Conquering Cancer With A Skateboard
As I'm writing this I'm sitting next to my Mom in the hospital. Another visit, another complication, and another setback. The road to recovery has been long and challenging to say the least, but on the bright side her situation is improving. This is my fourth visit to the hospital in 48 hours and though its hard to find time in an already busy life I know the importance of being there for those in need - especially family.
Our conversation with Rob really hit home for me. His experience dealing with cancer and loss is both extremely relatable on one hand, but on the other its a mystery. I've dealt with the struggles of seeing my Mom being pumped with meds and recovering from surgery, but I haven't dealt with the heartbreaking loss that all to frequently accompanies this prognosis. Talking with Rob was therapeutic for me; it was humbling and it was emotional. It taught me the importance of being able to talk about the struggles and it made me realize that there are people who are willing to listen, to understand, and who can relate.
The new stat is that in our lifetime 1 in 2 men will develop cancer and of those men 50% will die. For women it's 1 in 3 will develop and 1 in 5 will die. I don't share these statistics to be morbid, but to show you that you're not alone if you're going through this struggle. Cancer doesn't just affect the individual, it affects their loved ones too. Everyone deals with grief differently, but through my experience and in talking to Rob, a tiny bit of weight was lifted from my shoulders.
When Rob Dyer first decided to skateboard from L.A. to Toronto to raise awareness for cancer, he had no idea that the journey would continue a whole lot further and for way longer. Since the creation of Skate4Cancer, Rob has headed up two more major projects contributing to the evolution of his organization. It’s been a cool transition to witness, and here’s how it went down.
Rob lost a lot of very important people to cancer in a very short amount of time. He was young, devastated and ambitious, so he decided to channel all of his emotions into one big idea: a skate marathon that started on the west coast of the United States and culminated in his hometown near Toronto. The whole idea was to prove that anything can be done with enough determination, and he hoped that this philosophy would inspire people to stay optimistic about dealing with cancer in its various forms.
Although there were too many obstacles and adventures to even begin discussing, Rob and his team managed to complete the trek in 5 months. And they didn’t stop there. Since the initial U.S. success Rob has skated across Canada, the entire length of New Zealand and a huge portion of Australia.
But the most important stuff happened in between all of these epic marathons. When they weren’t on the road, the S4C team focused on throwing free events like skate comps and concerts that were always all ages so that everyone could come jam together. The parties were organized and executed by volunteers who were dedicated to the cause and fueled by passion and a love for bringing people together. Fundraising was never an official goal, so any money that came along was always re-directed to various hospitals in the area.
These celebrations got to be so sweet that a strong community began to emerge populated by a bunch of young, stoked kids who were eager to join in the fight against cancer. It grew so steadily that eventually the goal of raising awareness didn’t seem to be enough. There needed to be a more relevant platform for educating youth on the specific ways they could improve their odds of avoiding the disease. And so a new endeavor was born.
THE CURE IS KNOWLEDGE (CURE)
After years of getting people both pumped and organized, it seemed important to build on the strong positive foundation Skate4Cancer had constructed. The team started by gathering all the information and statistics that were most relevant to a younger demographic and once that was done, writers and designers collaborated to condense all of the info into easy to understand packages that were as informative as they were stylish.
Known as The Cure is Knowledge, this branch of Skate4Cancer grew into a separate and self-sustaining platform focused on healthy living and education on cancer prevention. The team was inspired by the fact that %80 of all cancers could be prevented with the right information, so in order to spread their shiny new campaigns to the S4C community Rob hopped into a van crammed with stinky but talented musicians and got back to touring. Everyday the van would roll into a new town and the crew would unload and set up while the audience streamed in. Once the concert began, Rob and a couple volunteers manned a booth at the back where kids could come slap hands, give a quick hug and get some info about questions they had.
Throughout the night people could pick up all of the fliers for the campaigns and have a chat with the team about their feelings and dealings with cancer. Between sets an interactive speech was delivered by the S4C team and everyone was encouraged to open up and talk about their experiences without any inhibitions.
The tour became an annual event and continued to flourish. But despite all of the information available on prevention, cancer was still a very real and tragic part of many people’s lives. It seemed like more could be done to help, and an increasing number of new ideas and friends were turning up to offer their services. It was time to step it up one more time.
THE DREAM.LOVE.CURE. CENTRE (DREAM)
For years now Skate4Cancer has put all of their energy into promoting prevention as a first step in dealing with cancer, but the world isn’t perfect and every year countless people are diagnosed with the terrible disease. Hearing those words from the doctor is a devastating experience not only for the patient but also their close friends and family. Often after receiving that kind of news the individual suffers a huge loss of understanding and communication in the struggle to deal it, and without a strong support system they risk falling into a very dark place.
That’s why our current focus has been shifted primarily toward building a physical home for the positive community and energy we’re so well known for. A centre where anybody dealing with the complications of cancer can come hang, read up or just chill in an environment designed to be supportive and safe. We want a spot where everyone can be vulnerable, reveal their pain, open up their heart and let in the light. A place for healing. A place for starting fresh.
Because nobody is naturally equipped to handle the destructive nature of such an intense disease, we aspire to create a community centre geared toward empowering and lifting up youth in their time of crisis. Taking an impossible situation and transforming it into positive change is what we do best and fostering that attitude in others can only lead to beautiful things.
People who drop by the DREAM.LOVE.CURE Centre will be able to take part in a bunch of different programs, group discussions and informal counselling. There will be places to chill and have a couple laughs as well as opportunities to volunteer and work on sweet events to get people stoked. With an emphasis on involvement at a grassroots level, we plan on offering respite to those struggling with their challenges while simultaneously nurturing any seed of positivity into a healthy and realistic plan of action.
SO THE STORY GOES…
It’s been a crazy ride filled with challenges, adventures, new friends and so much love. But after 8 years of making sure to focus on what can be done instead of what can’t, Rob Dyer’s dream has transformed into a dynamic reality, never looking back, always cruising forward.
Come hang with us. Bring your ideas, bring your energy, bring your successes and failures, your strength, your hurt, but above all else, bring your heart. Welcome to DREAM.LOVE.CURE.
- Skate 4 Cancer