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Living Stronger: Women race on the water with much more at stake than finishing first

Living Stronger on the water
Living Stronger on the water 02:13

Living Stronger is a "CBS Evening News" series celebrating the people leading the way to longevity -- and inspiring the rest of us.  

CHICAGO -- Plying the murky waters of Chicago's Bubbly Creek, a group of determined women defies the odds with every stroke, reports CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds.

"Do you think it is lengthening your life?" Reynolds asked Amber Gallman.

"The exercise? Yes. I do. I do," she replied.

Some of the women of Recovery on Water CBS News

And lengthening her life is the point for Gallman these days.

"I'm stage 4, so I'll never be done with treatment. I'm going to be in treatment for the rest of my life," she said.

Gallman and her friends are members of Recovery on Water. About 80 women in all, ages 40 and older, they have all diagnosed with breast cancer.

Some, like Gallman, have had double mastectomies and continue in treatment. Others are in remission.

Amber Gallman CBS News

And while rowing may seem a bit taxing for people like them, the benefits are apparent.

"I can tell an enormous difference in my energy level, my outlook, my attitude," Gallman said. "Keeping my body healthy and active is my top priority now and I'm a much happier person for it."

"I think it's a phenomenal idea," said Dr. Sarah Friedewald, an oncologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

"Being competitive just helps your endorphins and gets your body ready to fight the next fight," Friedewald said.

On a recent Saturday, Gallman and her mates competed against healthy rowers for the best time.

They didn't exactly set any speed record. But remember, these women are in another race: a competition in which every second is precious.

The race CBS News

"Could you have imagined yourself doing this?" Reynolds asked Gallman after the race.

"No. No way," she said.

It's opened a window on a future that Gallman hopes to experience.

"It's an amazing opportunity to be out there and to have the strength to do it. And to know that we can do this, it's indescribable, really," she said.

This was her first race, and she says it won't be her last.

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