- Route: Sierra
- Ride Year: 2018
- Hometown: Wyckoff, NJ
- School Year: Senior
- Major: Business Honors and Supply Chain Management
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi y'all! My name is Mackenzie and I am a senior here at UT. I will be riding after I graduate in 2018! I am originally from Wyckoff, NJ (right outside of NYC), but have been coming to Austin annually since I was little, will be staying in Texas after graduation (and hopefully forever), and constantly argue with my friends about when I can be considered a Texan (I think my license counts, but they disagree).
I am so excited to be embarking on my Texas 4000 journey and can't wait to use this as a platform to keep friends and family informed on all of my team's Texas 4000 happenings! Thanks for visiting my profile and HOOK EM!
Why I Ride
Going to high school, I decided to leave my town’s district and go to the county high school, Bergen County Academies (BCA). I knew it was a place where I would be challenged and where I would be pushed to find my passions and pursue them. However, I did not realize the incredible people it would bring into my life. People who thought differently, who cared deeply about what they were doing, and who were generally the most dedicated friends I had ever had. One of these people was my first friend at BCA, let's call him Steve. Steve is two years older than me and as a freshman (and to this day), I really looked up to him. He was someone that all through high school knew I could count on for advice and whenever I needed someone to tell me I was being stupid as candidly as possible.
For some reason, even months into our friendship, I had this weird feeling that I knew Steve from somewhere before our BCA friendship. I couldn’t figure it out—we didn’t go to middle school together, we didn’t have any of the same friends from home, and even when I prodded I couldn’t find any similarities. Finally, one day it came to me...Steve had spoken at my middle school on “Respect, Reflect, and Resiliency Day” about his two-time journey with pediatric Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I suddenly remembered him making jokes about “how much cancer sucks” and how he “wanted to use stronger language here but [his] mom wouldn’t let [him].” But I also remembered him talking about losing all his hair, being constantly sick, having his skin turn black, and worst of all, hearing he had relapsed after just eight months.
Suddenly a lot of things about Steve started to make sense to me. Why he was so insightful. Why he was always so positive and always trying to brighten my day. But I didn’t understand one thing: why didn’t he tell me this? I had spent so many days talking to Steve about so many important things in our lives, but he never told me about a five-year battle that nearly killed him? When I remembered why I knew him, I called him immediately and he said something that surprised me, “Even two years in, I don’t want to be known as ‘cancer kid.’ I don’t want to be treated differently.” I never told anyone until he decided to give the same speech he gave to my middle school his senior year at BCA’s Relay for Life.
When I agreed to keep Steve's secret my freshman year, I jokingly asked him for a copy of his speech and he surprisingly sent it to me. I still have this speech and want to share an excerpt that I remember crying hysterically while reading:
“The worst part was that my body was still weak from the biopsy, plus I knew that I had to be admitted for the same chemo in another two weeks. It seemed impossible to do. But here’s the thing: I had no choice. Without the life-saving benefits of the chemotherapy and transplant, I knew I was going to die. I could either find the strength inside or lose my battle. I made my choice – I was going to fight back. My classmates and friends were there to cheer me on. My last day of school was pretty emotional. I knew that I would not return to school that year. As a farewell send-off, the entire 6th grade class surprised me by lining both sides of the main hallway of my middle school. My math teacher brought me out into the hall to the thunderous applause of students, teachers and staff. As I walked that corridor friends raised their hands to offer me a high-five. Each person let me know I had their prayers and good wishes. I left believing I would prevail.”
Going through a battle with cancer takes everything out of a person, a family, and even a community. It’s a physical, mental, emotional, financial, familial, and spiritual battle. Cancer tests a person to their very core—and it tests everyone around them to step up. I want to be apart of Texas 4000 because I want to step up. I want to step up for people like Steve. For people like of of my best friends, who also had pediatric cancer. For my childhood friend, who lost her mommy when she was just three (I can still remember asking my mom why she wasn’t at the baseball games anymore).
I am a part of Texas 4000 for one reason: to help create a world without cancer. No one should have to hear the words, “you have cancer.” No three-year-old should be afraid of their mommy without hair. No middle school girl should have “RIP Daddy 3.13.15” in their Instagram bio. My friends should not have the scars they have at the age they are (or frankly, ever). No family should ever have to choose between their comfort and their health the way that many do while going through treatment.
I am a part of Texas 4000 because it not only advocates and raises money for something I have been passionate about for almost a decade, but because it pushes me. I am excited for the ride and the impact, but I am also excited for everything I will learn—about myself, the mission, and my team. Texas 4000 is unlike anything I have ever done and lets me make an impact with 88 other riders far beyond anything else I have been a part of.