- Route: Sierra
- Ride Year: 2017
- Hometown: Plano, TX
- School Year: Senior
- Major: Public Relations and Radio-Television-Film
- Email: [email protected]
Hello friends, family, acquaintances and extremely kind strangers! My name is Katie Russell and I grew up in the beautiful city of Plano, TX. I was blessed to have a loving, supportive family, who has always pushed me to be the best version of myself possible. Which eventually lead me to Austin, TX where I'm now a Senior, pursuing a double major in Public Relations and Radio/Television/Film & a minor in International Business. In my spare time I enjoy experimenting in the kitchen and spending as much time as possible outside. From hiking, to rock climbing, running--to attempting to visit every unique watering hole in the surrounding Austin area, I am always searching for new adventures. Photography and travel are also two things close to my heart, and although I may not have been everywhere---it's on my list.
I cannot thank my loving parents, Martie and Dennis, enough for instilling my wide-spread curiosity for this world, and for always supporting me full-heartedly in whatever crazy mission I'm called to pursue (like biking to Alaska for instance).
However, my main mission in life is very simple: spread happiness. This may sound cliché, but it's one of the biggest driving forces for every decision I make. To me the smallest things in life are what make it so beautiful. One smile, one room-filling laugh, one moment of peace, one ray of sunlight, one small act of love. I believe this world is a beautiful place, despite its obstacles and imperfections, and I want to play a part it contributing to that beauty.
And if all of my personal connections to cancer have only taught me one thing, it would be that life is short. So I intend to not only live my own life to the fullest, but to play a part, no matter how big or small, in bringing happiness to anyone I come in contact with.
P.S. If you are kind enough to read this whole thing and to decide to donate, please reach out to me through email. Tell me your stories, names of anyone you'd like me to ride for, or share anything at all!
Why I Ride
“Our fate is determined by how far we are prepared to push ourselves to stay alive - the decisions we make to survive. We must do whatever it takes to endure and make it through alive.” –Bear Grylls
Cancer is something that ever since I was little I assumed that I would eventually have. Beginning in elementary school, I watched as this awful disease crept down my family tree…My great-grandma, my grandpa, my grandma, my aunt, my uncle…So as a kid I always assumed that cancer was apart of my fate. I felt powerless as I heard stories passed down about relatives I had never met because cancer took them too early. As a young child, I sat front row to funerals and heard about the horrendous cancer battles my family members were facing states away. I couldn’t understand why this thing called “Cancer” was so prevalent in my family, and I feared it would inevitably control my life one day. These fears became reality, when just over a year and a half ago, cancer hit even closer to home.
My Uncle Chuck was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. He was the energetic jester of every family get-together and holiday celebration. He was the most generous and lively man I have ever known. So watching cancer literally suck the life and joy out of him was the hardest thing I have ever seen. And when he passed 4 months after his diagnosis there was a gaping whole in my family’s heart. His empty seat at the table of our first Christmas dinner without him was the hardest, but my family is extremely tight-knit so with their support each holiday is getting better. I want to ride in his memory and to spread all the joy and life he is no longer able to.
After losing Uncle Chuck I didn’t think cancer would hit anyone closer to me, at least not anytime soon. But last semester that changed. My mom started having some minor abdominal pain and bloating, but wrote it off due to stress at work and her diet. A couple weeks later she went in for her routine colonoscopy, just as she has been doing every couple years. Little did she know, at the tail end of her colonoscopy her doctor would find the real reason she had been having that minor abdominal discomfort. After several more tests and scans they discovered that my mom’s appendix was enlarged more than 6 times its usual size. This was due to 8 different tumors that appeared to have been growing on-and-off inside her appendix over the past couple years. The doctors found polyps and possible tumors in her colon as well.
When she called me with the news, I have never been more afraid in my life. I couldn’t imagine watching my Mom go through the pain and strife I had just seen my uncle go through. They rushed my mom in for immediate surgery, due to fear of her appendix rupturing and spreading tumor particles into the bloodstream. The surgery was successful, however we didn’t have the results as to whether or not the tumors were cancerous or had spread anywhere else throughout her body. During that week or so period where we waited for results, all too quickly cancer wasn’t something I feared my mom would have years down the road, but instead was here on my doorstep. The anxiety and fear of losing my biggest role model and best friend was unbearable. Cancer wasn’t the monster I had feared was hiding under my bed, but instead it was staring at me in broad daylight. Luckily after weeks of waiting, we learned at last her tumors were benign, but the doctors feared more might grow back in that same area. I want to ride for my Mom. I want to raise money for research in hopes of early-detection techniques, so that if the next time a tumor grows we know sooner. I want to ride so that if her next biopsy is malignant, we will have a cure.
And that’s when it hit me. Yes this disease sucks. It’s terrible in fact, but I’m not going to let it have power over me. I refuse to accept the fate I have always feared. I want to make a change and fight for a cause that is so much bigger than just my family or me. I had heard the name "Texas 4000" briefly when I was an underclassmen, but it wasn’t until I went through all this this past year and summer that I knew this was what I was being called to do.
I realized that I could change history. I had been looking at my family history all wrong---Yes nearly every member of my family has had cancer, but they all fought hard until the end. No one gave up. Especially not my grandma. My grandma was diagnosed in the 70's and beat breast cancer twice, and again beat uterine cancer. and Today is she is 98 and oldest living cancer survivor in Brazos County. She is one of the strongest women in my life, and realized that I need to continue her fight. She never gave up and has always believed that beating cancer and finding a cure is possible. I want to ride for my grandma and continue fighting just like she has.
So for me Texas 4000 because it is so much than a charity bike ride to Alaska for cancer. To me it is a group of people who want to change the world. Texas 4000 is a team of caring, determined individuals, who realize that together they are stronger, and can make a huge impact on those indirectly and indirectly affected by cancer in the past, present, and future. Being a part of this team and daring to be part of this cause is so much bigger than my family. I want to ride with this team because we all want the same thing: to do everything in our power to fight cancer. I want to play a role in fighting something that I have always been terrified of. Instead of worrying and fearing for the future of my mother, my grandmother and myself, I’ve realized that the fear doesn’t determine fate. By riding my bike to Alaska I can fight to put an end to this disease, which has wrecked havoc in my family, but also made us strong and determined. I want motivate others with my family’s story, to never give up and keeping searching for a cure. I can’t say what the future of holds for sure, but I want to do everything in my power to see that that future is cancer-free.
*Current Updates: My uncle Bob passed away to testicular cancer this past month after years of battling. He was an extremely generous, humorous and talented brain surgeon in his day. So in edition to everything and everyone I am riding for: Uncle Bob I love you and I ride for you.
I also ride for my best friend Abz Zeitler. She was an Ozarks 2015 rider and one of my biggest influencers in applying for Texas 4000. She was the most beautiful, passionate and helpful soul I've ever known. At the end of 2016, she took her own life and it has been the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with personally. Missed it never a strong enough word for how I feel about her. So I ride for Abz everyday, with her bandana, that she wore all summer while biking to Alaska, attached to my bike. I like to think that since the bandana's already been to Alaska and back with her, it'll bring me good luck on this huge journey.