Durban surfski paddler Danica Bartho will attempt to become the first women to successfully paddle the 162km from Richards Bay to Durban on 30 October. Motivated by a close friend battling cancer, Bartho will tackle this four day challenge and face unpredictable seas, exhausting distances and an epic battle of mental toughness to draw attention to the PinkDrive.
Dubbed the ‘Lettie Paddle’ campaign, Bartho has been inspired by fellow paddling enthusiast Nikki ‘Lettie’ Heynes – having already overcome breast cancer – is currently fighting a battle against liver, lung and bone cancer. Bartho aims to draw attention to the PinkDrive during breast cancer awareness month and raise money for Heynes’ medical bills.
“Lettie is a phenomenal woman who has touched so many lives and now I have this opportunity to touch hers so it was definitely one I wasn’t going to miss!” explained an enthusiastic Bartho.
“It will obviously be a really tough few days in the ski and who knows what Mother Nature might serve up for us whilst we’re out at sea. I’m sure it’s going to be wild but what an adventure!” she added.
“I’ve been training really hard for this for the past few weeks and with Lettie’s strength and fight as an example, I definitely feel I can achieve what I’ve set out to and, hopefully, that will result in many others supporting the campaign generously,” she added.
Heynes, a wife and mother of three, has endured a difficult journey since first being diagnosed with the disease last year. Despite overcoming the initial attack only to be diagnosed with liver, lung and bone cancer in April 2013, Heynes is determined to face up to and overcome her challenger all over again.
“Lettie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 whilst breastfeeding her youngest child but, after a brave fight, was later deemed to have overcome the cancer,” said Bartho.
“After a lot of pain and discomfort earlier this year Lettie’s, and her family’s, life was then turned upside down for the second time when doctors then discovered the cancer had returned, this time in her lungs, liver and bones.
“Being the most incredible person that she is though and choosing to see cancer as a challenge and not a life sentence, Lettie simply put on her ‘big girl panties’ and again decided to fight the cancer, against all odds! With her unfading faith, unwavering passion for life and never give up attitude, Lettie has risen to the challenge and she really is the most inspirational women I know!
“Currently Lettie’s counts in her liver and lungs are looking great and she recently started her final treatments for the bone cancer so hopefully, aided by the generosity of others, we can assist her in overcoming this final hurdle,” added Bartho.
Despite starting the event as one of only two females taking part in a single surfski (S1), Bartho remains confident and excited by the adventure she is faced with as she looks to complete the 162km ordeal proudly dressed in pink and flying the Lettie Paddle flag high.
Bartho’s mission has struck a chord with fellow paddlers, many of whom have already made donations to her fundraising drive, or have pledged to sponsor her per kilometre of her paddle.
“I have been blown away by the support from the paddling community,” said Bartho. “Cancer doesn’t discriminate, so I would really like to take it as wide as possible to get more people involved before we set off for the paddle on Wednesday 30 October, which will fittingly signal the end of Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Whilst welcoming any contribution others are able to make, Bartho aims to inspire others to motivate someone they know who is fighting cancer through positive actions, facing up to their challenges and embracing a healthy lifestyle.
“Over and above trying to raise money for Lettie, I also really want to move, motivate and inspire people. It’s more than just the money, it’s about helping people believe in themselves and encouraging them to make a difference in others’ lives. I hope that if I can do ‘the impossible’ then they can too. You can do the impossible if you set your mind to it so I challenge everyone out there, let’s not be ordinary, let’s be great and let us all make a difference in whatever way we possibly can!” exclaimed a passionate Bartho.
“If not now, then when? Be the person you have always wanted to be and be that person now! Be great every single day. Don’t be scared to challenge yourself and always strive to live life to the absolute fullest!”