Profile

  • Route: Rockies
  • Ride Year: 2017
  • Hometown: Plano

About: Hey there! My name is Basil (rhymes with castle), and I’m a fifth year at UT double majoring in Computer Science and Computer Engineering. Let’s just say I like computers. When I’m not obsessively cataloging my favorite foods around Austin, you can find me rock climbing, playing the violin, reading, trying to learn how to juggle, or making weird noises with my friends. I also love sitting in sunshine and playing in the rain.

My parents, both Lebanese immigrants, raised my brother and I with all the love and care I ever could have hoped for. Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” Whenever I think about the struggle my parents underwent to raise their kids in America, I remember that every one of my accomplishments is built on the foundation that they laid for me and my brother. They are my giants.

My time at UT has been a whirlwind of incredible experiences. From my job as a TA, to three years as a Camp Texas counselor, to a study abroad in Spain; each and every experience has introduced me to people that I believe will change the world. Having met my Texas 4000 teammates, I have reaffirmed that belief and am thrilled to embark on this journey with them.

Why I Ride

Every so often a stranger comes along and changes my life. The most recent stranger and I sat next to each other on a plane ride from San Diego to Austin this summer. She sat down in the aisle seat next to me, we said hello, and then she started reading her book. She told me how badly she wanted the middle seat between us to be empty, and I laughed and agreed, expecting to go back to reading my book.

But then she asked me what I was reading, and we had a good time talking about our books with each other. Even though there were 40 years between us, our conversation quickly became one of the best I’ve ever had. I asked her where she was coming from. When she said she was flying home from Reno, I asked why she’d been there. Then I saw the lights in her eyes dim. She took a moment and a breath and said “I had a consultation at a clinical research center. They’re doing some research that might be able to cure my brain tumor before it kills me.”

An unexpected “oh” was all I could muster at first. It took me a moment to gather my thoughts, and she began to turn away. I didn’t want the conversation to end on that note; already I found myself caring deeply for this woman whose name I didn’t even know. “So how did it go?” I asked gently, just in case she didn’t want to talk about it. She turned back to me and started nodding unsurely. “The doctor said he could cure me. He said he could get me back on the tennis court in 6 months.”

We began talking again, but this time we spoke candidly. I asked her about her story, and she shared it with me – from college adventures; to her career in commercial real estate; all the way up to her diagnosis, her treatment, and how hard it had been to tell her little brother. She told me about experiences she had never shared with anyone and when she asked me for my story, I told her about my life in full. She listened intently as I told her about my family, about how I played tennis too, about my major, and about my hopes for the future. I opened my heart to her, and by the time I had finished, she knew more about me than all but my closest friends.

After almost two hours of talking, we tried to take a break and read our books to give the other passengers some peace and quiet. Within seconds we began laughing and talking about her book instead. We shared a drink and told each other stories, laughing like we were old friends, and for a while I forgot about her cancer. Then she mentioned how bleak her initial prognosis was, and how this research center really was her only shot. She said:

"When the first doctor told me I had a year left, I told myself “I’ll do two.” And then a couple months later I said “No, no. I’ll do five.” And now here I am, and I’m thinking “Why not ten?” "

Before I could respond, the plane hit the runway and we were in Austin. She smiled at me and held out her hand. When I took it in mine, we shook hands and finally introduced ourselves. After the most moving flight of my life, I had the pleasure to formally meet Katherine.

Throughout my life I have met a handful of people that I consider kindred spirits. Katherine is one of them. In another time and place, I imagine we could have been close friends, but as it happened we just shared a plane ride from San Diego to Austin.

I will probably never know the rest of Katherine’s story, but I will always care about her. I ride to support the research that saves lives like Katherine’s. I ride for the courageous few whose stories I’ve heard and the countless millions whose stories I haven’t. I ride for every friend, family member, and kindred spirit affected by cancer.

**Katherine's name has been changed for her privacy