I ride for my family. I have a large and wonderful family. My childhood was picturesque, we went on family vacations, went to good schools, and everyone got along. But when I was a junior in high school my dad was diagnosed with melanoma, on my birthday, and it had already metastasized. I was terrified and broken hearted. I had already watched my sister’s best friend fight this disease and lose. I couldn’t believe I was going to have to watch my own dad do the same. At first things seemed to be going fine. Doctors looked me in the eye and told me this disease would not take my dad, it would not kill him, he was stronger. They gave me hope.
But then my dad took a turn for the worse, he advanced to stage 4c. His adrenal system failed, the tumors were everywhere, and he had to go on a heavy dose of steroids. As his cancer progressed, the stress of the disease took a huge toll on my family. No one at school knew the extent of what was going on at home, I tried my best to keep the truth from them and only answered that it was hard watching my dad suffer and we were all staying strong. Winter finals of my senior year rolled around and my dad was not doing well, it looked like he might not make it. Seeing him in a hospital bed broke me. The next day they released him, we were sure the outcome was bleak.
But then my dad got a miracle! He went from death bed to NED (no evidence of disease), but it did not erase the trauma we all went through. When so many of my peers talk about cancer, they speak of strength in the middle of what is essentially hell on earth. Their stories are hopeful and full of redemption or making the most of a bad situation. I still have not found my redemption, my meaning, or my answer to why my dad got cancer. But for too long I have dwelled in that, accepted that my story was just different and sad and no one could relate. But I want to ride to say enough with that. I am no longer going to look at the bad but make the good for myself and others. I want to ride to end this disease and for people whose story is not one of hope but they are looking for it. I want to ride for the families who suffer alongside the cancer patients. I want to show them that they can take an ugly story and use it for good, and in that, find healing.
I ride for my friend Emma Preston and her family. Emma lost her mom in 2017 to breast cancer. Laura Preston was kind and warm, a welcoming host, an avid world traveler, and a passionate teacher. Emma and I were in high school together when both of our parents were diagnosed with cancer. She was a constant support for me and a person I could turn to when things were really rough as she understood this fight more than most. I will always be grateful for her and want to honor her mom’s legacy by spreading hope and awareness throughout the US on this journey.
I am riding for Alden Malachowski and her family, Steve, Shelly, Lauren, and Cady. Sweet Alden and my sister Bailey were close friends throughout childhood. They used to chase Cady and I around the house, play hide & seek, or make up silly dances with us. We all went to the same school and our families spent a lot of time together. When I was in 6th grade Alden was diagnosed with leukemia. She fought bravely and taught me so much about grace in the midst of suffering. At 12 I didn’t know much about cancer, death, or finding hope in pain, but through Alden I learned so much. While she may have lost her fight, I want to continue spread her hope and joy.
I am riding for my friend Megan Kostolansky and her family. Megan lost her loving and brave dad Dave to pancreatic cancer in 2016 after an 18-month battle. Her story brings me hope as she has found redemption in her dad’s suffering by running marathons in his honor and raising money and awareness to end the fight against pancreatic cancer. Her example is what made me want to apply to Texas 4000 initially. She inspires me to turn my story into good and my pain into hope.
Cancer affects more than just those diagnosed, the families and communities suffer and fight alongside the patients. I ride to redeem those stories of pain and spread hope to those who feel tired and worn out from the fight.