Having lost a number of friends to cancer already, Charlie Howden was in the midst of planning another $50,000 fundraising adventure when he himself was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer.
“I was coming to the end of a yacht job in March 2012 in Florida, and while on watch, I started looking at one of my favorite places, Costa Rica,” recalls the Briton who’s made his new home in Fort Lauderdale. “Within 20 minutes I had put a route into the navigation system along the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, from its northern border to its Southern, and decided I was one day going to attempt this and raise money for charity.”
While the planning of this venture was well into the works and stand up paddleboard (SUP) was chosen as the method of travel because of his simple love of the sport, Howden found out in August of 2013 of his own diagnosis. Undaunted, the planning for the trip went on. Through the suggestion of a friend, Howden had already chosen the William Guy Forbeck Research Foundation (WGFRF) as the recipient of his fundraiser and now instead of paddling for his lost friends, he was paddling for himself. The WGFRF was established in 1985 and works to promote advances in the field of oncology, particularly pediatric oncology, by shortening the cancer research timetable.
“We’re so humbled and proud to have Charlie help us out like this,” says Jamie Collins, WGFRF’s Executive Director. “His story is as remarkable as his perseverance, mental strength, and generosity. We wish him all the best in his battle against cancer and his heroic efforts in Costa Rica.”
After a year of chemotherapy and a course of radiation, Howden was briefly in remission. But in December they found tumors again, so he’s currently undergoing more chemo. His latest numbers look promising, but scans are pending. He’s been alternating weeks between treatment and training, and of course he’s still planning his paddle trip!
“Throughout all of this, paddling has stayed with me, kept me dreaming and pushing to get back to fitness, and keeping my mind positive. It has kept me strong, and kept my dream alive to raise money for cancer research,” Howden wrote during his brief remission. “It has been become more apparent to me to live my life. No point about wondering what effect this disease will have on me. As my fiancé reminds me, ‘you could be hit by a bus tomorrow.’ Now, by no means am I back to 100%, back to my normal self, but aren’t most things that really matter always a challenge?”
And so, in late April, 2014 (actual date TBD) Charlie Howden, his body wracked from cancer and chemo, but his spirit stronger and more determined than ever, will head south from the northern tip of Costa Rica, paddling 25-30 miles a day for approximately 12 days to the southern tip. The money raised – his goal is $50,000 through this venture – will hopefully help other cancer patients live to see their own dreams fulfilled.