Not long ago, Arnie Goodman never would have been up before dawn to watch the sun rise over the city skyline from his sea kayak. "I probably would have been too busy," said the ear, nose and throat doctor. "I would have just gone to work." But now, Goodman, an avid paddler, has come to appreciate life's little pleasures. "It has been a humbling experience," the 50-year-old Tampa resident said. "I have learned to take advantage of every moment."
Goodman grew up in Fort Lauderdale and went to medical school at the University of Miami.
"I worked out like a maniac," he said. "I was always doing something … biking, lifting weights, paddling."
Then one day three years ago after a workout, he felt more tired than usual. Realizing something was not right, Goodman had a blood test.
"That is when I found out that I had multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cell," Goodman said. "It just came out of the blue."
This blood disease is incurable but treatable.
"It changed my life," he said. "I started looking at everything differently. For the first time in my life, I started to slow down."
One day while discussing his predicament with a friend, Goodman heard about a boy who needed a bone marrow transplant.
"The boy was Hispanic, and apparently there was a shortage of bone marrow donors that fit his particular profile," Goodman said. "But instead of feeling sorry for himself, he traveled cross country to raise public awareness."
Goodman thought that if a 12-year-old could do something like that, why couldn't he.
"So I started thinking, what could I do to make a difference," Goodman said. "That is when I decided to put on a kayak race."
The question was where. The Tampa Bay area is known as one of the great paddling destinations in Florida. When most people think of kayaking, they picture Fort DeSoto or Weedon Island, not downtown Tampa.
"But the Hillsborough River has great history," Goodman said as he paddled beneath a bridge covered with graffiti from visiting college crews. "Rowing isn't that much different than paddling."
The Tampa Bay area has had a few kayak races over the years, but none has withstood the test of time. Most have run for a few years, then fizzled out.
"I wanted to start a race that would develop into a yearly event," Goodman said. "There is so much to do in downtown Tampa, so this seemed like the perfect place."
Goodman decided to start his race out of Riverfront Park and follow down the Hillsborough River the training route that college crews from all across the United States have been rowing each spring for decades.
Saturday's Paddle for the Cure will feature two races: a 5-mile course for competitive paddlers at 8 a.m. and a 2-mile family fun paddle at 10:30 a.m. Both courses run down the Hillsborough to Harbor Island and back.
"The response has been phenomenal," said Russell Farrow of Sweetwater Kayaks, which is supplying Goodman with kayaks for those who want to paddle but do not have boats. "This area is in need of a race like this. I hope it continues to grow."
As of Thursday, more than 120 people had signed up for the race. Goodman said he expects to have as many as 200 paddlers on the Hillsborough River on Saturday morning.
"All the proceeds will benefit the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation," Goodman said. "While this disease cannot be cured, it can be treated. If you come out and paddle, you can make a difference."