Before he was my friend, I knew him as the boy whose mother was sick. At temple, the parents would huddle in small circles, whispering about how she got more and more sick every day. How his family was on a name to name basis with all of the nurses. How white streaks began to cover the top of this child’s head. How they brought her home so that she would be more comfortable. How she didn’t have much time left. My own mother would tell me stories after every time she went to go visit about how their family could barely hold it together. When she passed away on February 24, 2012, I didn’t know what to feel. I remember thinking about it often, but the idea of losing someone in my life was so foreign to me. Whenever I saw him, I never understood how he was still standing and how he was able to keep going after his mom had just been ripped from his life.
A few years later, I lost my grandfather to Stage IV Oral Cancer. This time, I experienced up close the turmoil that a loved one’s illness causes in a family. Every time we received good news, it was fleeting. Bad news would be just around the corner, crushing the slight hope that we were desperately holding onto. It seemed as if it was a never-ending process. When we realized that we were going to lose him, I saw how strong my mother remained and how determined she was to make the best of the time that she had left with him. But slowly, the number of good days diminished, and virtually every day became a struggle. When my grandfather used to come from India to visit, he used to walk miles to the nearest grocery store or park when we were at school. He loved walking anywhere and everywhere that we allowed him to, making countless friends wherever he stepped foot. A couple months after he got sick, he could no longer walk up and down the stairs. As he got worse, a few steps were considered a victory. As the cancer continued to ruthlessly attack his body, it took his funny, carefree personality with it. He became a shell of himself, until one day when his disease finally took over.
On June 8, 2015, I lost my grandfather, and my mom lost her father. I have no idea what it is like to lose a parent, but I can only imagine how hard it would be to continue living your own life. My mother is my best friend, the only person who knows absolutely everything about me, sometimes even before I do. My father is at my side the minute he thinks I need him, always ready to pick me up. If one of them was not around to flood me with all of the love and support that they do, I would not be the same person I am today. The boy whose mother passed away from cancer is my friend now, and his name is Anuj Mehta, a fellow Texas 4000 rider. Eventually, I realized that the reason he was so resilient was because he knew that was what would have made his mom happy. He is the strongest, most genuine person I know because he took something that was extremely painful and gut-wrenching from his life and used it to spread joy and laughter throughout his life. I am in awe of how he lives his life so optimistically with so much love for other people even though the world gave him the worst possible circumstances. I am in awe of my mother as she never let her father’s death stop her from giving us all of her love and attention even though all she wanted to do was sit down and cry. I am awe of individual who continued to keep living, to keep fighting after they lost a loved one.
I ride for my mother, Anuj Mehta, and all of the other people who have lost someone dear to them to cancer. Texas 4000 is an organization that I truly believe in because I have seen people close to me lose important people in their lives, and riding to Alaska allows me to play my part in preventing this in the future. My decision to take part in Texas 4000 and bike to Alaska is to help ensure that others do not have people close to them ripped from their lives because of this horrible disease. I ride to raise awareness on how cancer impacts loved ones and raise money towards research and a cure.