- Route: Ozarks
- Ride Year: 2021
- Hometown: Houston, Texas
- School Year: Junior
- Major: Health & Society
- Email: [email protected]
Hi! My name is Lilian Velez and I’m a junior studying Health & Society at the University of Texas at Austin. I was born in Mexico City and lived in Queretaro until I was eight years old, then my family moved to Orange County, California, and when I was twelve we moved to Houston, which is home! After I graduated high school I took a time off and moved to Madrid for a year, where I worked as an au pair, went to Spanish class (almost) every day, met some lifelong friends from all around the world, traveled a bit, but most importantly, fell in love with olive oil, cured ham and salmorejo! Ask me how amazing a city Madrid is, I dare you.
Some fun facts about me: I think I’ve seen every episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix at least twice, I once got awarded Most Likely to Live on a Farm in South America (this is the dream), I'm half Puerto Rican and the only time I get aggressive is over which restaurant we're going to.
Why I Ride
When I was fourteen I started experiencing bizzare physical symptoms that seemed odd at the time. My mom was convinced something was really wrong, so to the specialist we went. Not even ten minutes into my appointment, I was told I had a mass that would have to be surgically removed; this appointment was supposed to be it for the day, but my mom and I ended up spending close to ten hours at the hospital. Somewhere in that whirlwind, the word cancer was used for the first time and I remember being really confused and scared for what was to come next, but not really thinking about me possibly having cancer. I had surgery to remove my basketball-sized tumor and spent a couple of weeks recovering, barely being able to go to the bathroom, bathe, walk, sit, stand and eat without someone there to help me. A long and worry-filled two weeks after my surgery, I went in to get my stitches taken out and have my biopsy discussed. That day, I was diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer and my little world did a flip flop. Chemotherapy began shortly after; long summer days spent in the hospital, having my thick, curly hair fall out, first slowly and then all at once. Lots of crying, lots of needles, lots of stares from strangers and a lot of me not knowing how to talk to others about what I was going through. A few months later, I was done with treatment and was monitored for years after. This time of my life feels like forever ago, but it’s something I think about and impacts me every day.
I became a frequent attendee at camps put on by The Periwinkle Foundation, an organization that provides programs for children, young adults and families who are affected by cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. I first heard about Texas 4000 at one of these camps and was so fascinated with the mission and of the students who rode.
I’m incredibly fortunate to have had a relatively “comfortable” cancer experience- my family had the resources, education and proximity to be able to navigate this illness in a manageable way; a huge reason why I wanted to do Texas 4000 was to advocate for the knowledge and charity that can be provided to others who are in need of such services. Through my diagnosis, I got to see just how lucky I was, and I hope to give back to the cancer community through hope, knowledge and charity.
I ride for all of my friends who I was able to meet through Periwinkle, for Jaqueline and Tara. I ride for every single patient I met during my time at Texas Children’s. For the two girls I met who had the same diagnosis as me. For every nurse who took care of me, for my two favorite oncologists, Dr. Thompson and Dr. Mehta. For my family, my mom and dad and three brothers!! I want to ride for everyone who has cancer who isn’t able to feel at home in their bodies.
Feel more than welcome to reach out to me at [email protected] or (832)-489-7544 if there is someone you want me to dedicate my ride for!