Cedar Rapids resident to bicycle 4,000 miles to fundraise for cancer research

Catherine Butschi of Cedar Rapids, one of about 70 students bicycling more than 4,000 miles to raise money for cancer research, stopped in Iowa City with her teammates Tuesday night. She wanted to talk with Iowans about cancer prevention.

Texas 4000, launched in 2004 by a pair of University of Texas students, is the longest annual charity ride in the world, according to the program website. Riders seek to uphold the program’s tenets of spreading hope, knowledge and charity in the fight against cancer along their route from Austin, Texas, to Anchorage, Alaska.

Butschi, who graduated this spring with a degree in accounting from the University of Texas, applied for the ride after a friend who completed the trek in 2015 told Butschi the experience was life-changing.

Riders have cycled more than 2,000 miles since they set out for Alaska about 30 days ago. They have raised more than $600,000 for cancer research and support and hosted educational programs about cancer prevention in communities along the way.

Their longest days require more than 100 miles of biking, Butschi said. Participants camp or sometimes stay in schools, churches and host homes along the route.

The cause makes the challenge of the past month well worth the effort, Butschi said.

“We meet these kids who are in hospitals … and I’m sure they want to be outside on bikes all day, so we do it for them,” she said.

Teammate Riddhi Patodia, a medical student, will complete the 4,000-mile ride while applying to medical schools. She said thinking of her dad inspires her to keep cycling through mental and physical exhaustion. He is going through cancer treatment.

Along the way, riders meet other people whose lives have been affected by cancer. At Tuesday’s stop, Iowa City residents Pam and Brian Codd and their two sons told riders about their son Dashiell Maccabee Codd, who was diagnosed with a rare liver cancer in 2012 and died in 2013 at age 5.

“It’s still very challenging to share his story,” Pam Codd said. “But it’s so important for people to understand.”

Dashiell, a lively boy whom Pam Codd said most enjoyed being loved and loving others, first was diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer. But after surgeries, several rounds of treatment and a liver transplant, doctors realized his cancer was terminal.

The family donated Dashiell’s tumors to research. He is one of three people in the world with the same type of cancer who have donated tissues, and researchers have used these samples to test targeted treatments, Pam Codd said.

“That’s a very special gift for a 5-year-old to give,” she said.

Though telling their son’s story never gets easier, Pam Codd said the family is involved with several organizations, including Dance Marathon and the Make a Wish Foundation to raise awareness and try to turn tragedy into something positive.

Participants say stories such as these make it easy to stay motivated during the long ride.

“These patients don’t get to choose when they have to fight, so neither do we,” Patodia said. “That’s why we keep riding.”

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