Drummond is a senior at The Johns Hopkins University. 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?
My senior year of high school my grandfather found out he had cancer. His doctor said explicitly that his cancer was no big deal and he should pull through after a routine surgery. Once they opened him up they found a large vine like cancer growth strangling the terminal end of his aorta. They decided to proceed with the surgery and try to remove the cancer instead of closing him back up and leaving him six months or so to live. During the surgery he lost so much blood and his body was put under so much stress that he had a heart attack on the table. He ended up passing away five days after the surgery. All of my family members were there in the intensive care unit (ICU) for the several days the doctors were trying to get him to pull through. Those days waiting were hard for all of us. Our family had been very lucky; we hadn't had to deal with anyone dying in many years. I felt the somewhat standard guilt for not doing more with him. He was a Tony Award voter and deeply involved in the music and theater scene in New York, and he had invited me to go see a play with him about a month before but I never followed through. I knew that I shouldn't beat myself up about it, but it made it brutally clear how much I had been taking everyone for granted. On his last day in the ICU my sister and I were in his room trying to keep it together while looking at the swollen, greenish hulk of a man that was our grandfather. My sister couldn't handle it so she left and I stayed for a while. A few minutes after she left, I was standing next to his bed looking at him trying to comprehend everything that had been going on. Standing there I had a weird experience. I am a physics major, I am rational by trade, but as I was standing there before I even heard the heart monitor blare out its harsh flat note I experienced something I couldn't make sense of with my physics or rationality. It felt like I couldn't focus my eyes on my grandfather although I could focus on the surroundings. He seemed to almost shimmer. When shimmering faded what was left was empty. I had never experienced a close family member dying before especially not in person, and it changed how I viewed the word. I realized that I was taking so many people for granted because I believed so firmly in the rationality of the world. Since then, I have embraced the nonlinearity of existence, and it has made me more lucid in my own life. Things don't always make sense, people won't be here forever, and my family is no different from everyone else's family – these are things I learned in those five days in the ICU.
Why are you riding the 4K for Cancer?
I am doing this ride for all of my peers who are not able to. To be twenty-one and healthy is just about the luckiest thing in the world and it is really important to me to take this opportunity to show my gratitude and to share my enthusiasm. In the midst of my college education it hasn't been easy to get out and take an active roll in things that matter to me. The 4k for Cancer will enable me to give back and to connect with people from across the country. I can't wait to inspire people as we ride our way from Baltimore to San Francisco.