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Surfing for Hope Foundation is holding its first Women's Cancer Survivor Summit in October 

Breast cancer has affected nearly 1,200 individuals on the Central Coast, according to the most recent 2018 Community Health Assessment released by SLO County's Public Health Department. Between 2010 and 2014, according to the report, 201 females lost their battle with breast cancer.

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The American Cancer Society believes that women who are now being diagnosed with breast cancer may have a better outlook as treatments improve over time.

Surfing for Hope founder Bob Voglin is continuing his mission of creating a supportive space for those undergoing cancer treatment or individuals with a family member battling cancer by celebrating breast cancer survivors. The Surfing for Hope team is holding its first Women's Cancer Survivor Summit, slated for Oct. 10 on the shores of Pismo Beach. During this time of the year, the nonprofit normally hosts an annual surf contest, but with COVID-19 safety practices in mind, it pivoted to creating a series of small-group cancer survivor summits.

In light of October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, co-founder Dr. Tom Spillane said the nonprofit decided to make this summit exclusively for women who are currently undergoing treatment or those who've completed cancer treatment, as well as oncology health care providers.

The day's events include yoga instruction, a beginner's surf instruction by the Shell Beach Surf Shop, and a gourmet luncheon free of charge to all participants. Spillane will also lead a brief discussion on survivorship as well as give an update on breast cancer treatments and resources. The talk will be held via Zoom and is open to the public.

Voglin said the first summit has about 28 individuals registered for the event, and others interested can put their name on a waitlist on the nonprofit's website. The summit's goal, Voglin said, is to celebrate these women, whatever stage of their journey they're in, and to create a community. The activities are pressure-free—it's up to the participant to decide how they would like to enjoy their day.

He also hopes to share the healing powers he feels the beach and the ocean have.

"Surfing has been really instrumental in my life. It's helped me through many challenges, and my toughest one was my cancer experience," Voglin said. "So we want to share that and also the message that 'you're not alone.'"

A sense of community support and the ocean helped Voglin get through his battle with tongue and throat cancer after he received his diagnoses in 2004. His oncologist was Dr. Spillane, who he later partnered with to create Surfing for Hope.

click to enlarge CELEBRATING SURVIVORS Surfing for Hope Foundation is holding its first Women's Cancer Survivor Camp in Pismo Beach on Oct. 10 for women currently undergoing treatment or who have completed cancer treatment. - IMAGE COURTESY OF SURFING FOR HOPE
  • Image Courtesy Of Surfing For Hope
  • CELEBRATING SURVIVORS Surfing for Hope Foundation is holding its first Women's Cancer Survivor Camp in Pismo Beach on Oct. 10 for women currently undergoing treatment or who have completed cancer treatment.

Voglin surfed every day until the disease and treatments took a toll on his body, but he never forgot the medical team behind his treatment process and the community of friends and family that cheered him on along the way. On the road to recovery, Voglin said he returned to the water, finding the waves and outdoor activity therapeutic. It was a feeling he said he had to share with others.

Creating a community of people that includes cancer survivors, Voglin said, brings hope to those who are still undergoing treatment.

"It's to help people feel more positive and really help them to continue doing what they can in their lives and put their really huge challenge behind them," he said.

With the help of Spillane and French Hospital, Voglin was able to create a surf contest, cancer resource health fair, and a memorial paddle-out. Through the contest, the nonprofit has donated more than $200,000 toward the Hearst Cancer Resource Center and the resource center at French Hospital.

The nonprofit's Pure Stoke Surf Camp is for youth cancer survivors or children with family members fighting cancer. Voglin said children who experience the pain and suffering of their loved one are often overlooked by the medical cancer support community. Similar to the Women's Summit, the Pure Stoke Surf Camp provides a safe and fun environment for children to heal among their peers.

Linzie Littler, her two daughters, and her mother, who's a cancer survivor, have made the trip from Riverside once a month for the camp. The family has been making the drive for five years now, and her daughters now have friends they look forward to seeing at the camp, and she and her mother have connected with other families as well.

"They give the kids just a common ground where they can unwind with other kids that have seen and been through the exact same journey they've been through. And the parents, it gives us a time to take a breath, unwind, and check in with each other," Littler said.

It's encouraging for Littler and her family to be in this environment because they don't have to constantly talk about or relive their experience. It's a place for her children to be children and not worry about their family's health concerns.

"We can just lean on each other for advice, encouragement, or whatever we need from each other," she said. Δ

Staff Writer Karen Garcia can be reached at kgarcia@newtimesslo.com.

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