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 since 2015


Recovery on Water empowers all patients and survivors to get fit and fight back.


Incorporated in 2008, ROW began as a collaboration between Sue Ann Glaser, a breast cancer survivor, and Jenn Gibbons, a high school rowing coach. Since 2008, ROW has not only significantly developed as a non-profit organization, but its membership has grown exponentially, serving patients and survivors from the city and suburbs of Chicago. 

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, relapse 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.

Recovery on Water provides exercise programs for patients and survivors of breast cancer 7 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. 

Indoor and Outdoor Rowing Program for Patients & Survivors of Breast Cancer, 7 days/week:

  • Our novice program is dedicated to new and current ROW members who wish to improve their basic skills. They will have the option to compete in one or more regattas if they choose.
  • Our masters program is for veteran members who wish to focus on their general fitness through rowing and may occasionally compete in regattas or who wish to practice and compete at a more competitive level, focusing on training and racing.

Community Rowing 2 days/week:

  • ROW offers indoor rowing community programming, free and open to the public on Tuesday and Thursday nights, 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm.


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. One hundred percent of members reported that ROW positively impacts their lives, socially, emotionally and/or physically at least once per week. Forty percent of members reported that they experience the benefits of ROW on a daily basis. 

After joining ROW, survivors of breast cancer on the team were able to increase the frequency of their exercise by about 50% (an additional 1.5 workouts per week), the intensity of their workouts by 53%, and the duration of those workouts by 34% (roughly 15 additional minutes per workout).

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