- Route: Rockies
- Ride Year: 2023
- Hometown: Lewisville, TX
- School Year: Sophomore
- Major: Architecture
- Email: email@example.com
I’m a second year architecture major here at UT and have marched mellophone as a member of the Longhorn Marching Band! In my free time, I love to explore all the buildings the forty acres has to offer, try new coffee shops (which I think is part of my job as a college student), and learn more about the city I am beginning to call home. I also adore reading and listening to music. Working late nights at the architecture studio has allowed me to perfect the engaging playlist. The key aspect? No two songs should sound the same and nothing slow. What this means in reality is that Taylor Swift can be followed by the Eagles and then Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony or music from West Side Story. Anything to keep the mind engaged. In addition to loving music, I’m also passionate about our public land and National Parks and it's my lifelong goal to visit them all. As a future architect, I hope to promote sustainability and community in the projects I’m involved in.
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Why I Ride
I sat down to take my final in my freshman year high school English class. There was a nervous energy that filled the air. Mr. Willard walked to the front of the room with exams piled high in his arms. Instead of passing them out next, he informs us that he has been diagnosed with melanoma, a type of skin cancer. He said this casually, and assured us not to worry. He didn’t want any extra attention; he just wanted life to run as normally as possible. My friend and I turned to each other in disbelief. It was in Mr. Willard’s style to say something as shocking as this and then proceed to have his students take a heavily weighted exam. My brother had his class the next year, and Mr. Willard, true to his word, kept things as normal as he could. Although he couldn’t change the fact that he had to miss school to get treatment at MD Anderson.
None of us could have predicted how time ran its course. The summer before my senior year of high school, during the height of COVID, my brother and I found out that Mr. Willard had passed away. Due to the pandemic, he wasn’t able to continue getting treatment and he ultimately lost his battle to cancer.
That was the third time in recent years that I had lost someone important in my life to cancer. My grandfather passed away my freshman year after a long battle with a rare sarcoma cancer. My middle school volleyball coach, Davey, passed away from colon cancer that was only discovered after it spread to his liver. It never became easier to hear news like this. And with each loss, the hurt deepens because the pain of losing them radiates through the community, and it’s likely only a fraction of the pain that they experienced.
The worst part of cancer is when it is an inevitable death sentence. There was no cure for my grandfather’s cancer. I watched as my mom, his daughter, rode the highs and lows of the clinical trials that offered potential cures. I remember the hushed phone calls late at night discussing his condition. I recall my grandfather trying to hide his loss of strength and how he was embarrassed by his condition. He was one of my biggest supporters and it was hard to watch him battle while his family battled alongside him.
I heard about Texas 4000 while my grandfather had cancer. A local Texas travel show had filmed an episode of the organization’s ride to Anchorage. I had told myself then that if I went to UT, this was the thing I wanted to do. Now that I’m here and my grandfather is gone, I feel this is the way I can include him during my time at UT. It’s also a way I can push myself into a challenging situation and fight through a battle for him that I was too young to originally fight with him. It’s in this way that I’d like to ride for hope: hope for those who are currently fighting their own battles and in honor of the memories of those who were lost. I also ride for knowledge to help educate the community around me about the importance of cancer screenings. Davey would have had a better chance if his cancer had been caught sooner. For Mr. Willard's case, I think it’s important that we understand the impact the pandemic has had on those who have cancer: how their treatment might have changed, the tough choices they had to make, and how they are faring as we near the end of the pandemic. It’s more important, now more than ever, to reiterate the importance of screenings and ensure that people can get the care they need - safely.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out and share your story and I will take it with me to Alaska.
From Austin to Anchorage,