- Route: Rockies
- Ride Year: 2018
- Hometown: Austin, TX
- School Year: Sophomore
- Major: Plan II and Journalism
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi! My name is Kayla Meyertons, and I am a third-year Plan II honors and journalism student at The University of Texas at Austin. I have been the senior campus reporter, associate news editor, and news editor for The Daily Texan, UT's student-run newspaper, and I have been a member of the co-ed spirit organization Absolute Texxas since fall 2015. I also run my own art business, KaylaMeyertonsArt, selling fine art prints and specialized commissions to raise money for my ride. I aspire to be a wildlife photojournalist for National Geographic, and I love writing, animals and traveling.
I was born and raised in Austin, Texas (really flew far from home for college), and I have two older sisters and an older brother. My loving parents now live on our family ranch in Johnson City, Texas, where they run a vacation rental business and where my dad (ever so proudly) is retired from working for over 20 years in the patent law practice. I also have a two-year-old nephew named Eric who is probably the cutest and most rambunctious toddler you will ever meet.
I also am an avid basketball player and have since played on intramural basketball teams my entire time in college, and I participate in an outdoor fitness program called Camp Gladiator 2-3 times a week.
Why I Ride
I ride for my Aunt Sarah. Sarah was my Aunt Joey's wife, and she passed away from pancreatic cancer in May of 2014. Aunt Joey and Sarah lived in a home in Newberg, Oregon, and Sarah passed three months after her diagnosis.
Sarah was one of the kindest souls to walk on this Earth. Her death was the first time I had been personally and profoundly impacted by cancer. In addition, I ride for Sarah because she dedicated her entire life to battling cancer. For over 20 years, Sarah was an oncology certified RN at Portland Providence Hospital, meaning she monitored physical conditions, gave prescribed medications and therapy to patients, and provided patient and family education for cancer patients. To my dismay, I also quickly learned that pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of cancer on earth. For all stages of pancreatic cancer combined, the one-year relative rate is 20%. The five-year rate is 7%.
I'll never forget when I found out Aunt Sarah had cancer. On January 30, 2014, my father approached me in the kitchen with his warm brown eyes filled with tears. He said something I would never expect and something I still don’t believe to this day.
“Aunt Sarah has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.”
At the sound of those eight words, I never felt more out of control. That January night was the start of three of the most painful, excruciating months of my life. Everyday, the word “cancer” glared like a big, red sign in my mind, but I pushed it aside. I refused to accept defeat. Cancer wouldn’t win this battle.
Over the course of February, April, and March, my father received frequent updates from his sister about Sarah’s condition. She was in some pain at the initial start of chemotherapy. She slowly lost her hair, and she grew weaker and more exhausted as time went on. But Joey and Sarah continued to enjoy their last moments together. They took walks on the beach a few miles away. They spent time in their quaint home in Newberg, Oregon with their five cats curled around them on the couches. They tried their best to remain optimistic. That was all they could do.
By the start of April, Sarah decided to be taken off chemotherapy. The treatment put her in too much pain, and both she and Joey were aware of what lay ahead. My family planned a trip to go up and see Sarah for a weekend at the end of April. We helped Joey repair and repaint a few things around the house, and we ate in most nights so Sarah could be comfortable.
On the final day of our trip, my parents, brother, sister and I sat in the living room with Joey and Sarah. Our flight was in a few hours, and our luggage was packed in the car, ready to go. As the time grew closer, we stood up and decided to say our goodbyes. I remember how it was a struggle for Sarah to get up in a sitting position and stand up. Most of her hair was gone, and she looked weak from exhaustion.
“Bye, Joey. Bye, Sarah,” My brother said, giving my aunts brief hugs. Then my sister Kendall stepped forward to give her goodbyes, and everyone in the room realized the magnitude of the situation. We wouldn’t see Sarah alive after this trip.
Kendall was sobbing as she gave Sarah a hug, and I followed suit. My brother, 22-years-old at the time, realized his mistake, and quickly stepped forward again. “Let’s try this again,” he said, tears on his cheeks, and an uneasy chuckle went through the room. My family left on that Sunday, and by Friday, Sarah was gone.
That was the last time I saw her alive, and it pains me every time I reflect on this memory to know that three months early, Sarah was her healthy, vibrant self, helping others battle the disease that would take her very life.
Ultimately, I ride for Sarah because I want to continue her mission in the fight against cancer. I want to ride for every life that was positively impacted by my Aunt Sarah because I know she made a difference on this Earth that was worthwhile.
I also ride for my mother, Kathy Meyertons, who fought and beat skin cancer and for my grandfather, Carl Meyertons, who fought and beat both prostate and skin cancer.
I also ride for my friends Simran Jatar and Kyle Gehrke who fought and beat childhood cancer and for my friend Travis's father, Michael Timothy Riffe, who lost his battle with cancer in 2014.