Leah is a Senior at The Johns Hopkins University. 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 San Francisco.
What is your connection with the cancer community?
I consider myself very fortunate that none of my close loved ones have ever suffered from cancer. Though I have walked with friends as they helped someone else fight against the disease, cancer has not yet affected my life directly. However, I can easily relate to the mental distress and emotional pains that an incurable disease brings. My mother was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease, right before I was born. Unfortunately, no cure exists for the disease. Patients, like my mother, who are affected by lupus experience symptoms such as painful joints, anemia, skin rashes, fatigue, and many other tissue disorders. Throughout my entire life, it has been a mental and emotional challenge to watch her suffer and be impaired from engaging in the activities of daily life that many of us take for granted. My mother has been an inspiring figure in my life in many ways. For instance, lupus becomes even more seriously life threatening to a woman if she becomes pregnant. Thus, when my mother became pregnant with both my brother and me, she had to choose between our lives or hers. Both times, she chose us and continues to make sacrifices for us each day. In the standard course of the disease, lupus patients typically go through stages of intense symptoms followed by periods of dormancy. Thankfully, my mother’s lupus has been dormant for some years now. However, the presence of any major stressor tends to trigger it once more leading to periods of flare up. As a small business owner in a tumbling economy, she has had repeated scares with the disease recently, and at any moment it could return. Thus, while I have no direct connection to the cancer community, I do understand the burden of having a loved one suffering from a disease and the sense of hopelessness it can often entail. I would be proud to ride in the 4K for Cancer not only to raise money for preventing a disease that causes similar despair, but just as importantly to inspire the hope in cancer patients and their families that I know they need.
Why are you riding the 4K for Cancer?
There are three primary reasons why I would like to ride on the 4K. First, though cancer has not directly affected my life, it is heartbreaking for me to watch it affect the lives of my friends and others that I know. Because of their suffering, I have always had a desire to do something for the fight against cancer. Second, I think that the 4K is a particularly perfect way to act on this desire, since it not only raises money for the cause, but directly inspires the people affected by cancer as well. Through both our sympathy and understanding, 4K riders are able to serve and unite the cancer community and provide a lasting source of hope for patients suffering from the disease. Although our cycling experience cannot symbolize the mental and physical toil of those afflicted by cancer completely, I hope to join the 4K because our commitment as riders to both the community and ourselves will inspire people to stay committed to themselves and their families. As my mother has suffered from lupus, I have always strived to be a positive source of support through her times of struggle. I know I can also be this source for the countless cancer patients and their families that we will have a chance to meet along the way. Finally, I understand that despite the selfless and inspiring intentions we all have for riding, the 4K will be an extreme personal challenge for each of us. I am excited to take on that challenge because I know that it will change me, result in lifelong bonds with my team mates, inspire those around me, and be an experience that I will never be able to forget. The mental and physical devotion required to cycle across the country are a true feat and experience that I would cherish for a lifetime, and I know it would inspire me to continue serving the cancer community beyond the summer of 2012.