Cancer is never fair. It shows no mercy. It chooses no favorites. Cancer relents in no circumstance, and is ruthless no matter who is fighting it. However, watching a child fight this battle is an unfathomable pain. I ride for every child diagnosed with cancer, and every family affected by pediatric cancer.
I ride for my cousin, Anna. Three years old and full of life, she loved all things purple, dolls, and playing with her brothers, Noah and John. Shortly before her fourth birthday, Anna began experiencing severe back pain. Upon visiting with multiple doctors, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of cancer which affects soft tissue cells.
Given the rare and aggressive form of cancer, treatment proved brutal for her and her family. Her brothers missed days at school to spend time in hospital waiting rooms while Anna underwent treatments. At the ages of six and ten, they had to grow up in ways their peers could never understand. John even developed severe migraines from the stress. The children’s parents drove hours each week to take Anna to hospitals with specialized treatment, and they watched their child suffer through something completely out of their control. I ride for every family who is forced to bear these heavy burdens.
As she progressed through her chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Anna lost all of her beautiful curly hair, and her complexion grew dull. Her smile faded, and her battle showed, even through her bravery. Due to her treatment schedule and intensity, going to school, playing with her friends, and other basic things she enjoyed before were taken from her. I ride for every pediatric cancer patient who loses their childhood in the face of an all consuming fight.
After fifty-six weeks of intensive treatment, the cancer no longer glowed on Anna’s hospital scans and she was able to, at least to a certain extent, be a child again. In remission with four remaining treatments, she was cancer free. However, shortly following the end of her chemotherapy, her cancer reared its ugly head again. Her back pain returned, and her doctors discovered a tumor around her spinal cord. This crushing news brought her fight back to the beginning. I ride for every cancer patient who has ever been given false hope, and I ride for a permanent cure.
The new tumor affected her ability to walk, so doctors performed an emergency spine transfusion in hopes of enabling her to walk again. Following this operation, she slowly gained her strength and ability back, but she still continued treatments and operations. Three months in to her new treatment plan, the cancer overtook her. The treatments did not work fast enough, and the cancer rapidly spread. The doctors granted her one month to live. I ride for every parent of a pediatric cancer patient who listens to physicians tell them they will outlive their child.
At only five years old, Anna died in her mother’s arms. Despite how strong she remained throughout her battle, cancer took her away from the world far before her time. She deserved to live a long and happy life, but cancer took that from her and from her family and from every life she touched. I will ride the Texas 4000 for Anna and the life that she should have lived.
I ride for a future where pediatric cancer has a cure, or even a prevention. I ride for Anna’s memory, and the memory of every other child who leaves the world too soon because of cancer. I ride for every family that loses a member at the hand of this horrible disease. In a world where cancer is an unfair battle, I strive to help give people a chance to overcome it.