• Route: Unassigned
  • Ride Year: 2024
  • Hometown: Grapevine, TX

About: Hello! My name is Mark, and I am a biochemistry student here at UT Austin engaged in cancer genomics research with the Yi Lab and aiming for medical school. I aspire one day to become an oncologist and let people know that Texas 4000 was a part of my journey.

At UT, I am also engaged in the Health Science Scholars honors program council as a volunteer coordinator, Longhorn EMS as a new first responder, StudentsCare as a hospital and senior home volunteer, and the Student Health Advisory Committee where I help bridge the student body with University Health Services. In my free time, I enjoy running, swimming, and reading. Little things get me through each day like free lunches, a trip through Target, and a brief encounter with a recognizable face. Please say hello if we ever meet! :)

Why I Ride

During my first encounter with cancer while shadowing an oncologist, I found that despite having every reason to hold bitterness, many cancer patients shared stories and vulnerability that only encouraged me to see life's beauty. One elderly couple who had recently received news of a cancer diagnosis reminisced over their youth spent mostly traveling together, to which the doctor related her own traveling memories as I watched them bond. In the room next over, another patient who was a few years in remission, showed the doctor and I pictures of bronze garden decorations he had made himself since his recovery, quietly proud of his amazing work. When the doctor passed his pictures to me, she was beaming.

From all the participants of the clinic, from the doctor to the patients to the administrative staff, I came to understand how important cancer care was. Not only did it save lives, it held the capacity to give back relief, strength, and potential. The next day, however, I learned that this was also not always the case. A dejected teenager with prostate cancer came in for chemo, alone and averting conversation with the doctor. The oncologist would later also tell me how difficult it was inevitably losing lives and no longer seeing patients she would come to know well. While an opportunity for some to reclaim one’s life, cancer treatment may only go so far for others. Yet, one can only hold out hope and continue to advocate for its effectiveness in change.

A few years later, these lessons became pertinent to me as I was pushed to trust in cancer treatment's strength, learning a relative of mine had stomach cancer. From diagnosis, it was not clear right away what the outcome would be. My family and I spent the next few months in a panic, consumed by worry from the slightest marks in CT scans and furiously researching treatment options while shunning the topic of death.

On the day I received news of the diagnosis, I came from my room apprehensively to greet my affected family member. Without pulling away from their laptop screen, surely researching their cancer, they looked stoic and emotionless. I left them alone, unsure of what to say. Later, I went on a walk with another family member, and we talked about how we could give comfort when we both didn't know what to do. When we came back, I saw them huddled in the same position as before and came over to give a hug. Only then did they burst into tears, confessing to me their worry. It was hard for me to hold in my own tears.

Today, after intense chemotherapy and surgery, they are thankfully in remission. My life is indebted to what cancer treatment did for them and my family. It gave back their life in a traumatizing time and allowed us all to heal.

I ride in honor of the journey my close relative and many others across the globe have faced and face with cancer. Cancer continues to hurt individuals and their families each and every day, yet hope persists. Steps are constantly being taken to ease suffering during treatment, create accessibility to cancer care, and make recovery a possibility. In every way I can, I want to help contribute towards this movement for change. To start, I am committed in biking to Alaska, supporting the cause each mile of the way.