Soul Of Surfing: Fighting Cancer With Surfing

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This is a story about Philippe and Sofie. The video tells their fight against cancer and how surfing influenced their lives. These are the words of PHILIPPE ROOSE:

My upbringing you could say was very difficult for a child. My dad had a Cerebral haemorrhage and I found him when I came back from school. He had throat cancer and when I turned 18 he died and suffered with all the consequences from the pain.

My mom needed to work so I was alone a lot at home. Luckily, I did a lot of sports, but I didn’t really enjoy that part of life. Because I had a lot of problems at school searching for my personality to try and find my place in the world. But I managed well I think. I tried to stay on my feet and not in the streets with drugs and vandalism. Because it was so easy to get into that spiral, like so many of the people I grew up with.

I learned one big thing in life. To survive mentally, I made a castle around my emotions so nobody could hurt me more then I already was. Then at the end I made the choice to do something right.
We led a “normal” life. When I say ‘’we’’ I mean me and my childhood sweetheart Sofie. We had our apartment in Ostend, by the sea in of Belgium. I was independent and worked in construction so I did decoration, painting, floors, walls, ceiling. Me and Sofie where sponsored for longboard skating by a local surf shop ‘Medusa’. We went away on a team trip, where I became a victim of unprovoked and violent attack. I got jumped by a gang of 9 people. They kicked me in my head, without reason. I remember laying bloody on the ground and in tears. I was independent, I had to go to work but my nose was broken my eyes where swollen and my mouth and lips where severely damaged. So I could not work. I had to go to the doctor, where they examined me, in case I had a concussion, . They put me under the scanner, but instead, what they found shocked the doctors and changed my life forever. They found a tumor in my brain. It was 4cm x 4cm.

The doctors sat me down and broke the news that I have brain cancer. An unhealable form, called Oligo-Astro Cytoma. It was like I was there, in the room with the doctors, but everything disappeared around me and went quiet. I became lost within my own mind. Since 2013 I have had 2 major surgeries, 1-time radiation. The chemotherapy does not react on my type of cancer… Now it’s “stable” so I live from scan to scan this year. it’s the first time I’m having 1 year between the scans but it’s scary because I don’t know what’s going to happen. The only medicine I use is CBD drops…

With this cancer you have 4 grades of them and on the 25/09/2013 was my first operation and they did a Neurochirurgie (I don’t know the word in English) operation and they took out a grade 3-2 so the outside wall of the tumor was a grade 3 and the core was a grade 2 so it needed a treatment of grade 3, so I needed radiation treatment, everyday for a half hour for 90 days.

After 1 year of sitting at home because I can’t work anymore because I have problems with concentration, stress, short term memory loss. Me and Sofie where thinking ‘’okay I’m not going to wait till I die. I want to enjoy something in life.’’ So, we decided to buy a campervan and start travelling the world. I learned how to surf and to start living healthy. Luckily, I learned to surf in 2013. As corny as it may sound, but surfing has saved my life and is the best treatment. Surfing helped me through the process of coping with the sickness, along with my beautiful Sofie. Since 2013 we live in our van. But travel back home for scans and tests when needed….

In the beginning I was always doubting about the results of the scan and after 1.5year they discovered a new tumor so I needed another surgery. After my second operation I asked Sofie to marry me because she had to cope with so much and our love for each other is strong. We went traveling for our honeymoon. We went to Sri Lanka, Maldives, Indo and Thailand with our backpacks. But the saddest part of going away was we had to leave our dog at home.

We travel with our van to everywhere we can surf. France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, UK. I find traveling so fascinating because you learn a lot about people, life, nature and cultures. But most of all respect of other people.

So when we travelled with our van we met a guy, Alex from the Ministry of Stoke in Germany. He was also roadtrippin and he told me his story, he has his own longboard magazine ‘’40 inch’’ and he was inspired by our story so he wrote about us in his magazine, and we are in the ministry of stoke now where we help sometimes with events, like the ISPO in Munich. I then received a sponsor Urban Beach and Osprey from the UK and now we are travelling for surf and sporting. Every day we go running or biking in combination with surfing or longboard skating or surf-skate.

We want to do something good for the sick people so we are going to look to start a non-profit association, do events and try to collect money for good charities like cancer foundations. I want to share my story with people who are in a negative spiral, just like I was after my diagnosis. But that is still far from us. Because everything needs to go slow for me because I get stressed out when there is too much going on, due to the cancer. A positive outlook on life can and will help keep you alive. And I learned that that is the easiest thing to do. Instead of being negative sitting at home in a corner and crying. You can lead a much better and more fulfilled life, no matter your circumstance. Of course, surfing in the beginning is expensive, but you can go explore the world with not that much input of money…

I want to try and make a big network so I can share my thoughts and hopefully someone will believe in us and help support us. But I think I am still here on this beautiful earth for a reason and I’m still searching to understand what that reason is. We live on a small income so it’s hard these days to do something with nothing. For example, the reason we came to Portugal was to find a piece of land to try to build an eco-camp to help sick people through sports and surfing. But we realise that that’s so much stress with laws and permissions and also financially.
We are just 2 individuals with good intentions to help people and they only speak Portuguese, it’s so hard that we had to lower our standards and try to do the association non-profit, because we can first try to make a name for ourselves, find sponsors who believe in us and want to help.

Alex from the ministry wants to help us, but he is in Germany. So, in September we go there and we will see why it’s still far from us and I try not to think too much about it because over thinking gives me so much stress and can make me sick. I think of something and I do the things I need to do and it was okay, but now I can’t process so many things anymore. Every step I do sometimes I need to take 2 backwards to follow you understand?

The healing power of the ocean is incredible. The first time I heard I needed surgery in my head I was so scared, I thought I would die. Then I went to a friend, in France, Hannes Hamilton, who later became the best man at my wedding, he was head surf coach in a Surf Camp. He invited me in July and August to surf with him for the first time. My operation was in September. Luckily, I had some support of the Medusa Surf Shop and family and friends. So, he took me with him surfing, he instructed me in the water side by side. After this I was sold and told myself and everyone around me that I didn’t care anymore about the operation. I was only thinking ‘’when can I do this again’’. So, I trained hard. I did the operation and it was the scariest thing in my life. Normally you can’t go in the water for 6 weeks after because of the scars. But after 5 weeks my mother in law took us to Morocco where we surfed for 2 weeks and after that I started my radiation. Because in the beginning I was given 3 months to live due to the size of the tumor, doctors where scared that I would have an epileptic attack that I wouldn’t survive luckily, they found it on time.
But my psychiatrist tells me I am crazy haha. Because she says normally people in your situation don’t think about work anymore and I want to do something for other people and try and live every day to the max. I have been seeing the same psychiatrist since I was 13 years old. She was also my rock during my youth. She always knows what’s wrong with me without me even saying a word. I don’t like to look back at my youth. I had good times but they don’t win from the bad times.

I’m scared to think about the future. I try my best not to. I am so happy to wake up every morning beside the most beautiful women in the world. Sofie is my biggest rock and my best friend she also had to learn to live with the sickness living inside me. She also deserves a lot of credits, without her I wouldn’t be here anymore because I had to cope with so many negative thoughts, depressions and sick of my life. Death is something that we will all have to come to terms with eventually in our lives and I have learnt that I need to accept it. But acceptance is not always easy, because the tumor is in the front of my brain and it changes my emotions, stress and handling of things. That’s why I’m sometimes in my own world when I am sitting in a group of people, but I’m not there, I am a thousand miles away. Before I go, I want to do something good for people but at the other side I’m a little bit afraid of doing something wrong.

We love dogs because they are so energetic and so they have so much love in them. We have a boxer called Balou. Every time I’m down he looks at me like everything is going to be okay with his silly head haha and then I start to smile a little inside. It’s the little things in life that can make the biggest difference.

— PHILIPPE ROOSE (BELGIUM)