Michael is a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis. 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?
On September 11, my mom told me she has breast cancer. After telling me that Sunday, she immediately downplayed it, assuring me that it is the least worrisome form of breast cancer and was caught at the earliest possible time and has a 99 percent cure rate. But the phone and text conversations we’ve had over the past weeks tell a more realistic story. She fears losing one or both of her breasts. She may face either chemotherapy or radiation treatment. She will have to fight and it will be hard. I’m not yet fully aware of the emotional, spiritual and intellectual implications of having a parent fighting cancer. But over the next few months, I will. I’m scared, to be honest. I’m scared of seeing my mom in pain. I’m scared that I’ll feel entirely helpless. I’m scared that she won’t laugh or smile as much. I’m scared of cancer. Unfortunately, my mom is not my only tie to the cancer community. In 2008, I had to watch my grandmother slowly degenerate from breast then lung cancer. She was an angel of a woman, who always cared for those around her, was steadfast in her loyalty and love, and put the needs of others she didn’t know before herself. The best memories with her come from every Christmas Eve. She’d give my siblings and me coloring books when we were young and videogames as we hit our teen years. Then she’d cook a big meal that, as a working secretary, she couldn’t afford. We’d finish off the evening with a single present and her kick-ass chocolate pie. She’d always leave us with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. And every Christmas Eve, I knew I was loved through her smile. She died from cancer the August of 2009. That year, my Christmas was missing an angel. These two women have been some of the most influential and loving people I’ve known. Both had different experiences with cancer. My mom fights cancer today. My grandmother lost her battle. Cancer can take away so much but if we, as a society, can ban together, my children will have their Christmas’s angel.
Why are you riding the 4K for Cancer?
My mom being diagnosed with cancer has left me in a stupor. Besides talking to her and coordinating with my friends’ parents to provide meals and rides, there isn’t much I can do from St. Louis (she lives in Dallas). So when I heard about 4K for Cancer, I instinctively knew that this organization was perfect for me. Not only is the prospect of riding across the country exciting, this trip and accompanying fundraising will also give me a unique way to fight cancer for my mom. My primary motivation for participating in the ride is to work on a project that will empower me to battle cancer by spreading awareness and raising money. The experience will be therapeutic—not only will I get to connect to people within each community visited who have been affected by cancer, I will also have the opportunity to connect the stories I hear with my own. But even before the ride, I’m excited to raise money. By telling people my story and spreading the cause of 4 K for Cancer, I hope to exceed the $4,500. Fundraising will give me the satisfaction of fighting cancer in the immediate future, will give my family and friends a cause to rally behind, and will show my mom that she’s not alone. In addition to the empowerment and resources 4K for Cancer will give me to battle cancer, the experience of riding across the country sounds exciting, fun and life-changing! I have always had an extremely adventuresome spirit. Whether it’s hiking a hundred miles along the southeast coast on England while collecting trash or solo-camping in the Redwoods for several weeks helping with trail maintenance or climbing 14,000 foot peeks in Colorado, I always love to be outside, physically challenging myself. The exhilaration of crossing into the California, Oregon or Washington border would be the highlight of my summer. And the idea of seeing the changing landscapes and cities, enjoying different climates, and feeling the ache of tired muscles sends a chill own my spine gives me goose bumps.