Origins of Hang Tough Foundation’s “Surfer” Theme

AJ was a Hero that was battling leukemia. One day during treatment he told his mom that he couldn’t do it anymore and that he wanted to stop treatment. He was frustrated and exhausted and told his mom that she didn’t get it and that she would have to let him go. His mom comforted him and told him that they would do everything to get through this. She explained this season of life to her tired child. She told him that she knew that he felt like he was being pounded by waves right now. She went on to tell him that they couldn’t stop the waves so they would have to learn to surf.

Like any child would, AJ asked what would happen if he was too tired to stand on his surfboard. His mother responded by telling him that he should lay on his belly and to use his arms to get over the waves. Of course, he immediately responded and asked what would happen if his arms were too weak and he fell off of his board. AJ’s mom softly explained that he should doggie paddle and fight to stay afloat.

Finally AJ responded with one last question and asked what he should do if he just couldn’t surf anymore and the waves were too big and taking over. What if it felt like he was going under? Tears filled her eyes and an immense love for her son came over her. His mom paused then told him that he should take one last deep breath and call out for help. She promised him that she would paddle over to him, and put him on the surfboard and carry him through.

They often communicated this way when discussing how they each were doing during treatments. Some days they were surfing, other days although weak and tired, they were doggie paddling doing the best they could.

One moment of great struggle came for AJ’s mom as they traveled out of town to receive treatment. AJ asked his mom if she was surfing today. She was very honest and told him that today, she felt like she was going under and crying for help. AJ looked at her and told his mom that he was feeling pretty strong that day and that he would put her on his surfboard so that they could do this together.

AJ is a young adult today and a leukemia survivor.

Stories like this one are so important to Hang Tough Foundation. We strive to provide another surfboard to ride the waves alongside families. When they are weak, we hope to be there to put them on our board and ride the waves together. Hang Tough’s mission is to build community and engage families during their journey with childhood illness and special needs.