Lauren is a senior at Stony Brook University. In the summer of 2014 she is traveling with a group of college students on a 70 day, 4000 mile bike ride from Baltimore to San Diego.
What is your connection to the Cancer Community?
My connection with the cancer community started many years ago when my grandmother, who we call Mina, was diagnosed with a rare and seemingly inoperable chordoma on the back of her neck. However, thanks to experts at Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York City, they were able to operate, and after extensive radiation, Mina has been chordoma free for a while now. However, during her recovery time, we were shocked and crestfallen when my Papa, her husband, was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. He entered chemotherapy and other treatments right away, and although it was a difficult few years with both of them needing treatment and finding the money to do it, they both were able to improve. During these long and arduous months, however, my other grandfather was diagnosed with colon cancer, and was immediately put into treatment. Shortly after that, a close family friend and neighbor, Claire, was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was emotionally and physically taxing during those long years, but it was just the kick-start I needed to find what I truly love to do – make a difference. I started training and running in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer runs; I volunteered at walks; I chose my major for school to be biology, and became pre-med in hopes that one day I could make a difference with my knowledge, and most amazingly, I became the Survivorship – Caregiver chairperson for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. Unfortunately, two years ago, we lost our Papa to lung cancer, and just a few weeks ago, we lost Claire. It is so rewarding to see how my, and the efforts of so many others, make a difference in the fight against cancer, and I am always motivated to work harder because of my family and friends, especially for Mina and my Grandpa, who are currently cancer free.
Why are you traveling over 4000 miles this summer with the 4K?
The cancer community is a unique and amazing dynamic group of people who are united under one common ground: cancer. Survivors, caregivers, families, and friends are brought together in a truly beautiful way that is undoubtedly touching to those in and outside of the cancer community. Although the unifying force, cancer, is a terrible and frightening thing, the cancer community united is stronger, fearless and able to face any challenges that lay down the road. Each and every person that I am so lucky and privileged to meet on my road to helping win the fight against cancer is inspiring to me in a distinctive way that encourages me to work harder in every part of my life. Whether that part is volunteer at another fundraiser or walk, to study that little bit harder so that I can be the best that I can be to make a difference in the scientific community, or to simply reach out to that person I have been too shy to reach out to, the people I meet change those parts of me in positive and irreplaceable ways. So, I want to ride in the 4K for those people, for the ones I haven’t yet met, and my own personal stories. If there is any way that I can return the amount of positivity, grace, and amazing influences these people have made on me, I believe that riding in the 4K will be one of the most incredible things I could do. Not only will I will be able to fundraise an outstanding amount of money for a cause that is very near to me, but I believe that the ride itself will give me just a small taste of the journey that some of these amazing individuals have faced. I hope that while I make a difference in the cancer community with my ride in the 4K, the 4K will make a difference on me.