Chris is a cool dude. He is a Jacksonville Beach native who loves surfing, John F. Kennedy, writing thought-provoking blog entries, and getting the most out of his time at the University of Florida. But after just one semester on campus, Chris was diagnosed with Stage III Hodgkin’s lymphoma – cancer.
Chris found out he had cancer just two days before Christmas on December 23, 2013. He was only 18 years old. Instead of taking classes in the spring semester, he received chemo every two weeks for six months.
Back in Jacksonville and living with his parents, Chris began his long and challenging battle with cancer. With each treatment, he felt tired and nauseated for several days. As soon as he started feeling better, he had to return to Mayo Clinic for another round of chemotherapy. The months droned on.
During his treatment, Chris met one of our founders, Todd. The two quickly bonded over attending the University Florida, surfing, and growing up in Jacksonville. After their conversation, we knew we wanted to send Chris on the surf trip of a lifetime when he finished treatment.
After six long months of chemotherapy, Chris found out the best news ever – his cancer had gone into remission. He was cancer-free. Chris was able to return to UF for the fall semester and enjoy football games, fraternity parties, and oh yeah… school.
As fall semester came to an end, Chris came home for winter break. It was a bitter-sweet home coming. While Chris loves spending time with his family and friends in Jacksonville, he was coming up on the one year anniversary of his diagnosis.
We decided the best way to recognize this important day was to celebrate Chris’s triumph over cancer with a holiday surprise like no other. On live TV, we told Chris we were going to send him and his brother, Michael, to Pavones, Costa Rica for an epic surf vacation. Not only that, but we surprised Chris with a custom hand-shaped “Live For Today” surfboard from local shaper, Mike Whisnant.
I’m like geeking out right now! (after receiving his new surfboard on live TV)
The day after Christmas, the brothers took off for Costa Rica. For five days, they were set up at an oceanfront estate, Pavones Rancho Cannatella. Every morning, they woke up to a chef-made locally sourced breakfast – like a farm-fresh egg omelet with local greens served aside Gallo Pinto – all cooked by chef and host, Blakely Stein. Chris told us, “I need a signed copy of her cookbook the second [Blakely’s] done with it. She’s an unbelievable cook.”
After breakfast, the days were filled with surfing some of finest surf breaks in the world – all within walking distance. But don’t take our word for it, take Chris’s or watch the amazing video of his life adventure below.
One of the spots we went to, you’re literally staring at this mountain and there was a rainbow – it was sensory overload. We couldn’t even pay attention to the waves, haha!
All of us at Live For Today are incredibly glad that Chris is healthy, back in college, and now has wonderful memories of days abroad, in the surf. Best of luck to you for everything in your future Chris! We are all rooting for you.
A big thank you to all of our donors and contributors – like Mike Whisnant, Blakely Stein, Brittany Castillo Photography, Sunrise Surf Shop, News 4 Jax WJXT, and more – for helping make this Life Adventure a reality.