- Route: Ozarks
- Ride Year: 2017
- Hometown: Spring, TX
- School Year: Senior
- Major: Architectural Engineering
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi there, my name is Alex Shrode. I belong to a family of six including my father, Martin, my mother, Isis, and my sister, Emily. The final two members of the family are my dog, Blackjack, and my cat, Ava. I was born in Houston, Texas and have lived in a handful of places with my family. My father’s work allowed us the freedom to travel and live in Paris, France for about two years and Surrey, England for about three years. I don’t remember much of Paris, as I was only three years old when we moved there but I still remember how amazing England was and, to this day, London is one of my favorite places to visit in the world. I did the majority of my growing up in a town just north of Houston called Spring. In Spring, I attended Klein Oak High School where I was involved in the theatre program, vice-president of the class for three years, and president of the National Honor Society. Today, I call my home Austin, Texas as it is where I am currently majoring in architectural engineering at the University of Texas. My time at UT has been nothing short of amazing. I chose to pledge the fraternity Phi Delta Theta in the Spring of 2014 with twelve of my best friends in the world. In Phi Delt I have been involved in both the recruitment and pledge education process since my initiation and holding the title of Pledge Educator in the Spring of 2015 and Recruitment Chairman in the Spring of 2016. Another incredible organization that I have joined is Camp Texas. Camp Texas is a three day leadership camp designed to better integrate students into UT. I attended Camp Texas as a camper prior to stepping foot on the 40 acres as a freshman and served as a counselor for the 2014 & 2015 summer sessions. I have been able to work with some of the greatest individuals in Camp Texas that I have been fortunate enough to call some of my best friends. Over the Spring and Summer of 2016, I worked as one of the Outreach Coordinators on the exec team for Camp Texas.
Today, I have never been so busy in my entire life. I was selected to be the Ozarks Ride Director for our 2017 team at the beginning of the Fall semester of 2016. Being busy means that I have the opportunity to focus all of my energy into ensuring my team's experience in Texas 4000 is one that they will never forget. Everyday, I wake up excited to learn about my team and work with them in our journey to our Atlas ride and eventually to Anchorage, Alaska.
My parents have instilled in me the belief that if I can do something to help someone or a situation, then I have the obligation to help. I decided to come to UT because, on top of being a longhorn for all my life, I felt that I could help someone or something by coming here. The opportunities that this university has presented to me have been nothing short of miraculous. I have fostered relationships with people that I will love for the rest of my life. In my time here at UT I have been able to join organizations that help integrate UT's newest classes into the university, help cultivate leaders, and even fight cancer.
Why I Ride
Growing up, I was very unfamiliar with what cancer was and how it worked. I barely grasped what little information I received from television programs or what my parents told me. I have never had a family member pass away from cancer so it was never something that I felt was appropriate to worry about when I was younger.
My 7th grade year (2007), I was brand new to a school that my family had just moved to. Making friends was slow and left me feeling very left out seeing as that everyone at the school seemed to already know each other. One day, in my Spanish class, I met two girls, Abby and Zoe. From the start we all seemed to get along very well and soon enough they became some of my closest friends at school. We spent our classes together joking around and spent our afternoon’s skyping or instant messaging into the early hours of the morning. One day I noticed that Zoe did not show up for our Spanish class. She ended up missing class for the entire week that week. Abby and I hadn’t heard anything from her which began to give us some concern. I don’t remember how long it had been since I had heard from or seen Zoe until one day our Spanish teacher came in to tell us some news she had just recently found out. Zoe had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and would be away from school for some time. I remember thinking of the situation as if Zoe had the flu and would be back within a week or so. I had not yet experienced someone close to me get diagnosed with cancer so I had almost no idea of how to help Zoe. A few weeks went by and Zoe was able to get on instant messenger after school with Abby and me. Zoe had moved into an apartment near the Medical Center in Downtown Houston so she could be close to her doctors if she needed anything in an emergency. She had started taking online classes to help her not get behind in school as well. Zoe was perfectly normal besides the fact that she was quarantined to an apartment for a large majority of the day and usually getting checkups at the hospital when she wasn’t home. I so badly wanted to help her. However, I had no ability to help her. Zoe was being treated by some of the best doctors in the country and I was a 12 year old boy that just wanted his friend to get better. At 12, your thought of a loved one getting cancer isn’t “if they’ll get better” but “when they’ll get better”. Since I couldn’t physically help her, simply being there for her when she needed me was my only option of aid.
Two years of after school chats would go by. Day after day from five o’clock until past midnight, Zoe and I would talk on instant message, text, or skype. Talking every day was simply our routine. I would get a message from Zoe’s mother if she wasn’t feeling well that day, or had gone in for an operation. Slowly but surely Zoe’s medical hiccups would integrate themselves into our routine. She would go into ICU and come out a few days later completely better. It was after two years of this routine that Zoe began to wear down. The question, in her eyes, turned from “when” to “if” she would get better.
The most difficult day of my life was not the day Zoe passed away from an almost three year struggle with leukemia, but rather listening to my 14 year old best friend question whether or not she would survive the next operation she would have to undergo. Nothing in life prepares you to console a dying loved one, especially one that was not able to live her life as she wanted. As a 14 year old I was grossly unqualified to provide that comfort to anyone. However, I did what I could. I remained positive every day even when Zoe was far from it.
Zoe passed away on September 12, 2009, four days after her 15th birthday. I received a text from her mother on the 8th of September informing me that she had gone into the ICU. Per routine I assumed that she would be out within the next couple of days. I thought I was unprepared to give her comfort during her difficult days but nothing prepared me for the day she passed away. I remember receiving the text from her mother notifying me of her passing and feeling emotionally destroyed. At first I didn’t do anything, I just sat on the floor for what seemed like forever. I went into a very damaging depression after I lost her. Nothing seemed to matter anymore. I remember, very distinctly, not being able to focus on anything after Zoe’s passing. I wouldn’t be able to talk to her ever again. I wouldn’t be able to see her beat leukemia and come back to school. She would always mean the world to me though. Leukemia could take her from the world but nothing could take away how much she meant to me. I began to find solace in this detail. I was never prepared to cope with the death of a loved one but I learned to cope as I slowly began to mature mentally at a rate that most teens shouldn’t ever have to experience. I found solace in little memories of her. I found comfort in looking at our past messages. I found consolation in the bracelet with her name that I’ve worn every day since she passed away.
The summer of 2017 will be the summer before my last year here at UT. After discovering Texas 4000 about two years ago I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. I feel that I have learned and matured enough to handle the difficult task ahead. As a representative for Texas 4000 I ride every day for Zoe and those like her that have been diagnosed with life altering diseases and illnesses. To the families and individuals that are currently battling these diseases, I want to be the comfort and support I learned to provide for Zoe. I am not a doctor or surgeon. I cannot heal those that have been diagnosed with cancer but I will try to provide hope and support for those that are struggling to maintain theirs. I will try to help others cope when their routines take a turn for the worse or unexpected. I believe an organization like Texas 4000 does far more than raise money for cancer research. They provide support, comfort, and hope to those that have been impacted by cancer and so many others diseases. Zoe is the reason I am who I am today. Zoe's memory has and always will be with me. Zoe is the reason why I ride.