Surfing cancer

The starting point for the womens’ training sessions is La Duquesa port.
The starting point for the womens’ training sessions is La Duquesa port. / C. Márquez
  • Five female cancer survivors have set themselves the challenge of paddle surfing 6.5 nautical miles

  • The ‘Surfing life’ challenge aims to demonstrate that when people have the right attitude they can overcome any obstacle.

Cancer is like a storm which can sink you or make you stronger. Battling bad weather, the wind and the waves, is exhausting. It saps your energy, but beating it makes you feel more alive and gives you a different perspective of life. You put things in their place, and understand what is really important and what is not.

Yolanda Preciados, Carmen Díaz, Patricia Alonso, Mari Ángeles Santiago and Susana Laguarda have something in common: they have all overcome cancer. They have surfed through wild waters without falling off the board and now they want to get the message across to other cancer patients and their families, and the world in general, that any challenge can be overcome. You just need the right attitude.

Together, and with support from the Navigator, Mistral and Marinas del Mediterráneo companies, they have given themselves a difficult test. On 24 June they plan to travel from Estepona port to La Duquesa port on a paddle surf board. This won’t be a normal board, though: it is a family-sized one, measuring 5.5 metres in length and with space for eight people.

The five women have been training for two weeks so far, for an average of four hours a day, to prepare for the ‘Surfeando la vida’ (Surfing life) challenge. It is not their first. Four of them have already taken part in the ‘Reto Pelayo Vida 2016’ which involved crossing the Atlantic on board a sailing yacht.

The newcomer in this adventure is Carmen Díaz, a pharmacist from Fuengirola who has been living with cancer since she was four months old. Her mother, who is a nurse, realised in hospital that her baby daughter had a strange reflection in her eye and she was diagnosed with retinoblastoma (cancer of the retina). She was the first baby to be diagnosed with this at the hospital in Granada.

“It is very difficult to diagnose and the children tend to die, because the cancer passes from the optic nerve to the brain and is only discovered when it is too late,” says Carmen. From the age of three, she had to go regularly to the USA for operations and check-ups. As well as the retina cancer, she had a sarcoma on one of her legs when she was 27. She doesn’t normally practise sport “because I can’t judge distances well with only one eye,” she explains. This is also the first time she has ever been on a surfboard.

Carmen says her false eye “isn’t like the little balls you see in films.” She describes how the prosthesis which simulates the orbit was implanted and how the iris was painted with water colours. “The man looks at your good eye and paints the other one. They even used pieces of wool to simulate the veins in the eye,” she says.

Yolanda Preciados, who runs a real estate business, has had cancer of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tube. “It left me sterile, but I’m still here,” she says. Yolanda is optimistic because she has never had to undergo chemotherapy, unlike Mari Ángeles, who is a Guardia Civil officer, Patria, a biologist, and Susana, another Guardia Civil officer who helps to protect the royal family. All three have also had breast cancer.

The difficulty in their forthcoming challenge will be the currents, the wind and the waves on 24 June. “We never complain because we have been through difficult times with cancer and everything else is wonderful,” says Yolanda.

As well as a personal challenge and a demonstration of strength and determination, their trip will raise funds to help a woman with cancer who has been the victim of gender violence, and who is being assisted by the Zontra association.