• Route: Rockies
  • Ride Year: 2021
  • Hometown: Clear Lake City, TX

Why I Ride

Amidst the rumblings of the impending Syrian Civil War, my grandfather Deeb in Damascus began calling my father and complaining of unending bone pain and fatigue. An MD Anderson-trained pathologist, my father quickly began to suspect multiple myeloma.

Deeb taught me the meaning of grit. He bravely underwent chemo in Syria as my family applied for medical visas to bring him to Houston. Finally he was able to fly to our home so that he could be surrounded by his six children and many American grandchildren.

Deeb taught me the meaning of family. I watched as my grandmother, aunts and uncles cared for Deeb. We came together to drive him to chemotherapy infusion appointments, cook him his favorite traditional Syrian meals, and listen to his stories of travelling 1950’s Egypt as a young soldier. Our family felt complete with him by our side. Unfortunately, even the most excellent cancer treatment by MD Anderson began to fail. Over the course of 4 years, he became paler, weaker, and more fatigued until he eventually passed.

Deeb taught me the meaning of purpose. I began to reflect on my experience with Deeb when I shadowed a medical oncologist. The doctor I shadowed loved his job, stating that newly arrived molecularly-targeted immunotherapy agents had revolutionized chemotherapy for certain cancers. Targeted drugs have low side effects and high remission rates when compared to traditional agents. One time after watching his consultation with a multiple myeloma patient, I asked the doctor what the patient should expect for prognosis. “If the patient receives chemo: they can battle for much longer than ever before with less pain,'' the doctor replied. If my grandfather were treated with today’s chemo agents at the time of his diagnosis, he might still be with us.

I ride for KNOWLEDGE so other families do not have to go through what mine went through. I ride for HOPE to inspire the communities we will stay with throughout America along the ride. I ride for CHARITY to accelerate this fight. I want to see if I have what it takes to wake up yet another early morning and bike 100 miles, slowly approaching the horizon of my goal. After the journey, I wouldn’t be surprised if a little bike ride to Alaska seems like nothing in comparison to the four year fight my grandfather braved so that he could be with his family.

I started this journey with Deeb as my "Why", but every day I learn that there are many more reasons to bike to Alaska. You are the reason I ride. Please reach out with anything you need to share at [email protected]. We dedicate every training ride, meeting, and ride day to those we have lost in the fight against cancer so please let me know if you have a loved one you want to be honored.

I ride for:
Kathleen Toennis
Karen Kirkgard