- Route: Sierra
- Ride Year: 2018
- Hometown: Austin, TX
- School Year: Senior
- Major: Biology
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi there! My name is Alayna. I’m an Austinite, born-and-raised, and I'm so happy to be here that I chose to stay an extra four years to go to UT! In this beautiful city I'm very thankful for my two parents, two grandparents, two younger brothers and two cats, all of whom I love to hug. On an average day you can find me pedaling frantically to an exam, grooving to some tunes, or catching up with some pals over good food or maybe a Guitar Hero shred session.
As I write this I am a senior at the University of Texas, studying Biology. This summer I studied in an evolutionary biology research program in Sevilla, Spain. I’m also very proud to be involved in several great organizations here at UT. I’m a member of Texas Spirits, a driven group of women who inspire and push me to be the best that I can be. To fulfill my inner fashionista, I’m Head Model Coordinator of Spark Magazine - a student run fashion publication. I’m also in Pre-Physician Assistant Society, where I geek out about healthcare and surround myself with fellow science people. In the future I hope to go into the medical field (more specifically women’s health, and maybe even surgery) where I can channel my love for life into healing and supporting my fellow ladies, and hopefully shape our healthcare system in a positive direction.
Thank you so much for taking the time to get to know my story. I'm so glad to be on this team with wonderful, inspiring people who laugh at my jokes, feed me when I forget snacks, and encourage me on days when the headwinds are particularly strong. As you may have guessed, right after I graduate I will hop on my bike alongside them and begin my journey to Alaska.
Why I Ride
I ride for many reasons, and I'm so grateful that I get to honor them through Texas 4000. Each of these spectacular humans I ride for has touched my life and shaped me into who I am today.
I ride for my great-grandmother, Kitty, who taught me tolerance, acceptance, and optimism from a very young age. Her whole life was dedicated to putting others first. She lost her battle with pancreatic cancer when I was around 11 years old. I also ride for her marvelous daughters, Evalyn and Eleanor. Aunt Evie had breast cancer and beat it a few years back, and Aunt Eleanor is currently living with lung and brain cancer. Both of these women have instilled a great determination and sense of hope in me - they are exemplary role models.
I ride for my maternal grandmother, Barbara (a.k.a. Grammie), who is a shining light in my life. From her, I inherited a quirky sense of humor and a ceaseless passion for art and literature. She instills in me a love for my heritage, and she has never met a stranger. Last year she battled non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and every day, despite treatments and chemotherapy, found reasons to smile. I’m so happy and grateful to say she has been cancer free for several months. I also ride for her daughter (my mom’s sister) Adria, who had a large astrocytoma when she was only five years old. She was given extreme levels of radiation during her bout with cancer (more than would ever be given to an adult today), and as a result her mind and body were never the same. Despite all of the pain and frustration she experienced, she always had such a fun-loving energy and taught us all to appreciate the preciousness of life. I only knew her for a short time, but her grace, grit, and positive spirit left a very big impact on my entire family.
I ride for my dear friend and roommate Michael, one of the first people I met in college. I am so thankful to have him in my life. He constantly inspires and stuns me with his love for adventure, his sharp mind, and his unparalleled vocabulary. He fought Ewing’s sarcoma when he was in high school, and came out on the other side with a titanium femur and a miraculous story to tell. He has been cancer free for three years now, and helped push me to join this incredible program.
I ride for Ashlee, one of my oldest friends from high school. We have spent endless hours laughing together, engaging in insightful debates, and she even took me to one of my first concerts. When we were fairly young, she was diagnosed with myxopapillary ependymoma (very rare form of tumor) in her spine. While I was going through average life as a teenager, she had to leave school for treatments and was frequently in the hospital. Since her cancer is so rare, she has experienced many experimental therapies and risky surgeries. Many of these treatments hurt her more than the cancer would have on its own. Her fight is still ongoing, and I’ll ride for her for as long as I live.
These are all magnificent people unified by their ability to positively impact the lives of those around them, as well as their resilience in the face of a monstrous affliction. Their impact on me has led me to appreciate my potential influence on the world as an individual. But these stories, while very emotional and personal to me, are unfortunately not unique. Practically everyone has had their lives touched by cancer in some shape or form, and it leaves physical and psychological scars that are difficult to recover from. Through seeing my loved ones struggle I often found myself feeling helpless. How can I as an individual possibly make a difference in this fight?
By joining this incredible organization I’ve found ways to directly impact people through our three pillars of Hope, Knowledge, and Charity. Kitty, Evie, Eleanor, Barbara, and Michael have taught me the value of giving charitably and spreading hope and optimism. I have learned a lot from Adria and Ashlee’s ongoing story, but theirs especially have made me particularly passionate about spreading knowledge about cancer. This includes not only preventative education, but also spreading awareness and promoting research for more rare and mysterious afflictions and being more cognizant of how cancer drugs affect the body. Our understanding of cancer and how we treat it is constantly evolving as we discover new cutting edge technologies. I’m very enthralled with pursuing innovative cancer therapies and am excited to have an active role in supporting facilities with similar goals.
I ride for myself and anyone living lives affected by cancer. I ride to make myself and others feel less helpless in the face of such a debilitating disease. I ride for those who dedicate their time and lives to caregiving and the support systems of cancer patients. I ride for the people robbed from this world by cancer. I ride for those who are many years deep in a battle with cancer, and also those who are just now starting. I ride to receive and spread hope for the future. Along this journey I will be enveloped in the love and pain and compassion surrounding those affected by cancer and through this, foster a deeper appreciation of our shared humanity.
This ride will be immensely difficult and rewarding, and I would be so honored if you could support me in this fight and allow me to carry your stories to Alaska.
I ride for me, I ride for them, and I ride for you.