Paddling for Cancer

Paddlers getting ready to begin 24-hour cancer paddle at Coleman Beach. (Contributed)

As I write this during the second week of June 2019, I realize that it is 12 years since the day I heard the words, “I think I feel a lump” from the nurse practitioner during my once a year physical checkup and breast examination. This began a journey for me with a disease that has affected my entire life, from the time I was 9 years old hearing my father’s diagnosis of colon cancer to the present day, because no matter whether one survives their inaugural episode with cancer, they are never free from it.

As a writer, I haven’t given cancer much press. I did not want to write about it at all. I did not want to relive it in any manner, certainly not in words which are so much a part of my daily life. At the time I agreed to be the poster child for the American Cancer Society and had a reporter and photographer from The Tribune follow me through all of my treatment in order to produce a series on what it is like to endure a cancer journey. I am eternally grateful to David Middlecamp of The Tribune for his attentiveness to me, which must have been a difficult assignment for him. David went to almost all of my doctor and chemotherapy treatment appointments and often would call me to ask if he could stop by my house to see me to take photos. My answer, of course, was “Yes if you want to watch me throw up, that would be fine!”

At treatment’s end I was sent home from the doctor’s office with the words, “OK, that’s all we can do for you.” It wasn’t until attending a seminar on cancer at Cuesta College several months later that I learned of my expected fate. I questioned one of the doctors on the panel as to why, when discussing breast cancer, they had talked about every type except for the type I had. The answer came from a doctor who practiced with my oncologist and who recognized me. And then it was said. They fully expected that my cancer would return, most likely in a year’s time, and the statistics were not good for survival. I’m sure the doctor telling me this was conflicted as she asked me, “What will you do now?” I believe she meant was I going to leave the seminar and go out immediately and throw myself into the path of oncoming traffic, but I took it a different way. “I’m going to get on with my life,” I said. That is exactly what I’ve done and 12 years have passed almost to that day in June with the words, “I think I feel a lump.”

Why am I telling you this story? We have not conquered cancer. We have not figured out how to deal with the fact that once you are a cancer victim, you remain a cancer victim, for there is no complete cure found yet, only remission. This is why for many years after my treatment I participated in events like the Relay For Life to raise money for research. One of the things somewhat overlooked in regards to cancer is the struggle many have trying to keep body and soul together financially while undergoing treatment. So it was with joy that I recently found out about the paddle for cancer put on every year here in Morro Bay by The Paddleboard Company. This event took place this year in April and is called “The Monster and Sea 24 Hour Paddle for Cancer Support.”

Proprietor of The Paddleboard Company, Sandi Twist and Los Osos Firefighter and Team Captain Ted Borja,  owner of Estero Apparel Company and Ocean Collective, met with me recently for a long talk about the history of this event. It all began five years ago in Seattle, Washington by Troy Nebeker, a graphic designer and photographer, when he had to deal with the diagnosis, and created the Monster and Sea paddle event. Nebeker’s motto is “Because We Can.” The idea behind the paddle is to raise money that is then anonymously given to individuals and families to help support them as they go through cancer. Donors sponsor people, who in tandem with a partner, paddle on a stand-up board in a relay for 24 hours.

The event is coordinated through The Paddleboard Company and they start at Coleman Beach and paddle all day and through the night. Paddlers are grateful to the Morro Bay Yacht Club for a place to take breaks.

“This year we raised $8000 through a Go Fund Me Facebook post to help seven San Luis Obispo County families,” explained Borja. “It was our fourth year and this event has grown to over 40 teams in North America and raised $250,000 collectively.”

As a cancer survivor who struggled financially through that time period, I am grateful for all the paddlers who devote their time and energy to raise these funds. Please watch for announcements on Facebook for the 2020 Monster and Sea 24 Hour Paddle for Cancer Support.

See www.thepaddleboardcompany.com and www.esteropaddle.com.

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