Shawna Kleftis is a senior at Wellesley College. In the summer of 2014 she is riding 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?
May 2014 I will join the privileged group of young adults who graduate from college every year. It’s a bittersweet moment, one of soaring triumph and delight as well as painful reflection and anguish. On the one hand, I made it; I completed four years of higher education in order to live and work in the adult world. I struggled and stressed but nonetheless survived. “Survived.” That word reminds me why graduation is so difficult. It’s difficult because my older brother Cullen will not be there to see me walk the stage. It’s difficult because he never got the chance to do it himself. Cullen, two years my senior, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma when he was fifteen. I watched him fight for four long years before cancer claimed him at the age of nineteen.
Nor, unfortunately, do the connections end there. Multiple people in my family have dealt with or are dealing with cancer in their lives. And that's to speak nothing of my friends and their families. These days, everybody knows somebody with cancer, and as much as I wish and pray and beg otherwise, it continues to be a big part of my life too.
Why are you traveling over 4000 miles this summer with the 4K?
I am riding for my brother. I am riding for the many brave young adults my family got to know during hospital stays. I am riding for the 10,000 teens and young adults who died from cancer last year, and for the 72,000 who will be diagnosed this year. I am riding for every person, regardless of age, who has had to know the horrors of this dreaded disease.