours of exercise every week.

I found something I didn’t
know I was missing
— Karen, ROW Member since 2014

benefits of rowing

  • Efficient cardiac workout and strengthening

  • Full body muscular workout and strengthening 

  • Increased flexibility and maximum range of motion

  • Efficient caloric output and weight control, important for those with mobility issues

  • Non-impact sport – not hard on joints

  • Emotions improve positively with increased endorphins from the exercise

  • Improved immune system with increased exercise 

  • Improved memory and learning due to new cell creation

  • Inclusion and social interaction

  • Competition teaches teamwork and can benefit self-esteem

  • Social interaction improves by interacting with others, camaraderie, friendship

  • Independence and freedom