Clarissa Alvarado was 34 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2013.
As a runner with a competitive spirit — she had just completed the Houston Marathon when she was diagnosed — she set her mind to beating the disease.
But it was in the survivor phase, after being declared disease-free, that Alvarado had a tough time adjusting to her new life.
She found that she missed the peace of mind that came with seeing doctors every week and that jumping back into her old life was tiring. Her job as a high school administrator was much more difficult than she remembered, she said, and it physically and mentally drained her.
Then a social worker at the Texas Oncology Center introduced her to the Flatwater Foundation, a nonprofit that provides access to mental health support for people affected by cancer.
The event, sponsored by Tyler’s athletics store, is a 21-mile paddle on Lake Austin from Mansfield Dam to Tom Miller Dam that raises money for the Flatwater Foundation. This year, 160 paddleboarders will make the trek in an effort to raise $500,000 for the group.
“So much of my journey and so much of my healing came through the efforts of the Flatwater Foundation. That was one of the main reasons I said when the next paddle came out, I really want to participate,” Alvarado said. “I wanted to give back.”