In the summer of 2019, I will be riding a bike from The University of Texas at Austin to Anchorage, Alaska with a team of ninety other UT students. Together, we are a part of Texas 4000 for Cancer, a registered 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization that has been supporting cancer research for 15 years as the longest annual charity bike ride in the world. During this 70-day journey, we will ride over 4,500 miles to Alaska in hopes of inspiring communities throughout the continent to join us in the fight against cancer.
I cannot think of very many reasons why I would hop on a bike and ride across North America. But I can say that I am honored and excited to hop on a bike and ride across North America for my dad.
On March 31, 2012, my dad sat me down and told me he was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer with an aggressive variant. Since that day, he fought cancer with courage, strength, and determination. Through non-stop rounds of treatment, he refused to even miss one day of work. My dad lit up the room with his dance moves, brought smiles across the house with his Sunday morning pancakes, and wasn't afraid to beam with pride at his children. He enjoyed talking your ear off with his "wise advice", could fix anything, and sacrificed every single day to make all my dreams come true.
When my dad was first diagnosed, doctors said he would never be in remission. He went through 7 cycles of radiation, 8 rounds of different chemotherapies, 4 oral medications, and countless scans. In May of 2017, we received the news that his cancer had spread to his brain. At the time, he said his goal was to make it to Hawaii, a trip we made memories on this past spring break. When I told my dad the following November that I joined Texas 4000 to ride for him, he said his goal was to make it to see me cross the finish line - for him - in Alaska. But unfortunately, this summer we were given the news that there are no more treatment options for his cancer, and my dad died on December 27th, 2018. I am absolutely heartbroken and hurting, but continue to grow in passion for this mission every day for having to watch my dad suffer.
Through every desert I will sweat in, mountain I will climb, and storm I will push through on my bike next summer, I will look to my dad. I ride because cancer took away my dad's ability to. I ride because I know it will be hard and I know I will face adversity...but I ride because I want to overcome it with the same resilience that my dad has shown me through his 7-year fight with cancer. I ride to show him in this tangible way that I will dedicate myself to this cause to fight cancer. I ride for my family. For my mom, whose strength has never ceased to inspire us all. For my sisters, who have been there for me every step of the way. I ride for every person I will encounter over the course of this journey. And I ride for everyone who has been affected by this awful sickness. For Landon Ahrendt, who lost his life too soon from a rare tissue cancer. For Frank Schmidt, who's little grandson donated his bag full of quarters to my ride in honor of him.
My family has always held close to our hearts that the real way to beat cancer isn't by going into remission, it's by refusing to let it steal your joy. Along with my teammates, I ride to spread HOPE and radiate light, to let people know we are fighting for them. I ride to spread KNOWLEDGE from Austin to Anchorage, to share potentially life-saving preventions and screenings. I ride to spread CHARITY by raising money for research, to do my part in putting an end to cancer.
Please join me in fighting cancer every mile!
I began Texas 4000 so that my dad can watch me ride from Austin to Alaska and not give up solely because he has shown me how to persevere. However, as this journey progresses, my list of who I ride for gets longer by the day. I ride for my teammates and their stories, and I ride for you and anyone in your life who has fought cancer. We dedicate every meeting, training session, and ride day to someone affected by cancer, so please share your stories with me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Please don't hesitate to reach out! Your story matters, and I would love nothing more than to honor you or someone you know on my ride.