Baljash is a graduate student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. In the summer of 2012 he is riding with a group of college students on a 70 day, 4000+ mile bike ride from Baltimore to San Francisco.
What is your connection with the cancer community?
As a child growing up in Cleveland, I was lucky enough to be raised by both my parents and my grandmother. While my sisters attended school and my parents worked, Biji, Punjabi for grandmother, was my companion. We spent every day together; she taught me to speak Punjabi and cook “sabji.” Her positive outlook, devout faith, and naturally giving spirit have helped shape me into the person I am today. We formed an unbreakable bond and her kindness, purity, and gentle touch have stayed with me. When I was sixteen, Biji was diagnosed with lung cancer. This was a shock to my family since she was always healthy and a non-smoker. I watched Biji bravely fight her disease for years. She underwent multiple surgeries and grueling treatments yet never once complained. She handled every obstacle thrown her way with grace and her trademark ear-to-ear smile. Eventually her cancer metastasized, and after years of fighting, she passed away as my youngest sister and I sat by her bedside. During college and now as a medical student, I have sought to better understand her disease through coursework and research. I have learned much about the mechanisms and treatments of cancer, but the most important lessons came from Biji. It was through watching her battle cancer that I learned how to stay strong, kind, and hopeful even in the darkest of times.
Why are you riding the 4K for Cancer?
I am so excited about the journey I will soon embark on! I am honored to have the opportunity to work with The 4K for Cancer. I thank them for providing a unique forum to raise awareness and funds. I look forward to traveling the country, meeting and learning from those that continue to fight this disease daily, and educating communities along the way. I am extremely thankful for the opportunities I have been given throughout my life and am grateful for this chance to give back. I hope that through the work that we are doing, we can make a contribution to the fight against cancer so that someday this disease no longer holds power over us.