• Route: Ozarks
  • Ride Year: 2019
  • Hometown: Houston, TX

About: Hello! Thank you so much for visiting my page. I’m Tonya, a fourth-year student majoring in Business Honors, Finance and Math. I constantly crave chocolate cake. I love listening to Death Cab for Cutie, The Black Keys and Pink Floyd. And before joining Texas 4000, the most adventurous thing I did was cut my bangs.

Why I Ride

Eighteen years ago, my father found a job as a cancer researcher in Houston’s Medical Center. All of his friends and family, including his wife and two-year-old daughter (me!), lived in China. My dad was just finishing up his PhD and had plenty of opportunities available to him, but he decided to sacrifice the comfort of what he knew to find a cure to something that people hope to never know. I like to think a significant part of my story is inspired by father’s. I never would’ve imagined that one day I would join him in the fight against cancer by biking from Austin to Alaska.

My father grew up in a small town with limited access to medicine and patient care. When he was 14, his mother passed away due to a surgical complication, where a supposedly low-risk operation led to an infection. Two years later, he lost his father to liver disease. Instead of losing hope, my father found meaning in tragedy and decided to dedicate the rest of his to fighting diseases. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in my dad’s lab. Cancer was shown to me in the form of test tubes, microscopes, scans. It was a nebulous adversary that we came to America to help defeat, but I didn’t fully understand the weight of cancer until later on.

This past May, a close relative of mine was diagnosed with head and neck cancer. Although I knew of the diagnosis, it didn’t prepare me for the overwhelming shock of seeing firsthand the way cancer changed the dynamic of our family. When I think of him, I picture him doing the things he loved most -- spending time with his grandchildren and tending to his garden. Last summer, our family’s garden that once flourished with ripe, red tomatoes and fresh bunches of cilantro lay untended.

Today, he is battling cancer and facing each stage of his illness with grace. Through all the pain, he never fails to smile. Because of the scans, the doctors are optimistic that he has the strength to beat the illness. Because I know him, I am hopeful that our garden will one day be filled with the trophies of his love and labor.

I ride for the past, for all the sacrifices people made to get us where we are now. I ride for the present, to encourage those affected by the disease that they are not alone in this fight. I ride for a cancer-free future.

I want to thank you for supporting Texas 4000 and my journey as part of the 2019 team. No matter how big or small your contribution may be, you are making a difference in the fight against cancer. Most importantly, if you would like me to dedicate my ride to anyone, please let me know how I can honor or encourage them.