• Route: Sierra
  • Ride Year: 2021
  • Hometown: El Paso, TX

About: Hi there!

My name is Carolina Mendez, and I am a senior at UT Austin. I'm studying Biochemistry with a minor in Business and planning to attend medical school in the near future! I am the lucky daughter of my loving and hardworking parents, Yolanda and Gilbert, and the big sister to my outrightly accomplished and impressive younger brother, Alejandro. My interests and passions include; healthcare- but especially in relation to minority populations, integrative cancer care/treatment, bioethics, cooking, painting, reading, and hanging with friends and family!

Why I Ride

On July 3rd, 2019 my life forever changed. My dad, with no familial history of any cancer, or any major preexisting health conditions was diagnosed with stage III pancreatic cancer.

My dad is the kind of man that helps our neighbors unload their groceries. He willingly volunteered to work early morning kitchen aid shifts at the local Salvation Army. He put everyone he loved before himself. However, cancer does not care. Cancer does not discriminate. Never would I have thought that someone I loved more than anything in this world would have to fight for their life against the disease. Two weeks after his diagnosis we were thankfully at one of the best cancer care hospitals in the world; MD Anderson. On July 19th, he received his first round of a 3 drug chemotherapy combination called FOLFOX. As one of the strongest and most aggressive regimen out there, he responded poorly to the drugs and was hospitalized for a week. On August 8th he received his second round of chemotherapy, and had a life threatening reaction. He was hospitalized for two weeks. In those two weeks my dad's health took a turn for the worse. A once statuesque man struggled to eat 2 or 3 spoonfuls of applesauce a day. His nausea and pain was uncontrollable, leaving even the most qualified doctors dumbfounded and at a loss. I watched my dad deteriorate not only physically but mentally. I spent an average of 15 hours a day at the hospital by his bedside praying for a miraculous recovery. On his worst days, he barely spoke a word. The man laying on the hospital bed was not the man I spent 20 years of my life with; cancer changed him. It made him unbelievably vulnerable, and detached from the world. I did everything I possibly could to bring life and strength back to him. In this difficult time, I thought of all the memories my dad and I had shared together, and worried if we would ever make more. It was at that moment that I knew I had to be a catalyst in the fight against cancer...

Recently, we unfortunately learned that my dad's tumor is unresectable. So as my dad continues his fight against cancer with the recent completion of his radiation therapy, my family and I remain strong and focused to will the very difficult battle that continues before us.
I will ride not only for my dad, but for everyone that I have met along this journey that has been touched by the effects of cancer. I ride for my mother, whose knowledge, grace, and strength never cease to amaze me. I ride for my brother, who has quickly matured and taken up the roles my dad can no longer perform.
I ride for those who are unable to access healthcare, I ride for those who desire support but lack it, I ride for my teammates and their stories, and lastly, I ride for healthcare professionals that tirelessly dedicate their time to saving lives.

Despite my dad’s diagnosis, I am very blessed. I have an amazing family and incredible friends who keep me focused on all the good in life. It is through adversity, that we must remember that there is still so much good in life. So as I prepare to ride to spread hope, knowledge, and charity, I begin each day acknowledging that while cancer does many horrible things, cancer cannot ...
-shatter hope
- erode confidence
- destroy peace
- stifle laughter
-silence courage
- invade the soul
- erase memories
- steal humor
- conquer the Spirit of God

A special thank you to my dads care team :
All the nurse and staff at MD Anderson Cancer Hospital in Houston, TX and Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson, AZ
Dr. Michael Pishvaian
Dr. Rachna Shroff
Dr. Jaya Amaram-Davila
Dr. Prajnan Das
Dr. Gregory Martin
Stephanie Moore, RD

Everyone's story matters. If there is anyone in your life that I can honor and ride for, please reach out to me at (915) 497-7034