- Route: Rockies
- Ride Year: 2018
- Hometown: Austin, TX
- School Year: Junior
- Major: Sustainability Studies
- Email: email@example.com
"Don't let schooling interfere with your education." ~Mark Twain
Why I Ride
"Why in the world is Valerie biking across the continent?"
"I don't know, but Al-ask-a!"
All jokes aside, we live in a world where one is hard-pressed to find somebody who hasn’t been affected by cancer. Friends, family, your best friend’s neighbor’s brother; this force we call ‘cancer’ permeates the pond of humanity, sending ripples of pain and suffering through our interconnected lives.
Those ripples first rocked my boat in the second grade, when a close family friend Todd’s seemingly innocent stomach pains were diagnosed as Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Within a matter of months, we witnessed our bagpipe playing, boat loving, fatherly figure of a man get knocked down by the disease – a blow from which he unfortunately could not recover.
As far as time scales go, months should be the amount of time between midterms, not the duration between a diagnosis and passing. What stuck with me the strongest all these years later was the brevity of Todd’s battle with cancer: it seemed as though there was hardly time to develop a treatment plan before the disease took hold completely. Knowledge – one of the pillars of Texas 4000 – is quite certainly our biggest asset in the fight against cancer. Early detection and recognition are the key to preventing others from the pain of sudden loss, and I am grateful to be able to contribute to the spread knowledge, hope, and charity through Texas 4000 for Cancer.
I’ll never forget the first time I drove by a local Austin intersection and saw a group of panhandling college students with a poster reading “We’re biking to Alaska!” It was then, as a fifth grader, that a cross-country biking trip to battle cancer first landed on my bucket list.
Today, granted with the opportunity of a lifetime, I ride for Todd. I ride to honor and instill strength in all the past, present, and future cancer patients as they fight for their lifetime. I ride for my mom; for all the caretakers and loved ones who fight the fight alongside. I ride for my grandmother, who battled a brain tumor before I was born, and for the doctors who helped her beat the disease giving her the chance to know her grand kids. I ride for Mr. Schwartz, my eccentric Hawaiian-shirt-wearing ninth grade biology teacher who passed away from throat cancer during my Junior year. I ride for a family friend, Will, crushing stage 2 pancreatic cancer at age 26. I ride for all of the best friend’s neighbor’s brothers of the world, and for all those who I have yet to meet and draw inspiration from along our journey.
And yes, Grandma, I do understand the fact that there are commercial airlines who fly to Alaska – but simply getting there is not quite the point. I’m on a mission to draw not only the Eyes of Texas, but the eyes of the world, upon Texas 4000. On a mission to stop cancer in its tracks.