Neider has stuck with rowing for several reasons, but one was particularly important. She said, “ I am a female engineer and until I started rowing again in 2001 I didn't have many female friends. I mostly work with men. I found that rowers are driven individuals that give their best no matter what they do. I feel a very strong bond with other rowers and have found lifelong friends. When I joined the 5am program at SRA, the other women really made me feel at home. They erged with me, invited me to coffee (I row for coffee), and let me know what they were doing on their off days. I come back for the friendship and camaraderie.”
Not only did her rowing friends support her, but she found support through her family as well. When thinking back to one of her favorite rowing memories she thought of one that involved her kids, Mark and Kate. “The first year I joined the Annapolis Rowing Club, four of us formed a 4+ over the winter. My friend Lisa told me that we had to form our own boat to be successful. Our first race was the Stonewall Regatta in Washington DC. My husband and my two children came to watch and we blew the other boats away. Afterwards my son said to me ‘I knew you rowed but I had no idea you were any good!’. It made me happy to be respected by my kids.”
However, just a year after she joined SRA, Neider received some terrible news about her health. She was diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery, radiation treatments, chemotherapy treatments, and now is on an Estrogen blocker. She was diagnosed in the early stages of her cancer, and she looked for several opinions on treatment plans- including asking fellow rower Tanya Wahl who is an Oncologist.
Neider didn’t want cancer to impact her rowing, but inevitably it often did. She explained, “During chemotherapy I found out that there was a very clear cycle to my well being. I felt good the day of treatment and the day after, then got worse over the rest of the week and then felt a bit better for the next two weeks until the cycle started again. So I took off on the really bad days, coxed on the not so great days and rowed on the better days. I really think that continuing practice helped me get through the treatments and also made it a lot easier to get back into shape.”
Rowing was a form of recovery for Neider, who found more than physical health benefits from it. She talked positively about the support she received from the team. “I got to row at the Row for the Cure Regatta before I started my treatments. The whole morning team had tattoos with my name and a badger (my spirit animal) on them. I really knew I was not in this alone. It was so wonderful. The team was really amazing, and I feel a little guilty because they helped so much.”
Before going through her cancer diagnosis, Neider believed rowing to be a powerful tool. It taught her positivity, teamwork, determination, hard work, and the ability to push yourself through any situation. Now continuing the sport through her cancer- she feels those lessons have been amplified. Neider has advice for those struggling with their health and says, “Stay positive and don't feel sorry for yourself. Everyone has challenges. It is how you deal with them that makes you different. Plus exercise everyday if you can- maybe not what you could do before but something every day.”
The SRA community is grateful for rowers like Tara Neider. We are a community of strong, supportive people who put people first. Our strength is not only demonstrated in our erg scores or pieces on the water, but also in the kindness and acceptance in our hearts. As we often say in rowing, “Eight hearts must beat as one or you don't have a crew. There are no fast boats, only fast crews."