• Route: Sierra
  • Ride Year: 2022
  • Hometown: Austin, TX

About: Hey there! It's Belle!

I'm a junior public health major on the pre-med track! Besides being a member of Texas 4000 (which still feels insane to be able to say) here at UT I'm also a member of Alpha Phi sorority and Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre Health Honor Society.

Since I am a STEM student and therefore not great at writing, I think it's best I let you get to know me a little more in a list format:

1) I'm proud to identify as a native Austinite. I have lived here with my mom, dad, older brother, and older sister for my entire life and graduated from James Bowie High School in 2019.

2) From the age of 3-18 I was a competitive dancer, and even though I don't get to take classes often, you can always catch me doing a little jig wherever I am.

3) Even though most people skip it, I'd have to say that breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I've written a whole essay about my love for oatmeal before, and I can't start the day without a glass of cold brew.

4) I've been vegan since April of 2020, and I'm still going strong. Please email me your favorite recipes since I'm always looking for new things to try!

5) I worked as a lifeguard/lifeguard manager/swim lessons instructor for the city of Austin the past 5 summers and absolutely loved it. Swimming is one of my favorite ways to exercise, and the stories I have from the summers I've worked at the pool are ones that I'll always look back on fondly.

6) I don't hike a lot, but whenever I do I always ask myself "why don't I do this more often?" Typically, my favorite place to hike is Enchanted Rock outside of Fredericksburg since I love the Texas hill country, but my favorite hike ever was a 10-mile hike in the Bohemian Saxon-Switzerland National Park outside of Prague!

7) My favorite place I've ever been to is Costa Rica. While I tend to consider myself more of a mountain person than a beach person, nothing compares to how kind the people are and how beautiful it is there. Fun fact: I missed the first week of my senior year of high school to go to Costa Rica. Was it responsible? No. Was it worth it? Yes.

8) Currently, the top item on my bucket list (besides biking to Alaska) is bungee jumping in New Zealand.

9) I'm ecstatic to spread hope, knowledge, and charity in the fight against cancer while biking from Austin to Anchorage in 2022!

Why I Ride

My mom had been my rock and biggest supporter for as long as I can remember. I can confidently say that in my 20 years of life, she never missed a dance competition, recital, swim meet, or science fair. She always was the ultimate hype woman and did everything in her power to help me reach my goals. Some of my most vivid childhood memories were the countless hours we spent together in her Honda Pilot as she drove me to school every morning and to dance every evening. I can't think of any other person who would sit and do 1000 piece puzzles with me or be willing to facetime me for eight hours straight when my roommates left me alone in my apartment for the weekend. My mom was always the glue that held my family together, the woman who made quite possibly the best blueberry pancakes in the world, and most importantly she was my best friend.
In July of 2020, my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. At first, the only thing I could feel was disbelief as I wondered how my perfectly healthy mom, who I had never seen so much as cough, was battling such an aggressive and dangerous disease. People rarely talk about the shock that accompanies a diagnosis like stage 4 cancer, but it felt like I was a stranger to reality for weeks. I was stuck in a constant loop of thoughts wondering what the future life I was so certain about would look like now that the most steadfast aspect of my life was no longer the picture of health I always knew her to be. The process of accepting the fact that my life would never be the same as it was before my mom’s diagnosis was a long and difficult process, and I still struggle with it to this day.
While people always like to talk about miracles when they hear about stage 4 cancer diagnoses, I knew from very early on that loss was not a matter of if but when. While I naively thought that this rationale would protect me from the eventual pain I would feel losing my mom, no rationalizing can ever prepare you for what you feel as you see a flat line on the heart monitor attached to the person you love most. There is no rationalizing that can solve the sting of knowing that the person who understands me the most isn’t there anymore. There is no rationalizing that can ease the heartache I feel every time I think of texting my mom and subsequently realizing there won’t be a response. There is no way to rationalize the pain in my chest I feel every time I have to use the word “parent” instead of “parents”.
As I looked through pictures of my mom on the night of her death, I was reminded of the breadth of life that she lived. Despite the comfort I received knowing how full her life was, I couldn’t help but think about how cancer still robbed her of so much. One of the last times I spoke to her, she told me that one of the biggest regrets she had at the end of her life was not being able to see me graduate college. While my mom was able to see and do so much in her 60 years, because of cancer, she will never see me graduate, have my dream career, get married, or have kids.
While my story is certainly sad, the worst part is that it isn’t unique. During my time in Texas 4000, I have come to realize how far-reaching the impacts of cancer are, and I have been shocked and saddened by how many people have similar experiences to mine. By sharing my story, I hope that I can show that no one is alone in their grief, and every day gets a little easier. I also hope that my mom’s story can illustrate the importance of cancer screening. Colon cancer is a preventable and curable disease when caught early, and screening services are truly life-saving.
In June I will ride from Texas to Alaska for my mom Dana Marley. Every time I get on my bike will be a reminder that I am fighting in honor of my mom’s fight and every other person who has been affected by cancer. If I have only a fraction of the strength that my mom had during her battle, I am sure I will be able to make it to Alaska while spreading the message of hope, knowledge, and charity to the people that I meet along the way.