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New York mom describes having a baby after cancer: ‘Science is incredible’

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Source image: https://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/new-york-mom-baby-cancer-science-incredible

A cancer diagnosis, on its own, can be terrifying. 

But for women who are also hoping to start a family, the prospect of not being able to get pregnant on top of a cancer diagnosis can be earth-shattering.

New Yorker Victoria Raphael knew this feeling: At age 33, when she’d been starting to think about having a family, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. 

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Raphael told Fox News Digital that she visited her gynecologist for a routine checkup — and her doctor noticed a suspicious lump.

She was diagnosed with Stage 1A HER2-positive ductal carcinoma in December 2018. Doctors told her that her case was treatable but “growing fast.”

Victoria Raphael of New York with her husband, Neema. The couple have been together for 14 years. She said she became very "emotional" upon learning not just of her cancer diagnosis, but of the risks to her fertility. 

Victoria Raphael of New York with her husband, Neema. The couple have been together for 14 years. She said she became very “emotional” upon learning not just of her cancer diagnosis, but of the risks to her fertility. 
(Victoria Raphael)

“It’s such a shocking experience when you’re going through cancer,” she said. “It’s the realization when they tell you that you can’t carry your kid, or you can’t have your own family.”

She added, “In all the processing of everything that was happening at the time, that was probably the most emotional I got about having a breast cancer diagnosis.”

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Raphael was told she would have time to pursue fertility preservation before starting chemotherapy — and was connected with Dr. Jaime Knopman, a fertility specialist at CCRM in New York. Knopman cares for women looking to preserve their eggs and recommends doing so ahead of cancer treatment.

In an interview with Fox News Digital, Dr. Knopman explained that fertility preservation after a cancer diagnosis can be the answer to a prayer for many future mothers.

Dr. Jaime Knopman is director of fertility preservation at CCRM New York. She herself is a breast cancer survivor. 

Dr. Jaime Knopman is director of fertility preservation at CCRM New York. She herself is a breast cancer survivor. 
(CCRM Fertility)

Cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation and some surgeries, can render women infertile by decreasing or “knocking out” their egg supply, said Knopman. 

“Or for some women, [there’s] just the time factor,” said Knopman, a breast cancer survivor herself. 

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“Because if you’re unable to try and get pregnant for several months or several years, it could be the turning point for your fertility.”

Knopman was able to retrieve 21 eggs — and after genetic testing, eight of Raphael’s eggs were determined to be normal.

Said Victoria Raphael about her personal situation, “I knew if I wanted to think about having a family — which I knew for sure that’s what I wanted to do — that I had this opportunity,” she said. 

“Which I was super grateful my oncologist offered to me.”

Neema and Victoria Raphael together in New York City. After treatment, Raphael is today 100% cancer free. 

Neema and Victoria Raphael together in New York City. After treatment, Raphael is today 100% cancer free. 
(Victoria Raphael)

Knopman was able to retrieve 21 eggs — and after genetic testing, eight of Raphael’s were determined to be normal.

“So, in the end, we had eight embryos on ice and that was after one round,” she said.

Raphael began chemotherapy a few days after her egg retrieval. She has since undergone eight weeks of radiation, two lumpectomies and a breast augmentation.

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Not only is Raphael 100% cancer-free today, but the opportunity to pursue surrogacy with her normal embryos was also a success.

“Fertility preservation in general is such an amazing opportunity and science is incredible.”

The procedure produced a seamless pregnancy — and on Nov. 3, 2021, new mom Raphael welcomed her son, Ezra. 

“He’s a perfect baby,” she said. “He’s amazing.”

At the hospital, Neema and Victoria Raphael celebrate the birth of their son, Ezra, through their surrogate, Kristina Bontrager.

At the hospital, Neema and Victoria Raphael celebrate the birth of their son, Ezra, through their surrogate, Kristina Bontrager.
(Victoria Raphael)

They recently celebrated their son’s first birthday — and now Raphael and her husband of 14 years, Neema, are talking about baby no. 2.

“Fertility preservation in general is such an amazing opportunity and science is incredible,” she said.

How it works

Dr. Knopman broke down the process of egg freezing, which is the same method as IVF.

The patient takes hormonal injections for approximately 10 days while visiting the doctor every two or three days for blood work and ultrasounds.

“During that process, we’re going to get an idea of how the follicles are growing,” she said. 

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“Once those follicles get to be a certain size and once the estrogen level reaches a certain peak, that’s when we trigger maturation of the eggs,” said Dr. Knopman — “and the eggs will be extracted 35 hours later in an operating room.”

“And if they are mature, they’re frozen,” she said.

The extracted eggs are assessed for maturity ahead of freezing, since only mature eggs can be fertilized down the road, Knopman explained.

The extracted eggs are assessed for maturity ahead of freezing, since only mature eggs can be fertilized down the road, Knopman explained.
(iStock)

Knopman noted that the biggest “bummer” of the process is that there’s no way of knowing how many of the eggs that are frozen are of “good quality.”

“But you do it, and you hope that you have a good number based on your age,” she said.

While some women post-cancer can carry their babies on their own, Knopman said that some cancers that are estrogen or progesterone-sensitive, such as breast cancer, make carrying a pregnancy a little more difficult.

Neema and Victoria Raphael welcomed their new baby, Ezra, on Nov. 3, 2021.

Neema and Victoria Raphael welcomed their new baby, Ezra, on Nov. 3, 2021.
(Victoria Raphael)

“Generally, it’s not a great idea to carry, at least within the pretty immediate time period from the diagnosis,” she said. 

“It depends on the type of tumor, if it is hormonally sensitive — and it depends on the age [of a woman] when diagnosed and [her] post-treatment.”

Exploring surrogacy

One option for women who are unable to carry their own pregnancy is surrogacy.

The success rates in surrogacy are “crazy high,” said Knopman, since the embryo is genetically tested to uncover the number of chromosomes present.

This reveals whether an embryo has the true potential to become a viable pregnancy.

Kristina Bontrager stepped in as surrogate for Victoria and Neema Raphael.

Kristina Bontrager stepped in as surrogate for Victoria and Neema Raphael.
(Victoria Raphael)

“Once that embryo then is transferred back into the uterus — the uterus of somebody who’s already carried a pregnancy, and it’s a chromosomally normal embryo — you’re talking about [a] 70%-plus success rate.”

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Raphael said she and her husband interviewed more than 20 surrogacy agencies. They were “mindful” about vetting the correct surrogate, she said.

“It feels a lot like dating,” she added, laughing.

After viewing one particular candidate’s profile through the Center for Surrogate Parenting (CSP), Raphael said she knew that repeat surrogate Kristina Bontrager was the one.

Victoria Raphael told Fox News Digital that she knew Kristina Bontrager would be her surrogate.

Victoria Raphael told Fox News Digital that she knew Kristina Bontrager would be her surrogate.
(Victoria Raphael)

“I knew from that moment that she was going to be part of our family,” she said. 

“Her expertise in the process just made it so much easier for us because we had no idea what we were doing.”

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For others looking to explore surrogacy, Raphael recommended finding an “organic” match who shares the same beliefs in terms of lifestyle and pregnancy.

“[Kristina] was such an amazing force. Her strength and her resilience and her patience … holds a very special place in our hearts.” 

‘Hang in there’

While the process, with all of its steps considered, may seem a bit overwhelming, Knopman said it’s important for women to advocate for themselves.

“In big cities with big cancer hospitals, patients are educated about their options,” she said. 

“But unfortunately, in other parts of the country, people don’t know, so they undergo treatment and then their options [are] significantly reduced.”

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The doctor encouraged all patients to visit their doctor at least for a consult first, without feeling pressured to make the commitment.

Many women are afraid that undergoing this kind of procedure can upstage their cancer or increase their risk of recurrence, but Knopman said this would not be the case.

“We’re going to work as a team to make sure that everything we do is safe for you and your specific diagnosis,” she said.

“The ups and downs are super challenging, nauseating and frightening … but you will become a parent if you just hang in there.”

Raphael encouraged other women in similar situations to “stay positive” and embrace the “love and beauty and light in a really scary time.”

Women helping women

Although fertility preservation is not cheap, Knopman mentioned there are various aid programs available that can significantly reduce the cost.

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Knopman is also chief medical officer of the Chick Mission, an organization that raises money to provide grants to women looking to freeze their eggs ahead of cancer treatment.

Breast cancer survivor Amanda Rice started the mission when she realized how challenging it was for women to freeze their eggs and get the procedures covered.

The organization has so far given out 315 hope grants, with 115 of those distributed in 2022 alone.

Raphael co-founded her own charity, A Damn Good Life, which raises money for family members undergoing breast cancer diagnoses who cannot afford surrogacy. A Damn Good Life will be partnering with Chick Mission to present a grant to their first recipient at the end of the year.

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“There is so much community in women wanting to help other women,” she said.

“And I think asking for help and asking for support doesn’t make you less strong or less able.”

Source: https://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/new-york-mom-baby-cancer-science-incredible

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On this day in history, Feb. 7, 1964, Beatles arrive in US for first time, inspire nationwide mania

The Beatles were greeted by the deafening roar of thousands of screaming fans when they arrived in the United States for the very first time on this day in history, Feb. 7, 1964. 

“When the Beatles arrived in America, it was like seeing a new color for the first time,” a fan said years later. 

Pan Am Flight 101, a Boeing 707, touched down with John, Paul, George and Ringo — the Fab Four still known globally by their first names — at the recently renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City at 1:20 p.m. ET.

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America, reeling in the wake of the assassination of President John Kennedy just 11 weeks earlier, was instantly intoxicated by Beatlemania.

“The pilot [rang] ahead and said, ‘Tell the boys there’s a big crowd waiting for them,’” Paul McCartney said in “The Beatles Anthology.”

UNITED STATES - FEB. 07: (AUSTRALIA OUT): Photo of the Beatles — from left to right, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison — waving at crowds as they arrive at JFK Airport for their first U.S. tour. 

UNITED STATES – FEB. 07: (AUSTRALIA OUT): Photo of the Beatles — from left to right, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison — waving at crowds as they arrive at JFK Airport for their first U.S. tour.  (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)

“We thought, ‘Wow! God, we have really made it.'”

The band would soon dominate global pop music and, in many ways, reshape Western culture for generations to come. 

“We thought, ‘Wow! God, we have really made it.'” — Sir Paul McCartney

“Pandemonium broke out among the stamping, banner-waving fans as The Beatles — John, Paul, George and Ringo — stepped from the plane,” The Daily Mirror of London wrote on its front page the following day, under the lead headline that screamed, “Yeah! Yeah! U.S.A.!”

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“I think the world has gone mad,” the story stated, quoting a New York City police officer who was working crowd control at the airport.  

The Liverpool lads had become superstars in Britain only a year earlier. Their arrival in America brought Beatlemania to an entire new level. It would soon consume pop culture

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 7: Fans scream with excitement at the arrival of The Beatles at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Feb. 7, 1964. 

NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 7: Fans scream with excitement at the arrival of The Beatles at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Feb. 7, 1964.  (CBS via Getty Images)

The Beatles would prove even bigger in the United States than they were in the United Kingdom. 

“America was the best,” Ringo Starr said in “The Beatles Anthology.” “It was a dream, coming from Liverpool.”

The Lovable Mop Tops appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” from Midtown Manhattan two nights later, a landmark moment in American cultural history. 

“America was the best. It was a dream, coming from Liverpool.” — Ringo Starr

Their performance was seen by an estimated 73 million Americans, nearly 40 percent of the entire population of the United States at the time.

The Beatles soon dominated U.S. radio and music charts. 

The Top 5 Billboard hits for the week of April 4 were “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me” — each song by the Beatles.

American television host Ed Sullivan smiles while standing with the Beatles on the set of his television variety series, New York, Feb. 9, 1964. Left to right, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Sullivan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney.

American television host Ed Sullivan smiles while standing with the Beatles on the set of his television variety series, New York, Feb. 9, 1964. Left to right, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Sullivan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney. (Express Newspapers/Getty Images)

The feat of one act owning the top five spots on the American charts has never been duplicated — or even approximated.

America’s obsession with the Beatles has never ended, nearly 53 years since they disbanded. 

“Abbey Road,” the classic Beatles album released in 1969, was the 12th best-selling album in America — in 2022, according to Billboard.

The Beatles returned America’s embrace. 

John Lennon played his prized 1958 Rickenbacker 325 when the Beatles first played

John Lennon played his prized 1958 Rickenbacker 325 when the Beatles first played “The Ed Sullivan Show’ on Sunday, Feb. 9, 1964, from CBS’s Studio 50 in New York City. Three of the four band members are shown here (from left): George Harrison, Ringo Starr (drummer) and John Lennon.  (CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

John Lennon moved to New York City in 1971. He was tragically killed outside his Manhattan home in 1980 by a deranged fan — leading to an instant outpouring of grief in New York and across the nation. 

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“I play here four to five times a week and you see people silently crying to themselves,” New York City musician Jules Avalon told Fox News Digital in December as he performed at Strawberry Fields, a corner of Central Park devoted to Lennon and the Beatles across the street from his murder site.

“‘Abbey Road,’ the classic Beatles album released in 1969, was 12th best-selling album in America in 2022, according to Billboard.”

George Harrison was living in Los Angeles when he died in 2002. 

McCartney and Starr continue to tour the United States. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPT. 15:  Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney attend the World premiere of "The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years" at Odeon Leicester Square on Sept. 15, 2016 in London, England.  

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPT. 15:  Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney attend the World premiere of “The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years” at Odeon Leicester Square on Sept. 15, 2016 in London, England.   (Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)

Fans spontaneously serenaded McCartney with “Happy Birthday” last summer when he performed at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on the eve of his 80th. 

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It appears a new generation of American children will grow up with an appreciation of the Beatles’ sound and their impact on our national heritage. 

John Lennon’s “music made people happy,” Ethan Doyle, 12, of Philadelphia, told Fox News Digital in December outside the Dakota where the musician was murdered, accompanied by his mother, Monique, and brother Brodie, 9. 

The entrance to The Dakota in Manhattan, where John Lennon was murdered in 1980. It's a global pilgrimage site today.

The entrance to The Dakota in Manhattan, where John Lennon was murdered in 1980. It’s a global pilgrimage site today. “This place radiates importance,” Ethan Doyle, right, 12, of Philadelphia, told Fox News Digital on Dec. 7, 2022, the eve of the anniversary of Lennon’s death. He’s pictured with brother Brodie and mom Monique Doyle. (Kerry J. Byrne/FoxNews Digital)

“This place radiates importance.”

At one point during McCartney’s MetLife show last summer, a couple and their three small children — perhaps none older than 8 or 9 — danced gleefully as McCartney performed “Love Me Do.” 

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The young children responded instinctively to the Beatles’ sound — much the way their grandparents did in 1964. 

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Michigan K-9 whose viral mugshot captivated Americans made big busts in his career: ‘Best partner I ever had’

Detective Ice, a Michigan police K-9, took the internet by storm last month after he was accused of stealing a human officer’s lunch.

The Wyandotte Police Department in Wyandotte, Michigan, shared the alleged thief’s mugshot on Facebook, where it went viral – garnering thousands of likes, comments and shares.

As a result of the post, Facebook users came to the defense of the K-9 — with some people even offering their services to “defend” Ice during his investigation. 

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But exactly who is everyone’s favorite furry officer — and what has his life and career been like?

In June 2012, then-10-month-old Ice joined the Wyandotte police force under the supervision of Detective Sergeant Ken Groat.

Detective Ice has been with the Wyandotte Police Department for over 10 years under the supervision of Detective Sergeant Ken Groat.

Detective Ice has been with the Wyandotte Police Department for over 10 years under the supervision of Detective Sergeant Ken Groat. (Ken Groat)

When police K-9s join the force, they have little-to-no training, Groat told Fox News Digital.

“They train the handler and the dog at the same time, so they teach us how to train our dogs,” he said.

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Over the last 10 years, Groat has moved up the ranks from detective to detective sergeant.

Detective Ice "is just like any other house pet," according to his handler, Detective Sergeant Ken Groat.

Detective Ice “is just like any other house pet,” according to his handler, Detective Sergeant Ken Groat. (Ken Groat)

While it’s common for K-9s to retire and stay home when their handler is promoted, Ice was always promoted alongside Groat — and the two were able to continue in their trainings, Groat said.

At age 10, Ice has now found himself semi-retired, so he does not go out on the road as often as he once did.

“Although Ice is getting a little gray in the beard and not on everyday patrol, he’s still very much a part of our department,” Chief Brian Zalewski told Fox News Digital on Jan. 25, as Ice’s mugshot was gaining national news attention.

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“Ice is extremely well-trained and still maintains his K-9 certifications. Ice has assisted dozens of law enforcement agencies over his decade of service,” Zalewski added. 

“He was one of the most requested Police K-9’s for drug search warrants, vehicle searches and suspect tracking.”

Groat was reassigned to the investigation unit due to his promotion — but Ice can always be found in the office welcoming people as they enter.

“I think it’s added to his life that he’s been able to come to work with me [and] keep him active,” Groat commented. 

Adventures worth talking about

While he may not be making as many busts today as he once did, Detective Ice has had some adventures worth telling.

“He’s the best partner I ever had.”

— Detective Sergeant Ken Groat

During an investigation with another jurisdiction, the K-9 located $120,000 in a laundry hamper that was hidden by an apparent suspect, Groat shared.

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“I thought [Ice] was hitting on the odor of drugs on the guy’s clothes … and he actually reached up and pulled the laundry basket down and started digging the clothes out. And then $10,000 [in] bricks of money start flying out with it,” Groat recalled.

Ice is ready for duty when given a command, but he enjoys relaxing on the couch every once in a while, too. 

Ice is ready for duty when given a command, but he enjoys relaxing on the couch every once in a while, too.  (Ken Groat)

One of Groat’s favorite stories involving Ice has to do with the K-9’s ability to bridge gaps between people and law enforcement and help lower an individual’s stress levels

“Everybody loves a dog, [but] not everybody loves the police,” Groat said.

He added that dogs can “mend fences between people and the police.”

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Ice is still an obedient police dog in spite of his recent “crime” — but when he goes home after a long day’s work, “he is just like any other house pet,” he added. 

Detective Ice really is an obedient police dog in spite of allegedly stealing his co-worker's lunch.

Detective Ice really is an obedient police dog in spite of allegedly stealing his co-worker’s lunch. (Wyandotte Police Department/Ken Groat)

Ice is ready for duty when necessary, but quickly jumps back into being “a normal dog until the next job comes up,” Groat said.

He was raised around Groat’s wife and kids; the children have since grown up.

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At home, Ice is very relaxed and laid back, Groat reported — the pooch seems to enjoy cuddling up with a blanket on the couch.

Dogs can “mend fences between people and the police.”

But back in the day, “the minute you opened the door to get him out [of the car], he was very hyper-energetic [and] ready to do work,” Groat said.

Although he may not be as energetic as he once was, Ice appears to continue to bring others joy.

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“He’s the best partner I ever had,” said Groat. 

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Surfer Bethany Hamilton speaks out against new rule allowing transgender women to compete with females

Surfer, mom and book author Bethany Hamilton is speaking out against the World Surf League’s newly announced policy that would allow for male-bodied individuals known as transgender women to compete at the highest level in professional surfing against other women.

The Hawaii-based Hamilton is raising questions about the rules change, asking whether other professional surfers were consulted about it beforehand – and wondering where this will lead.

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She said on her Instagram account in a video this weekend that is now being widely shared, “The World Surf League has officially made the rule that male-bodied individuals known as transgender athletes can officially compete in the women’s division.”

She added, “The World Surf League says they are following the Olympic guidelines.”

She stressed on social media this weekend, “I strive to have love for all of mankind, regardless of any differences.”

But “this concerns me as a professional athlete” who has competed for the past 15-plus years, she added.

“And I feel that I must speak up and stand up” for others who cannot or won’t speak out about this, she said, as they “fear” they might be “ostracized” if they speak out. 

“Is a hormone level an honest and accurate depiction that someone indeed is a male or female? Is it as simple as this?”

“So – here I go,” she said.

“How is this rule playing out in other sports, like swimming, running and MMA?” she asked.

“Have any of the current surfers in the World Surf League been asked what their thoughts and opinions are on this new rule before it was passed or announced? Should there be a conversation?” she added.

Bethany Hamilton experienced a shark attack and lost her arm when she was 13 years old – and still managed to make it as a professional surfer. She's shown here in 2020. Today, she's a wife, mom, book author and surfer. 

Bethany Hamilton experienced a shark attack and lost her arm when she was 13 years old – and still managed to make it as a professional surfer. She’s shown here in 2020. Today, she’s a wife, mom, book author and surfer.  (Matt Dunbar/WSL via Getty Images)

“Is a hormone level an honest and accurate depiction that someone indeed is a male or female? Is it as simple as this?”

She also asked, “Who is pushing for this huge change?… Does this better the sport of surfing? Is this better for the women in surfing? If so, how?”

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She added, “I personally think that the best solution would be to create a different division so that all can have a fair opportunity to showcase their passion and talent – and I think it’s really hard to imagine what the future of women’s surfing will be like in 15-20 years down the road if we move forward allowing this major change.”

She also announced, “I personally won’t be competing in or supporting the World Surf League if this rule remains.”

Trent Talbot, CEO of Brave Books in Texas, which recently published Hamilton’s children’s book, told Fox News Digital on Sunday, “What an act of bravery. I stand with Bethany Hamilton and her choice to not participate in the World Surf League if they allow men to compete in the women’s division.”

“God designed males and females differently with a purpose.”

Talbot added, “God designed males and females differently with a purpose – and when we reject this, we reject God. Men do not belong in women’s sports.”

He also said, “We must take a stand against this progressive movement that would allow men to compete in women’s sports. Thank you, Bethany Hamilton,” he also noted, “for pushing past fear and standing up for what is right.”

Bethany Hamilton is shown with her husband and children recently.

Bethany Hamilton is shown with her husband and children recently. (Bethany Hamilton/Brave Books)

Hamilton’s most recent children’s book is “Surfing Past Fear” (Brave Books, October 2022).

The World Surf League reportedly announced that it’s adopting the International Surfing Association’s (ISA) transgender policy for all of its tours. 

The change is apparently taking effect immediately.

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One of the key changes is as follows: “A surfer assigned male at birth who identifies as a woman and has woman/female on her national identity card or passport is eligible to compete in a men’s event or as a man in a mixed event if she has not met the requirements to compete in a woman’s event (such as maintaining testosterone level less than 5 nmol/l continuously for the previous 12 months).”

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In addition, “A surfer assigned male at birth who identifies as a woman and has man/male or ‘other’ or ‘X’ on their national identity card or passport is eligible to compete in a men’s event or as a man in a mixed event,” as the ISA also says on its website.

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