Imagine the shock a person goes through when given a cancer diagnosis. The overwhelming burden of the unknown is an emotion only those who’ve experienced the harrowing news can know. In 2009, surfer Nathaniel Curran and Matt Coulter found themselves in a helpless situation of not knowing where to turn when a loved one was diagnosed. The two quickly realized that it takes bravery, love and support from others to endure such a battle and established The Young and Brave to help families deal with the devastating blow. Their motto is “Love Beats Cancer” and their goal is to make sure nobody fights cancer alone. From Young and Brave’s mission statement, “You don’t ever prepare for cancer, so from day one we’re the go-to resource.”
Surfer, photographer, current cancer warrior and Young and Brave ambassador Lyon Herron has spent nearly 22 years of his life bravely fighting a rare form of cancer. The Malibu local started clinical chemo at 11 years old, and his mom would take him surfing after each treatment. While recovering from a surgery at the age of 15, Herron picked up a camera and fell in love with capturing a moment in time through his eyes. Herron used photography as an escape and eventually turned it into his career. SURFER caught up with Herron, who is currently in Mexico receiving alternative treatment for his cancer recurrence, to talk about the Young and Brave.
Give me a breakdown of how Young and Brave provides support for families of cancer patients.
Young and Brave to me is the support group that families need when a diagnosis first takes place. Young and Brave establishes the comfort for families, which, to me, is huge because when you're diagnosed with something it's extremely frightening. There's a dark zone, there's no knowledge going into a diagnosis and Young and Brave will relieve that for families with comfort, love, awareness, raising money, whatever they might need. I've been fortunate enough to be a Young and Brave warrior, then an ambassador, and now back to a warrior while maintaining that ambassador role to show younger kids that anything is possible. It's an inspirational thing they do with the events where you get to meet the families and the kids going through cancer. It's an amazing program.
You have a rare form of cancer right?
Yes, very rare. My exact cancer mutation is 1 in 300,000,000. It's wild but it's given me a sense of gratefulness for the life I've been able to live and everything I've been able to do. You can look at cancer multiple ways: as a negative, a positive or as an adventure. I see it as an adventure. Personally, I like to stay optimistic and positive and know that I'm going through this for a reason. I find positives in all the negatives because if I live in a world of negatives then I'm not alive. I have to remember that positivity is my main form of treatment.
How can people who don’t know much about cancer be supportive to those going through it?
Show love and positivity. Don't ever show fear to a person going through cancer. If someone shows fear and is pessimistic towards the situation, I feel like that is the worst possible thing you can do to anyone going through this. You always want to be giving as much love, support and comfort as possible, whatever that may look like for the person. For anyone meeting someone going through cancer, just show unconditional love and support. Make sure that person is comfortable with everything that they're going through and that it's ok for them to go through cancer and that they can beat it.
What role has surfing played in your fight?
When I was young, 11 years-old, I was doing clinical chemo once a week in the hospital. After chemo I would go surf. Photography is my passion and my career but surfing is the thing I love the most. My mom took me in the ocean when I was two weeks old and I spent every day at the beach until I was 5 when I started going to school. Coming from Malibu I'm gifted with really fun waves and I think that surfing has been my biggest release. It's given me so much joy and happiness, especially when I'm going through things that are the opposite of that. Last time when I was going through chemo I couldn't surf for three months because my extremities would hurt really bad and I couldn't be in the sun because my skin was super sensitive. The first day I could surf I went out in the morning before the sun came up with a hood and ton of sunblock. My first wave was a super fun left. I remember it so vividly because when I kicked out I started crying, surfing brings me that much joy and happiness. My world revolves around the ocean, it always has and I hope it always will.
As an ambassador for the Young and Brave, is it rewarding to be able to inform families of newly diagnosed cancer patients about the power of love and positivity in the battle against cancer?
I've been dealing with cancer for a long time–22 years of my life. Being able to talk to families who are dealing with really tough times is rewarding but not like an ego or self-rewarding kind of feeling. It's more soul-rewarding, being able to transmit the knowledge I've gained from what I've gone through to another warrior. That is priceless; being able to share the power from within is something that is so strong and not too many people get to see all the time. People sometimes look at it with fear or think the doctors have all the power but we have the opportunity to beat this from within, people have to tap into that and show other patients that it's possible. To me that's the greatest and most rewarding feeling.
For more about the Young and Brave click here.
To read the Young and Brave warriors’ stories click here.
For Lyon Herron’s photography click here.
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