My name is Igor Alvarez, and I am a kiteboarder and a cancer survivor.
I was just beginning my first semester of P.A. school at MUSC in Charleston, SC when I was diagnosed with Stage 2 testicular cancer. For some reason, my diagnosis was not a shock to me. I was given the option to drop out of school with a guarantee that I would be able to join the upcoming class. For multiple reasons, I continued to attend school full time, scheduling my chemotherapy and surgeries around my classes. During my treatments and hospital stays, I had the honor of meeting others with the cancer diagnosis. These brave woman, children, and men continued on with their daily lives and did not let their situation stop them. So, neither did I and in September of 2014, I graduated with my class.
In the fall of 2013, I had completed chemo and was recovering from a long complicated abdominal surgery when I found out about a new Kiteboarding movie that was premiering in a few weeks. I was stoked to go see the Charleston premiere of With A Kite; to be honest I was not a huge fan of the movie, but it did introduce me to Athletes 4 Cancer (now called Project Koru) and I was immediately interested in the organization. I spent some time looking up what Kiteboarding 4 Cancer and Camp Koru were all about. I quickly decided that I would get involved with the organization with the goal to kite in the following year’s event. Although at the time, I had been a kiteboarder for a few years, between work, school, and no wind, I knew I did not have the skill to compete in the competition. I vowed to myself that I would be well; and a good enough kiteboarder to participate in the next year’s event.
The following year, I registered for the 2014 Kiteboarding 4 Cancer and that July I flew out to the Pacific Northwest to see some great friends and to participate in the my first Kiteboarding event. My first stop was Tacoma, Washington to meet with a good friend who had lost his wife to cancer just earlier that year. I then took the train into Portland to meet up with my best friend. We spent the next two days mountain biking some of the many trails Hood River has to offer. Being in the outdoors and getting to a “normal” routine was instrumental to my recovery.
Prior to being diagnosed, I had organized 3 teams of my fellow PA students to compete in the Marine Corp Mud Run in Colombia, SC. My first surgery was on a Friday 8 days prior to the event. I had the surgery on Friday, went back to school on Monday. The following Saturday with the help of several tubes of Dermabond (medical grade crazy glue) 14 of my classmate plus me completed the course with reputable times.
Anyway, I digress; here I was at the event site for my first ever Kiteboarding competition and it still did not sink in that I was riding in it. I was stoked to just be there, but it was mind blowing to be a part of it. The day before the event, as I was volunteering at the event site, I met my future teammate Brianna Hirsch; it was not until later that I discovered she was the survivor featured in the movie. Brianna introduced me to Steve Fisher (“the lefty to my righty”), and James Erjavec. They adopted me into their team and we became Two Ballers and Two Lymphomas.
Since that year, I have come back to Hood River to participate in Kiteboarding 4 Cancer each year. This November, I look forward to being a camper at Camp Koru; with the ultimate goal of becoming a camp counselor. KB4C is another tool I use to define my fight with cancer. Assigning purposes to my cancer experience has helped heal me and has made me a better person and practitioner. These tools give me the ability to turn my experience into something positive and empowering not only for myself, but for so many other cancer survivors, those fighting other medical battles, family members, and the patients I have the honor of treating in my practice.