Soon after Lou Chanove’s 19-year-old son was diagnosed with a rare type of eye cancer in October, he and his family decided to raise awareness of the disease and help find a cure by organizing a fundraiser to benefit choroidal melanoma research.
After experiencing blurred vision and problems with balance, Hunter, known as Vegas by friends and family, was tested and diagnosed with choroidal melanoma, a tumor in the blood vessel layer at the back of his eye. Chanove said he and his wife, an ophthalmic surgical technician, weren’t aware of the signs and just thought his contacts were too tight.
“We were completely blindsided by it,” Chanove said. “We weren’t expecting this at all.”
At the time of his diagnosis, Hunter, a water polo player and avid surfer who graduated from Carlsbad High School in 2011, had been selected to enter Marine Corps Officer Candidates School in the summer of 2013. An Honors student with a 4.0 GPA, Hunter had to decline the offer and now spends much of his time today attending Cal State University San Marcos, where he is double majoring in communications and kinesiology, and minoring in Spanish.
“He had to give up the Marine Corps because of this disease but he’s still active in school,” Chanove said. “He knows what he has and he really doesn’t like talking about it. He’s focused on going forward with it.”
Hunter and his family have also focused much of their time organizing the first Stand Up Paddle Boarding Day for a Cure for Hunter Chanove on Feb. 16. Chanove said all of the funds raised at the fundraiser, which will take place at the Agua Hedionda Lagoon on Bayshore Drive in Carlsbad, will benefit Dr. Jonathan Kim and his colleagues at The Vision Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Kim's team is working with the physicians and research scientists in the hospital’s Saban Research Institute to examine new systematic treatment options for patients diagnosed with eye cancers. These will include the use of nanotechnology for treatment of ocular melanoma and the study of the genetics and progression of tumorigenesis in ocular melanoma cells.
“Right away we went from shock to let’s do something about it,” Chanove said. “We want to find a cure because there is no cure.”
In a letter to fundraiser supporters, Hunter explained Kim said this type of cancer is aggressive and may have a high risk of spreading to his liver and possibly different parts of his body.
“The moment I heard I had cancer was just mind blowing,” Hunter said in the letter. “Unfortunately, there is no cure, but there is hope.”
Chanove encouraged community members to come out to the fundraiser, where attendees can participate in stand up paddle boarding activities, learn the sport and even win a board. He also thanked the people of Carlsbad for the support the community has already shown his family.
“Carlsbad has been a family to us,” he said. “We’ve seen how closely knit this entire city is.”
The Stand Up Paddle Boarding Day fundraiser will begin 10 a.m. Saturday at the Agua Hedionda Lagoon on Bayshore Drive in Carlsbad. To donate online, visit the “Ways to Give” page at CHLA.org, click "Donate Today," select the donation amount desired, and specify you would like your donation directed to “Vision” and “Dr. Jonathan Kim.”