- Route: Rockies
- Ride Year: 2017
- Hometown: El Paso, TX
- School Year: Senior
- Major: Neuroscience
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m Luis Manuel Salazar, LuisMa for short, and I am a Senior at the University of Texas at Austin. I’ve had the incredible opportunity of living in many places throughout my life. So it’s hard for me to say exactly where I call home. I have lived in Juarez, Mexico; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Chicago, Illinois; Austin, Texas; and Tampa Bay, Florida, but I am currently settled in El Paso, Texas!
Growing up in a lot of different areas allowed me to create incredibly close relationships with my family as we would rely on each other during the inevitable stress that ensues from moving. Coming from a Mexican background, it was difficult to move outside of the relatively close area where all of my family lived because of the value that we place on family: I consider my father, mother, and two sisters my best friends. They are my rock and I would be nowhere without their unwavering support and love.
Outside of my love for my family, I love learning and I love tennis. I grew up playing baseball, fútbol (soccer), and basketball, but none of them resonated with me as much as tennis. I played tennis since I was 5 years old and my spirit animal is Rafael Nadal. I was even fortunate enough to travel around the US and outside of the US playing tournaments. All the while, I felt a deep desire to understand people to learn exactly how and why they work. I remember even thinking to myself during tennis matches: “I wonder why [Carlos] hits his forehand the way he does and what that says about him as a person.” This is why I love neuroscience and medicine. Neuroscience gets to the heart of understanding the mind and people. Medicine, on the other hand, creates an outlet to more directly help people with the knowledge that I gain from Neuroscience. I think the two work hand in hand. Lots of people are daunted by the many years of Medical School, but I am excited by the prospect of learning so much more. I love spending time learning the secrets to the mind and body, but even more generally, I like school too. Outside of neuroscience, I enjoy sociology, psychology, and philosophy. I also like mountain biking, playing frisbee and eating carbohydrates!
At UT, I am currently a part of Camp Kesem and Tejas in addition to Texas 4000. Camp Kesem is also a nonprofit nationwide organization that supports children through and beyond their parent’s cancer. I am honored to be a part of both of these organizations and Texas 4000 and I can’t wait to grow with Texas 4000 as I have with these other organizations.
Why I Ride
My favorite word in the English dictionary is tenacity. It is hard to exemplify what tenacity really is but I think Dylan Thomas illustrates the essence of tenacity through his poem entitled, Do not go gentle into that good night. He writes, “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right, because their words had forked no lightning they do not go gentle into that good night…” To me, Thomas’ poem is about living life day in and day out as passionately as you can and knowing that by doing this, you will rest well at the end of the day or at end of your life. It is about showing tenacity by believing in hope even when the light is dying in other people and sometimes even within you. My mother first showed the power of this tenacity.
My mother is one of the most important people in my life and her battle against cancer inspires me to live like her. My mother is a two-time cancer survivor. Both of the times she got cancer, however, she waited until it was almost time for her surgery to tell my sisters and me. She had this nonchalant confidence during both encounters with cancer, never overly sad or tired, that kept our family calm and hopeful that everything would turn out great. I never understood her courage when I was younger, but now this is so inspiring to me because she taught me to continue to live for others. Even when cancer came back for the second time, she knew she was the anchor of our family, and she stayed strong, tenacious, for us. I hope to ride with Texas 4000 for Cancer to spread her selflessness and honor her courage. I would ride to provide courage to the community members we meet that are affected by cancer and battling addiction. I hope to be the teammate that works one-on-one with my teammates during training and dedicates myself to getting them, and the memory of their loved ones, to Alaska.
My time with Camp Kesem further inspired me to want to ride because I had the opportunity to meet campers with much tougher cancer experiences than mine. I met kids that were 14 years old physically but 20 years old emotionally because of their parent’s cancer. Some of these kids were told that they were soon going to have to be the men or women of their houses. Kids should not have to worry about their parent’s cancer. Kids should just be worried about how much fun they are going to have that day. Towards the end of the camp, I felt like I had known the family of my campers. Connecting with my campers about their experiences with cancer showed me the importance of making myself vulnerable and sharing powerful memories. I hope to continue this with my teammates in Texas 4000 for Cancer. After 18 months of training and 70 days of riding – I hope to love and care for the people in my teammates’ families.
Texas 4000 is filled with tenacious students, driven to spread this hope by raising money, riding their bikes across America, and fostering life-long leadership skills. The riders, however, make a more subtle difference in people’s lives by showing cancer patients just how incredible the human body is and what it is capable of overcoming. This is how the riders of Texas 4000 transmit power to cancer patients across the nation. The riders are essentially in a symbolic struggle along with many cancer patients to fight and beat cancer.
At Camp Kesem, I had the opportunity to meet a boy whose father and grandfather were both suffering through cancer. He, like me, had a favorite word. He told me his favorite word was “antidote.” He couldn’t explain why but he loved the sound of the word so much. For him, for all cancer patients, the kids and for the antidote, I ride.