Pflugerville High grad cycling 4,000 miles to fight cancer

newsEngin.18447232_Picture-2The 2017 Texas 4000 team celebrates after completing its first 100-mile training day. There are more to come in preparation for a trek from Central Texas to Alaska in June.

Adrian Rios’ life turned upside down when his mother was diagnosed with a non-cancerous but inoperable brain tumor a few years ago.

All seemed hopeless as the tight-knit family of four, whose extended family lives in Puerto Rico, prepared to say goodbye to their matriarch. Then medical staff at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston offered Bruny Rios an experimental surgery that could give her a second lease on life.

“They removed over 99 percent of the tumor and she is still alive today,” said Rios, a Pflugerville High School graduate. “She’s healthy. My mom is an absolute hero of mine.”

The weeks he spent at the hospital with his mother left an impression on Rios. He said the entire hospital staff, from nurses to cafeteria workers, was kind and cared for his mother in a way that made them seem like a part of their family.

He said he felt he could never repay the staff for all it did for the Rios family, but he finally found a “real opportunity to say thank you.”

Rios, 23, is participating in the largest student-led charity bike ride in the world to raise funds for cancer research. The Texas 4000 is a team of 76 University of Texas students who bicycle more than 4,000 miles each year to raise funds for cancer research. MD Anderson is a frequent partner of the Texas 4000 team.

The students will complete a 70-day ride from Central Texas to Alaska. Before the journey, each participant must complete 2,000 training miles, 50 hours of community service and raise a minimum of $4,500.

When all is said and done, the Texas 4000 2017 team aims to raise $1 million for cancer research.

Rios’ personal goal is to raise $10,000, which is roughly $2 for every mile he rides. The team takes three routes through the United States and Canada, staying in schools, churches, with host families and at camps throughout the journey. While visiting with different communities, the team leads cancer prevention and detection awareness programs.

Students begin their days by sharing ride dedications, giving names and telling stories of people they have met along the journey or explaining their personal catalyst for joining the organization. Rios said he wants to share his mother’s story and those from the Pflugerville community.

“Alaska is almost the furthest point in our continent from Texas,” Rios said. “That is the idea: Doing something as grand as possible and stretching yourself to seemingly do the impossible and something incredibly difficult. Something that can seem impossible is a metaphor for the fight against cancer.”

Texas 4000 team members come from all over the country and are studying a wide array of majors. Rios is majoring in rhetoric and writing and minoring in advertising.

“They’re not necessarily looking at if you have a background in medicine or a passion for biology,” he said. “They’re looking for students who are leaders throughout the university, and students who identify with the mission”

Texas 4000 was formed in 2004 and has raised more than $7 million for cancer research projects and support services. The 2017 ride begins June 2 and ends Aug. 11.

Tell your survival story

Adrian Rios is asking Pflugerville residents to send their stories to his email, adrianrios012@gmail.com. Follow Rios and the Texas 4000 team’s adventures online at texas4000.org or through Texas 4000 social media accounts. Rios will also send a personal newsletter of his experiences to those who sign up through his email.

Written by Christine Bolaños

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