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Surfs up ... and so is life

Pamela Clark surfs her way into cancer remission and into being a new mom
by: Vern Uyetake, 
Lake Oswego’s Pamela Clark discovered surfing back in 2002, and the sport has become a significant part of her life ever since.

Pamela Clark found her passion in life less than a year before it was nearly taken away from her permanently.

In August of 2002 she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease and endured six months of chemotherapy, sending the ailment into remission for nearly a year. Then, in December of 2003, the cancer returned and, this time, a bone marrow transplant was deemed necessary.

Clark received the transplant in April of 2004 and was told that, in most cases, it takes a full year to recover from the arduous treatment.

And, for most people, that is exactly how long it takes. But, not long after Clark's transplant, she began to yearn for the ocean. Just months before her original diagnosis, Clark discovered surfing, taking a board out into the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

'It's almost like a drug addiction. When I first touched the board I just knew. I can't imagine not surfing,' Clark said.

Hodgkin's disease kept her out of the water for the better part of two years and, just 55 days after her transplant, Clark figured that she had put in enough time recovering.

So, unbeknownst to her husband and to any doctors who knew her condition, Clark packed up her board and drove to the beach.

She picked Indian Beach near Ecola State Park.

'There's always a lot of people there so if I blacked out I knew someone would probably be there to help me,' Clark said.

And that wasn't the only potential hazard that Clark could potentially face.

'After a transplant your immune system is compromised so doctors don't advise people getting in the ocean because it can be polluted. But in Oregon we're lucky because the water quality is so high,' Clark said.

But not only did Clark stay conscious, she got up on her board and rediscovered what it was that originally made her want to make surfing a full-time enterprise.

It has now been three years since the transplant and there has been no sign of Clark's cancer returning. She has lived in Lake Oswego for five years with her husband of 17 years, Rod.

The two were high school sweethearts and married the day after their high school graduation.

Recently, another development has eaten into the amount of time that Clark can spend surfing. The Clarks adopted a baby girl, Julia, in September in what turned out to be a whirlwind adventure.

The pair had been working with an agency when they were suddenly contacted and told that a girl had been born who was to be put up for adoption.

They had six hours to get ready for the new addition and select the baby's name, Julia.

'It's really a dream come true,' Clark said.

Julia has already been to the beach on multiple occasions, and Clark believes that she has taken a liking to it.

Currently, Clark is the president of the Oregon Program Evaluators Network, a non-profit group or researchers. She has also been working with cancer groups to help create awareness and raise money for research.

Clark recently did promotional work for the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and, this summer, she will help out the American Cancer Society through the second annual Lake Oswego Relay for Life.

Clark will speak at the event's kick-off party on March 12 and is also on a team for the overnight fundraiser, which will take place at Lake Oswego High School in July.

'It's a great community-wide event and I'm glad I can do it this year. Last year I missed out because I was surfing,' Clark said with a laugh.

But Clark isn't letting her busy schedule keep her off her surfboard. She plans to compete in a few surfing events over the summer and judge some as well.

The family will make a summer road trip to the Santa Cruz longboard invitational, one of the longest running surf contests in the country.

And Clark expects to continue making as many trips to the beach as she can, no matter what else life might throw her way.

'Now, instead of Hodgkin's, it'll be a shark attack that's going to kill me,' she joked.