I am no stranger to the feelings of pain and hopelessness that cancer carelessly invites. I am familiar with the ways in which the disease selfishly strips away beauty and vigor from its victims. In my life, I’ve had multiple family members and friends who have bravely battled cancer and lost. The memories of these loved ones and any mentioning of the disease use to make me feel small and powerless. However, one person completely changed my attitude towards the fight against cancer. Every day, thinking of this person fills my cup of grit – that is, courage and resolve - up to the brim, making me feel invincible in the fight against cancer. That person is my stepmom.
“Con yêu cô rất nhiều,” I said to my stepmom, which means “I love you so much!” My stepmom gave me a big smile as we broke from our embrace and handed me a plastic bag containing a month’s worth of steamed pork buns and fried rice. I waved goodbye to the rest of my family, got in my car, and sat there with a big grin on my face. I started the engine and began my drive back to Austin to start my sophomore year in college.
At the beginning of that summer, my father told me that the doctors had found a tumor in my stepmom’s right breast and they were certain it was cancerous. Taken by surprise, I didn’t know how to react to the news. I felt this was going to be another painful experience. My stepmom came home that same day from work and I greeted her at the front door with an uneasy smile. She knew what I was thinking about and in return I got a chuckle followed by, “Have you eaten yet, honey? Let me start up the soup and rice!” My face immediately lit up and I proceeded to help her bring in the groceries from her car.
That summer and the numerous times I came home during my sophomore year, I witnessed an incredible, constant display of beauty and vigor – virtues I had once thought faded with this sickness. My stepmom went on to endure six months of a medication that shrunk the tumor in her breast, a surgery to remove that tumor, and three months of weekly chemotherapy sessions. It was apparent that this battle was taking a toll on her physical health, but she never failed to exhibit her radiating positivity despite this. She made it clear to our family that no disease was going to take her away from us and that she would win the fight. And she did on 12/15/2018!
My stepmom’s unwavering resolve in her mission to beat cancer has inspired me – in my privileged position of full health and ability - to take an active role in the fight. Because of this, I have pursued cancer-awareness initiatives during my time in college, and found interest in the Texas 4000 leadership development program. When I heard about this organization, I was left in awe. A 4000-mile bike ride to Anchorage, Alaska was the perfect conversation starter and I had to know more about this mission. When I learned more and more about it, I became less focused on the actual bike ride. I realized that it is only a miniscule aspect of joining the program.
Rather, I found the true meaning of Texas 4000 perfectly conveyed through its three pillars - knowledge, hope, and charity - which solidified my desire to apply to this organization. With these foundational principles, I believe that my ride team can make a profound impact in this world. In times of hardship, our mutual passion and commitment to battling cancer can be used to empower one another to stay focused on our goals. First, I know that by embodying love and optimism, the power cancer has over people can be overcome. I wish that those afflicted by cancer will be touched by our immense positivity and be able to place their hope in us. Secondly, I know that this organization will allow me to spread valuable information about cancer to the world, further developing me as an advocate for cancer patients. As an aspiring nurse, I want people to know of the risk factors associated with cancer and understand how they can be regularly screened for it. I want to see the world transition to being more health-conscious and cancer-aware through our education efforts. Lastly, I hope to promote a culture of generosity and selflessness. I hope to do so through fundraising efforts, ranging from bike ride events to t-shirt sales. These manageable efforts to raise $4500 before my bike ride are simple displays of charity that I know will inspire people to imitate or take on an initiative of their own. What starts with us will multiply, if done right. These three pillars remind me that I am in the right organization and invigorate me with a continual desire to be part of a mission bigger than myself.
For my stepmom and the betterment of the world, I ride my bike.