Perspective, depending on how it is achieved, can be as devastating as it is valuable.
When I was much younger, I believed the worst thing that could happen to me or anyone else was getting in trouble; nothing made my gut wrench like the thought of being sent to the principal’s office or being put in time-out at home, because the thought of people being disappointed in me was worse than anything else I could conjure up. Because of this fear, I tried my hardest to do everything I was supposed to, thinking that if I could just avoid the dissatisfaction of others, then I would never feel bad. This plan fell through when I was 7 years old and my little sister and best friend, Michelle Stanton Turner, passed away. The cause was undetermined. Her death was labeled Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC), and my world changed forever. Nothing felt safe or permanent, and I realized that what I had previously thought the worst possible fate — a harsh scolding — wasn’t much when compared to something as earth-shattering as a family death. This was the perspective I’d gained (not to say, of course, that my behavior didn’t matter): that life will throw horrible things at you from time to time that make you reevaluate your definition of suffering.
Cancer is one of these things. When my Granddaddy, Gearry Lloyd Knight, Jr., was diagnosed in July 2008 with pancreatic cancer, our entire family was in a state of shock and disbelief. I wasn’t made aware of the diagnosis until several months later, and after almost a year of dealing with the disease, he passed on May 26th, 2009. His passing left an enormous hole in the hearts of those who had the chance to know him at any point in his life, because he was one of the best people you could ever hope to meet. As an established patent lawyer with an electrical engineering degree from Purdue and a law degree from George Washington University, he had the chance to impact many lives not just in his area but around the world for over 50 years. His clients and friends from America, Canada, Japan, Germany, and Switzerland among other places all spoke to his quiet, methodical brilliance — as could I, having been on the receiving end of his checkers skills. He has affected my life even after his passing by providing comfort as I pursue a STEM degree, as well as by keeping me practicing the trumpet (because one of his regrets was not continuing to play the trumpet as he got older). After a decade of being positively influenced by him on Earth, I was left with enough wisdom to hopefully set me on the right track for a long time to come, though I constantly wish that he were still here today to help me in person.
I ride for my sister, my Granddaddy, and everyone who has fought through this shift in perspective like I did — the people who were blindsided by tragedy so unfairly forcing itself into their lives. These experiences, brutal as they are, offer with them chances to help others. Awareness of the many forms of cancer, education about the causes and proper steps to take when faced with cancer, and research to help prevent cancer from taking more innocent lives are all important steps that go towards equipping the general population with the tools needed to fight this disease. Through Texas 4000, I can directly contribute to these steps. I can fight for a future in which people are knowledgeable in the risks of cancer and no longer have their entire worldviews stripped from them as a result of a diagnosis. I can raise money for charity, to be given to innovative people with the skills to eradicate cancer. I can remind the world that hope truly does exist in a battle that too many pessimists have made out to be impossible. I can do a lot of things on my own — together, however, all of us riders and donors and all the determined people of the world?
We can win.