Alyssha is a junior at Goucher College. In the summer of 2012 she is riding with a group of college students on a 70 day, 4000+ mile bike ride from Baltimore to Portland.
What is your connection with the cancer community?
For most of my life the word cancer meant very little to me. I actually would hear it so often that I thought of it as simply as the common cold. I knew it was deadly, and I'd hear stories of great aunt so and so and of neighbors or of friends' families who died because of cancer. Somehow, still I didn't think twice. It never hit close enough to home, I suppose, so cancer to me was one of the facts of life. That is, until I was forced to watch someone suffer from it. My current boyfriend at the time informed me that his aunt was moving in with him and his mother so that his mother could look after her because she was very ill with a stomach cancer. Now, I knew this aunt well enough. Although I didn't see her often, she had a memorable personality. She was in her fifties, and wore funky prints and gawky jewelry; the kind of older woman who'd die her hair pink. I am not sure what I expected when I saw her that first time, but I did not expect her to be so visibly terminal. She was so weak and experiencing the kind of pain you'd swear you could see. It was awful. No hair dye, no nail polish, no exciting outfits. Just a woman that you knew was dying without anyone saying a word. Seeing her pain was slowly changing my perspective on the word that I paid little attention to. I was constantly worried for her and I didn't know what to do to make it any easier. Once she died after being there only a few weeks I didn't know what to do. I was sure I was having a heart attack, I panicked so badly. It didn't make any sense, I'd lived a life where loss was pretty prevalent, but I'd never reacted like this. I mean honestly, I didn't know her nearly as well as others I've lost in the past. Somehow still I was in so much pain and I cried for days. At the funeral I locked myself in the bathroom for over an hour. I wasn't sure how to make peace in a situation like this, until I went to view the body. I stood there and stared and decided that in her honor, I would no longer take cancer so lightly. I now know the seriousness of cancer and am concerned with its victims. I feel extremely connected to the cancer community through my experience with it, and I hope to use the connection to fight for a change in the horrifying statistics.
Why are you riding the 4K for Cancer?
I am more than motivated to join the 4k ride. After starring at the computer screen when I first learned about it, and realizing that somehow I actually am crazy enough to really want to do this, I couldn't get the idea out of my head. It was growing in me like something I had to do, I felt like I needed to do it. Possibly because I talk a lot about doing things to support the cancer community, but never actually do them. I see myself pushing off the change that I vowed to make. And that is not how I want to be. I don't want to be too busy to make a difference in this world. As I began to mention to friends and family, "Yea I am trying to do this 4k for cancer thing, where you ride a bike from here to California" Somehow seeing their jaws drop motivated me more. I realized that there was really something to this 4k thing because after their shock passed, they too became excited; some asking how they could help, others even wanting to join the ride! It's contagious and that positive spirit was so motivating to me. I knew I had discovered something good and my motivation continued to grow to be a part of this. I'm motivated to make a change with the 4k.