Strength. Hope. Love. Education.
While I don’t know what it is like to lose a parent to cancer, I do know what it is like to lose a parent to an illness. During the summer of 2006, my father was diagnosed with depression which eventually developed into Bipolar disorder. As a six-year-old, I was often confused as to why dad would have constant highs and lows. I watched as mom struggled to be there for my dad while simultaneously protecting me and my brother from seeing my dad this way. During his hypomanic episodes, he would wake me and my brother up in the middle of the night exclaiming that grandma and grandpa were outside waiting for us. We would watch from the porch at 3am in the morning as he ran around on the road barefoot. He would jump around elated over things we couldn’t comprehend because we were blind to his thoughts. During his depressive episodes, I remember my mom holding a lighter to my dad’s bed in desperation to get him out of bed. His body laid limp with a glazed look over his face. He couldn’t care less if he himself was set on fire. I didn’t recognize this man. All I wanted was to have my dad back. The dad who would teach me how to play basketball even though I was way too short to even reach the basket, the dad who would stay up with me when I had a nightmare and play with my hair until I fell asleep, the dad with the biggest smile on his face when I danced on stage for the very first time. Even through this chaotic mess, hope was still the light that guided us to the end of the tunnel. My mom never gave up on my dad. Every night she would pray silently in her room asking God for a miracle, asking God to keep her strong, asking God to protect my dad, asking God for us to understand. Eventually, my dad accepted treatment at our local hospital. For a while, I grew up without a father figure as he went through doses of medication and trips to the hospital. It was hard on the entire family but we survived and it made our family even stronger. Strength.
I would ride for the Hurtas. Growing up, Lauren was one of my closest friends. Throughout high school, she taught me how to be confident and how to stand up for myself. She also played a huge part in guiding me through my faith when I struggled. The Hurtas were always so welcoming, encouraging and loving on me, sometimes even more than my own parents. Last year her dad was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. While the news shook the entire community, their family stood stable as a rock as hope gleamed in their eyes. She had no doubt that her father would be able to fight through it. Even through surgery, pathology reports, and chemotherapy, she never wavered. She just kept a smile on her face and said, “My dad will beat this.” Two years later, he did. Recently, I reconnected with Lauren and she explained to me why her dad never wavered. When he was in the waiting room before every chemotherapy session, he realized a lot of the patients didn't have the same amount of faith as he did. So, he became their light and constantly gave others encouragement while also sharing the word of God. After speaking to those around him, you could sense a positive mood change in the room. He never wavered because he truly believes he was given cancer for a reason, to give others hope. Hope.
I would ride for Gayle & Billy Hardcastle. I think of Gayle and Billy as my honorary godparents because they’ve been friends with my mom even before I was born. Gayle was one of the first people to hold me when my mom had me. I was supposed to be born on Gayle’s birthday, August 1st, but I came a day early. This blossomed into a tradition where every year we would exchange gifts around the first week of August to show our mutual care for one another. Even with our 40-year age gap, our friendship was stronger than ever. One thing that I loved about Gayle was her ability to light up the room wherever she goes. Not once have I ever seen her sad or upset. She finds joy in every corner of her life. The only time I see a frown on her face is when she talks about Billy’s many encounters with cancer. Billy has Multiple Myeloma ( he had a stem cell/bone marrow transplant in 2005) and in 2017 he found he also has bladder cancer and a few months later was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He has had 4 heart attacks and has diabetes. Gayle jokes around, “The Lord keeps him rocking and rolling - perhaps more slowly now.”, but everyone around knows why. It’s because of Gayle that Billy can still smile through all those painful procedures. He keeps fighting because Gayle won’t let him give up. Even recently, they left their hometown of Victoria to move to Houston so Billy could be closer to M.D Anderson where he gets his treatments monthly. Billy is still fighting and Gayle is still smiling. Love.
Finally, I would ride for education. What makes Texas 4000 different than all the other organizations that fight against cancer is that not only does it push your body to the absolute limit, but it also gives you the opportunity to educate communities about cancer. The stories above had hope there to lead the way, but not every family or individual can lean on hope: hope that things will get better, hope that cancer is only a temporary visitor, and hope that cancer can be cured. Hope wavers when you peer into the darkness of the unknown but a little awareness can go a long way.
That’s what Texas 4000 is here for, to help people inspire strength, gain hope, share love, and spread education to fight against
I hope to ride for you. I want to hear how cancer has affected your life personally, so that I have the opportunity to ride for them throughout my journey. Every week we have Ride Dedications during our Monday meetings where we share stories from the community about our encounters with cancer. As a team we empower and remind one another why we ride.
Share your story: https://goo.gl/forms/WZcw5NWJ6Awtdlkd2