- Route: Sierra
- Ride Year: 2017
- Hometown: Austin, TX
- School Year: Junior
- Email: email@example.com
Hello everyone, my name is Michael Orlando and I grew up right here in the great city of Austin, TX. I am currently a third year Nutrition major at the University of Texas and I hope to one day attend medical school and become a doctor.
I love to live an active lifestyle whether it be playing soccer, running or Frisbee. This led me to fall in love with the great outdoors and shaped my passion of backpacking. Hiking allows me to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and relax with a couple friends taking time to myself when needed most. One day I hope to hike one if not all three of the national scenic trails and earn my triple crown. I am also a member of the UT triathlon team. I love to train with my team and compete against some of the top athletes out there (it is also a pretty good excuse to travel).
I have a passion for learning how to do different things and never want to run out of stories. The ultimate sign of accomplishment to me would be my future grandkids begging to hear another story from me and bragging how cool their grandpa is.
Why I Ride
There are many people I ride for but there are a few that have shaped my understanding of cancer and were the main reasons I joined this organization.
The first person I ride for is my Great Uncle Tom. If I had to describe him in one word I would say strength. As many of you know cancer is a horrendous disease and can rip the life out of someone. Even though he is no longer with us today, I would like to say that Tom won his battle with cancer simply because he never let it get the best of him. No matter how bad he was feeling or how bad his outlook, he never gave up, always had a smile on his face, and never failed to put a smile on yours. He had an admirable outlook on life and was always ready to tell you how great he was doing no matter how much pain he might be in. I think he taught me a very important lesson in that no matter how dire the situation may seem, it does not give you an excuse to give up and no matter how bad your day is going, it doesn’t mean that you can’t cheer someone else up either.
The next person I ride for is my Grandma Barb, if she could, she would give the world to me and my sister. She is an extraordinarily strong person and wouldn’t hesitate to care for you in a time of need. I think one of the most important things I have ever seen her do is care for my Grandpa Leon as he suffered and fought with Parkinson’s like disease called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP). If you have ever watched anyone suffer from Parkinson’s then you know how terrible it can be and how it can affect every person around them. It takes a special kind of person to be able to help someone else in their fight while also watching their loved one suffer. However, my grandma is just that person and no matter how bad things got, she was able to come out of it with the biggest heart known to man. My grandma is also a survivor. She had her own fight with breast cancer when I began high school but still came out the victor. As the first person that I had ever seen go through chemotherapy, it really beat me up to see how it affected her. But like I said, my grandma is a survivor and fought back and was able to overcome.
The third person I ride for is my mom. My mom is someone who has been there at every step for me throughout my entire life. She has always been my biggest fan and has supported me in whatever endeavor I embark on. Her compassion really shined during her own bout with cancer my junior year of high school just one year after my grandma's battle. When she got diagnosed with breast cancer she was absolutely terrified and distraught, however, the first thing she wanted to know was if she carried any genes that were known to cause cancer and whether my sister or I could get it. Now I think if there is one time to be selfish in your life, it is when you are battling cancer but my mother would disagree with me as there is never a time to not put others before you. To fight her cancer, my mom ended up getting a double mastectomy. This was especially hard on her to give up any part of her body but the recovery was particularly difficult. To go from being fully able to nearly immobilized and relying on others is extremely hard, and especially so for someone who is used to taking care of others. However she fought on and is now almost four years cancer free.
Lastly, I ride for my neighbors and dear family friends Genie and Wayne. I would say that they really pushed me over the edge and made me join this organization. Now, if you could just imagine the cutest couple on earth, you would imagine them. I remember heading off to school every single morning and see them hugging and then Genie waving Wayne off to work. This really stuck with me over the years as it emphasizes how a small act of love can really mean a lot to show how much you care day after day. Even after seeing this I would add I was intimidated by Wayne for roughly half of my life. Whenever you talked to him he would give you these handshakes that would seemingly last forever as he shook you up and down (I can thank him for my handshake today). On top of that he would sometimes wear an eyepatch due to a bout with cancer before I knew him. As I got older I was able to see him less as my intimidating neighbor and more as a friend as I finally understood that everything was in good fun and he was always there to hit you with a joke or maybe even two or three. Wayne’s cancer came back as I was starting college and alarmingly was much more serious and sudden than anything I had ever experienced before. Wayne quickly transformed from one of the liveliest people I had known to a state that I would not wish on my worst enemy. For the longest time I kind of ignored it, thinking the situation was temporary. I mean he had beaten cancer before and so had my mom and grandma so surely he would again. One day as I was cramming last minute before one of my chemistry exams, my mom called me and told me that he wasn’t doing so well. This distracted me for a little bit but thinking I had time, I went into my test and turned off my phone. When I came out after my test and turned on my phone I had a text message again from my mom. During my test Wayne had passed away. This shattered pretty much everything I had known from previous experience and felt like a huge part of my childhood was just ripped away from me. His passing opened me up to a world of new feelings that I wasn’t really expecting. The next thing that really got me was when I went to his funeral and saw how strong Genie was. I knew that her entire world had been ripped apart but she was still strong and supported those around her. In that was the moment that I realized that I wanted to do something like Texas 4000. This group has the ability to come together and collectively provide strength to each other and come to terms with something no one should have to deal with. I decided that I needed and wanted to provide this same support to others and go out and raise awareness against this awful disease.
I want to ride for everyone who needs strength during their hard times and for everyone that can’t ride, I will carry their stories with me as I go.