During the summer of 2019, I will bike from Austin, Texas to Anchorage, Alaska with my Texas4000 teammates. In the mean time, we will be volunteering for 50 hours and raising a minimum or $4,500 each.
At first, I joined Texas4000 because I didn’t know what else to do. When my dad called me with his diagnosis in the summer of 2017, I thought cancer could only mean suffering. I thought of every family member I’d lost to cancer already, even those with bright initial prognoses. The shear power of the disease paired with all the messy and unpredictable factors I’d seen the hospital throw at my family members who battled cancer (even those who survived) when I was growing up gave me little faith in my dad’s immediate future.
Soon after my dad’s first call, my mom swooped in. My dad called as a person who’d just been told he had cancer; my mom called as a scientist who had already done the research on the problem at hand. She told me that when it is caught in its initial stages, prostate cancer has nearly a 100% survival rate with treatment. I could breath again.
I spent some days researching the different treatments my dad was considering, and I spent others crying and avoiding the situation entirely.
When my dad started his treatments in the fall, I was in one of the hardest semesters I’ve had at UT. I was captain of the rowing team, working two part-time jobs, taking physics (yuck!), and towards the end I got mono. When I talked to my teammates or looked at my rapidly declining physics grade I felt like I was making the right decision to stay in Austin, but every time I called my dad I felt like I should be home.
I guess what I’m getting at is that even though it seemed like it should have seemed obvious that I take the time to go home and be with my dad, there were a lot of things in my life that made it seem obvious that I should stay in Austin too. I joined Texas4000 because I wanted to know what to do—both in objective terms of which treatments my dad should be choosing and less concretely, what I should be doing to support him because at the time, thinking about it alone was hard.
Luckily, the numbers were right and my dad is now cancer free after a relatively quick battle. I feel so grateful for the extra time today’s technology has afforded us, but I can’t forget what it felt like to be afraid of losing someone I’m so close to, and what it feels like to have nothing to say to them when they think they might be dying sooner than we imagined possible.
My mom aided this situation for both of us with her knowledge and compassion, and I hope through my involvement in Texas4000 to gain and share knowledge and compassion the way she did. I feel encouraged by the passion and enthusiasm of my teammates, and I am excited to help direct and contribute to making the most of our efforts together! As the year goes on, I'll be posting the links I found/find most informative and helpful; and I hope to join the programs team so that I can be directly involved in distributing this information to the stops we take along the way from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska.