• Route: Sierra
  • Ride Year: 2022
  • Hometown: Richardson

About: I’m someone who loves everything about late night drives with the windows down, who enjoys striking up a conversation with strangers, who has a penchant for breakfast foods — oatmeal, pancakes, egg sammies — enjoyed at any time other than breakfast, who loves the lightness and independence of summer, who deeply appreciates David Sedaris memoirs, who collects exhibition posters and art prints, and who learned how to ride a 5 foot tall giraffe unicycle because, well, it seemed like fun.

My name is Audrey DeJong, and I hail from Richardson, TX, a pretty unassuming but culturally diverse suburb near Dallas. I grew up in a single parent household, the only girl with my twin brothers and dad, in a house that I’m grateful we didn’t have to lock at night.

I’m still trying to figure out my place in this thing we call life. Here at UT, I’ve come just a little closer to that goal. I’ve found a home for myself as a chemistry major in the Dean’s Scholars program, a member of the Undergraduate Research Journal, Triple Helix magazine, and the Natural Science Council — and most of all, as a hopeful and enthusiastic rider for Texas 4000.

Why I Ride

Cancer reduces people to fragments. It chips away at healthy bodies, spunky personalities, and a future of potential. It can transform people into unrecognizable versions of themselves — not the same vibrant and dynamic personality that the friends and family of a cancer patient would recognize.

And cancer can do so much more: it can destroy relationships, careers, and aspirations slowly — and sometimes in no time at all. It can dissolve entire people and their long lives into artifacts reminiscent of the people they once were. My mom was first a captive, then a fatality, of breast cancer before I was 6 years old. What’s left — the pictures, passport, pearls — don’t do her justice. Even the few memories I have of us are contaminated by the cancer that seeped into every part of her life. The intimate action of brushing her hair is burned vividly in my mind; it’s hard to forget the clumps of dark locks that fell before my eyes.

I will ride to honor the memory of my mother. Because the cancer that consumed her life also took her intangible personality, identity, and humor. She didn’t deserve to be reduced to a picture in our house, didn’t deserve to live on only through a couple of memories, didn’t deserve to be remembered by only a few objects of her past.

I would ride for her and everyone else that has become a shell to cancer. I would ride for the people who feel like they have become controlled by cancer and the chemo, check-ups, and suffering that come hand in hand. I want to honor their lives and memories in a way that speaks more about the spirit of the person than the cancer that defines them: I want to bike to Alaska with Texas 4000.

Like past riders, I am invigorated to uplift the memories of the people that cancer has touched. I want to inspire, and be inspired, and use my influence to work toward a world where we can have a longer time with our loved ones. I ride because I want to take back the power that cancer holds by showing that the human spirit will always be resilient, even if cancer can claim our bodies. Biking to Alaska is a show of courage, a shake of the fist in cancer’s face, a challenge. It’s also a beautiful combination of an inspiring physical feat and a dedication to spread compassion and hope.

Most importantly, I will ride for the people I know cancer has touched: my family, my friends, my teammates. I will also ride for those I never got to know: all other cancer patients, cancer survivors, and of course, my mom.

To Alaska and back,