- Route: Sierra
- Ride Year: 2019
- Hometown: Athens, TX
- School Year: Senior
- Major: English Honors, Religious Studies
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
“My life is not dated by years—
There are moments which act as a plough;
And there is not a furrow appears
But is deep in my soul as my brow.”
–Lord Byron, “To the Countess of Blessington”
My name is Sydney Bartlett, and I’m in my fourth year at UT studying English and Religious Studies in an integrated Master of Arts. I grew up in small towns of East Texas and benefitted from the love and support of a tight-knit and comforting community. I'm the favorite of two lovely sisters, a daughter to two wonderful parents, and a parent to one wonderful dog. I love spending time with my family, reading, writing, running, and (attempting) to bake. Along with Texas 4000, I’m part of a few campus organizations including Texas Spirits, ECHO Literary Magazine, Liberal Arts Honors, and English Honors. I’ve worked as a Copy Editor at The Daily Texan and as an Orientation Advisor at UT. My heart rests in nonprofit work and service to my community, and I hope to lead a life dedicated to serving others even when my ride ends.
Why I Ride
A few moments in my own life have acted like the plough Byron mentions in the above poem, those moments and experiences hovering around me like a shadow throughout most of my life.
For almost as long as I can remember, my grandfather has battled lung cancer, and my grandmother, my namesake, has fought beside him the entire time. He taught me everything I know about fishing in Northern Michigan and instilled in me his love for anything containing an ounce of sugar. He always called me Little Cockroach as a kid, which maybe sounds odd and not as endearing to the average reader as it does to me, but thinking about it still makes me laugh. He’s always had a mustache, has never gone gray, and worked 3rd shift in GM factories for most of his life. I’m happy to say that after years of complications and drain tubes and trips to Detroit, my grandfather beat cancer.
But, my grandfather’s battle, one that I had grown up with and had been desensitized to, always seemed foreign to me. No matter how bad the projected outcomes, he always turned out okay in the end. He is still, thankfully, okay. Naively, I applied this same narrative to another story of the disease when my neighbor as a child and a dear friend and mentor to my entire family was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2014. The most treasured memories I have from my childhood involve me sitting around a dark wooden table in Henry and Kathy’s home, a steaming bowl of chicken and sausage gumbo sitting in front of me, the clinking of silverware and whispered stories floating through the house’s warm atmosphere. Walking the short distance home those nights, I watched my breath float up above my head, saw it drift towards the sky and stars before turning my head to see Henry and Kathy waving goodbye from their front porch. If I close my eyes, I can still imagine myself, just for a second, back in that moment, my feet hitting their pebbled driveway.
Eventually, they moved home to Baton Rouge, and for years, Henry’s battle resembled my grandfather’s. Things would look bad, but then they would get better. They always seemed to get better. I thought that they would always get better— until things didn’t. In the beginning of 2017, he passed away, and despite all the bad news that had come before that phone call, I was shocked, and I struggled to process the cruel ending of such a vibrant life. A few days later when I attended the funeral, I saw his wife for the first time in years, appearing lovely and heartbroken and strong all at the same time, and, again, I was in shock.
I think that I’m still in shock.
So often when I thought of cancer survivors and victims before January 2017, I saw with blinders. I thought only of the person with the diagnosis who undergoes treatments and surgeries at tremendous costs. Yet, the two defining cancer stories in my life taught me that cancer is far too cruel a disease to only affect one person. Indeed, it takes forms more inconspicuous like debt, stress, and grief. It clings to the people who are closest to and love its host the most. The truth is, these people live with cancer, bear the heavy effects of its presence, all their lives— even after the disease’s host is gone.
In the summer of 2019, I want to ride for my grandfather and for Henry, to manifest the love and respect I have for them into something productive and impactful. But, I also want to ride for my grandmother and Kathy, for all of those individuals who have stood in their places at appointments, waiting rooms, and coffins.
My goal to raise $10,000, along with physically biking to Alaska and presenting programs about cancer prevention and treatment along the way, is for the sake of all those cancer has affected. Your support and donations will go towards cancer research and Texas 4000's mission to spread hope, knowledge, and charity
I want to ride for you and those you love, and I thank you in advance for your support on this journey.