Sunday, June 17, 2018
Health

Paddleboard becomes weapon against cancer

TREASURE ISLAND

Gene Evans will celebrate more than two years of being cancer-free on Saturday with fellow paddleboard enthusiasts, raising money to fight the disease.

Evans — atop his black and yellow paddleboard — will lead 150 or so paddlers around Treasure Island on two routes to raise money for cancer research. The third annual Paddle Against Cancer also will be a celebration of Evans' successful battle against kidney cancer.

It's hard to believe that the 52-year-old, physically fit Sunset Beach resident has survived four surgeries and two rounds of radiation treatment. In college, he played basketball at East Carolina University as a walk-on and then spent a number of years playing semipro beach volleyball in Florida.

"I'm lucky," Evans now says. But he didn't think so when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in 2009.

"I remember thinking, 'I'm going to die," ' he said. He was 48 at the time and thought, "I'm not going to make it to 50."

Evans learned he had a tumor on his right kidney that had spread to his vertebrae. During his first surgery at Moffitt Cancer Center, doctors had to remove a rib and collapse a lung to stabilize his spine by installing a titanium cage. They removed his kidney six weeks later and a tumor on his spine.

It all came as a shock to the self-professed fitness nut who had always been healthy. A long-time surfer, Evans got hooked on the sport of paddleboarding after a vacation trip six years ago to the Outer Banks in North Carolina.

In fact, he says paddling helped detect his cancer.

"I started feeling a dull pain in my back. I thought it might be kidney stones," Evans said.

There is cancer in his family history. His grandmother, mother and sister all had breast cancer. He also wonders if his father's deployment at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he lived as a child, might have had an influence. Contaminated drinking water at the base has been linked to cancer in residents there.

Evans was sure about one thing after his cancer treatment: He didn't want to focus on the negative.

"I promised not to ask 'Why me?' " he said. "I try to focus on what I can do every day to get better, stay strong."

Four months after his last surgery in 2011, he hastily organized and held his first Paddle Against Cancer event. With 43 paddleboarders, he raised $17,000, far exceeding his original estimate of $2,000 to $3,000.

The fundraiser has now become a Memorial Day weekend event. Last year, 165 people raised $22,000 for Moffitt. The race begins and ends at the Club at Treasure Island, just off the Treasure Island Causeway. Paddlers who make at least a $35 donation can choose from a 3- or 7-mile course. It begins at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and the race ends with a poolside celebration open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. with music, giveaways and free paddleboard demonstrations.

Evans, a senior vice president at USAmeriBank in Clearwater, has also become an inspirational speaker. He has spoken to Moffitt's board of directors at its annual retreat in 2012 and at the Relay for Life survivor dinner at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg on Friday.

Brad McMurtrey, president of USAmeriBank who has worked with Evans for years, applauded him for how he reacted to his diagnosis.

"He handled it with a lot of courage," McMurtrey said. "He was able to communicate with us about it and worked as much as he could while he was going through it."

Friend and co-worker John Connelly with Connelly, Carlisle, Fields & Nichols, the insurance division of USAmeriBank, said the way Evans has handled his cancer has been amazing.

"His mental attitude is one of the most incredible things I've ever witnessed," Connelly said. "He was always upbeat and confident things were going to work out. He's had a lot of success in business and sports and I think that's given him a lot of confidence."

Evans' insistence on giving back after staving off cancer has impressed Connelly even more.

"A lot of people get better, thank their doctor and move on," he said. "Not Gene, and that says a lot about his character. He wants to give back for the miracle he thinks he received."

Although it appears he has beaten the odds, Evans' diagnosis has profoundly changed his life.

"Once you are diagnosed, you are married to it," he said. "It is always there, but it inspires me to keep working hard."

   
Comments
Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

The extensive government trial was intended to settle an age-old question about alcohol and diet: Does a daily cocktail or beer really protect against heart attacks and stroke?To find out, the National Institutes of Health gave scientists $100 millio...
Published: 06/16/18
More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults are taking prescription drugs, including hormones for contraception, blood pressure medications and medicines for heartburn, that carry a potential risk of depression, according to a study published in the Journal...
Published: 06/12/18
It’s time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

It’s time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

Courtney Bilyeu was running toward the murky water alongside a few military officers when it happened.She was an accountant for the U.S. Navy at the time. And on her way to take a swim with some coworkers in a California beach, she saw blood. The wat...
Published: 06/12/18
It’s important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

It’s important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

The next time you head to the drugstore to buy sunscreen, don’t forget to pick up some sunglasses, too. That’s because both products work to protect your body from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.Wearing sunglasses for protection should not be re...
Published: 06/09/18
In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

ST. PETERSBURG — Kidney disease doesn’t discriminate.The crowd of more than 200 patients who gathered at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort range in age from teenagers to seniors. They are of different ethnicities and come from all over the...
Published: 06/08/18
Mayo Clinic Q&A: melanomas of the eye; how long should you take a beta blocker?

Mayo Clinic Q&A: melanomas of the eye; how long should you take a beta blocker?

YES, MELANOMAS CAN BEGIN IN THE EYEIs it true that melanoma can develop in the eyes? If so, how common is it? How is it treated?Melanomas can begin in the eye, a condition called intraocular melanoma. Treatment for intraocular melanomas used to prima...
Published: 06/08/18
For writer, using a heart rate monitor takes HIIT from frightening to fun

For writer, using a heart rate monitor takes HIIT from frightening to fun

High-intensity interval training is one of the biggest trends in fitness, but it has always seemed a bit scary to me. To a mere mortal with achy knees and an aging body, even the acronym — HIIT — sounded intimidating.But recently, I overcame my fears...
Published: 06/08/18
Enjoy broccolini the Italian way: ‘dragged’

Enjoy broccolini the Italian way: ‘dragged’

By KATIE WORKMANOne of the amazing things about Italian food is that the best dishes are often so completely, refreshingly simple. Like, four-ingredient simple. (We don’t count olive oil and salt. Or water. Or air.) I love broccoli. I can roast brocc...
Published: 06/08/18
What to get Dad? Try a Father’s Day gift that will do him good

What to get Dad? Try a Father’s Day gift that will do him good

Dads are notoriously tough to shop for. They’re not all that great at dropping hints, the way moms do, and if you ask what your dad might want or need for Father’s Day, he’ll likely say, "Nothing" or "Don’t spend your money" or "I just want to be wit...
Published: 06/08/18
Tampa council hears mixed messages on free-roaming roosters in Ybor City

Tampa council hears mixed messages on free-roaming roosters in Ybor City

TAMPA — Ybor City roosters and chickens can peck away in peace. For now.The Tampa City Council asked city attorneys and code enforcement officials Thursday to continue studying how to reduce the growing flock in the city’s historic heart, but no acti...
Published: 06/07/18