Every year we ask our participants to think about their reason they signed up to bike across America, their motivation, or as some may call it – their “why” – the fuel that gets them over the hills, through the windy and long plateaus, out on raining mornings and persistent during scorching afternoons.
While each photo doesn’t give a complete picture of that team, nor does each person’s post give a comprehensive summary of that person and their why, this begins to show the varying perspectives and personalities that come from our many 4Kers, when asked the question “Why do you ride?”
Our hope in sharing these are for others to more deeply understand the diverse ways that cancer has impacted each 4K team and every single one of our 4Kers. We hope it serves as a reminder that although cancer can and will pervade lives in a multitude of ways, our response and the collected reaction can be unified and stronger when we work together.
Cancer changes lives. So do we.
“I decided to go on this bike ride to remember Lylah Lee Paton, Sebastian Meyer and Kai Willet, who have passed away from either cancer or PTSD. As a survivor of cancer, finishing this bike ride was not only to remember, but to forgive myself for surviving when for many, this wasn’t the case.”
“As with so many other people, cancer has been a part of my life. More recently in the past two years, I have lost my grandmother and an amazing family friend to this horrible disease. I wanted to do something for them, as well as the people around me who couldn’t, and what better way than to do that through the Ulman Foundation supporting so many young adults with cancer. I’ve always strived to do something greater than myself and this was the perfect opportunity for me to do that and make an impact in a person’s life whether I know them or not. There is so much good in this world and I couldn’t imagine supporting a cause in a better way than to bike across the country. This summer is to ride for all of those who can’
“This summer I rode mainly for two people. The first being my Aunt Donna who passed away from Leukemia about 10 years ago. Although I didn’t know her well, I kept her spirit with me, and by the end of the ride, I felt like we were very close! The second person I rode for was my lacrosse coach, Bri! She is a survivor of 2b Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She is the most badass, inspirational person I know. She taught me how to put up a fight, which is why I rode for her on both my 200 mile days.”
“I rode this summer in memory of my neighbor, David Luther. He was an important part of my neighborhood community my whole childhood. He was also so much fun to be around and really brought the whole group together. He had 4 kids, the oldest is a sophomore in college, and I swam withball of them on our neighborhood swim team. My favorite part about David was his positive outlook on life and everything in it. No matter what the situation was, he would always make the best out of it.”
“I rode and did the 4K for my aunt, who is a breast cancer survivor!”
“Like most people, my why grew throughout the trip as I met more individuals and heard their stories. Originally, I wanted to ride for my Dad and my grandparents, all who battled some form of cancer. My grandpa passed away from colon cancer, but the rest of my family members are survivors and role models to me. Additionally, as I enter a career as a physical therapist, working with cancer patients may be a potential interest of mine, so this trip gave me more personal insight into what it is like as a young adult to be dealing with something like this and what we can do as healthcare providers. A combination of those things and the excitement of a physical challenge like this is why I decided to join the 4K family.”
“Participating with 4K on Team Baltimore 2017 had a huge impact on me and I can honestly say it changed my life. This was the first time in my life where I felt I was truly making a difference on an issue almost everyone has some sort of connection to. Showing our support for multiple individuals by writing names in our legs, sharing stories with our teammates, and letting that individual know on their day of dedication is something I never know could be so powerful. This is why I decided to participate again on Team Seattle 2019.”
“I did the 4K to have the adventure of a lifetime and to ride for the friends and family in my life who have been impacted by cancer.”
“I have multiple reasons why I wanted to participate in the 4k:
1.) It is hard. The greater the problem, suffering, and struggle, than the greater the feat. Biking across America is a hell of an accomplishment because it is not easy and your average Joe is not willing to do something along those lines.
2.) The people. From my teammates to the strangers I met along the way will always have a special place in my heart. I have left this trip a biographer of the short stories exchange from these individuals, and all the more better for it.
3.) The cause. I believe in Ulman as platform that can do good in this world. If I can help spread awareness about the foundation or raise funds, then I can rest easy at night, knowing I am helping an organization greater than myself.
4.) The memories. I knew before I ever went on this trip that I would remember it for the rest of my life. It has made a hell of an impression on me. When people ask me the question, “How was the trip?” I find it the most difficult thing to answer. How does a person explain it? Which stories do I choose? The trip was a combination of short stories that don’t make sense and have no clear cut conclusions. However, I always default to, “It was the best experience of my life so far” because at least that is clear.”
“I rode for Carol’s family and Mike Whitey. Carol was a good friend from college whose family was hit hard by breast cancer and Mike Whitey was a church family friend who died of a form of blood cancer. Carol’s story changed how I thought of cancer and made the mental health aspects of cancer more apparent to me. I hoped that I could make a difference in people’ lives along the way in order to give support to those affected by cancer.
As the 4K went on, my reason why expanded to those we met along the way. One day it was for a father’s daughter we met at a gas station in Washington; another day it was for a church member battling cancer for years; and the next day it was for the random stranger who has been in remission for a year. On our team, Austin and Liora have been a source of inspiration for the trip. The 4K provided me with an opportunity to bike across the US while being part of a cause bigger than myself and that had such a big impact on the lives we crossed paths with along the way. My reason why started with Carol and Mike, but expanded throughout the trip to remember and ride for those who can’t.”
“I decided to do 4k mostly in honor of my parents, who are both Cancer survivors and are also conveniently both active cyclists. My mom is BRCA+ which means that I also might have the gene. I figure it’s best to live each day like it’s your last since you never know when your health might get taken from you. 4K was a hugely transformative experience and was a great reminder to put yourself and those you love first.”
“I am riding for my mother and two grandmothers. 4K is also part of a bigger goal: to become the first person to hike, bike, and canoe across the country on three separate trips. This is the perfect opportunity to not only complete one part of this goal but to also be inspired for future endeavors. I anticipate the stories of cancer patients and fellow riders alike motivating me to push through adversity in my own life.”
“My grandfather passed away from lung cancer in 1996. My aunt passed away from lung and brain cancer in 2016 and Shortly after my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. The news was devastating. After a year of chemo and radiation my mom was cancer free. She’s been in remission for almost 2 years now. My mom said the thing that kept her going was the love and support she received from our family, friends, and community. I joined 4K to be apart of the community that helps and supports those who have been affected by cancer.”
“The timing of 4K is very important to me. I want to honor my grandpa with something beneficial. I’m pushing myself to make this trip because I believe that everyone has the ability to be extraordinary, and it’s up to all of us to inspire each other by constantly seeking something more. I’m beyond excited to do my part in the collective fight against cancer, and to meet other compassionate people dedicated to making a difference.”
“The 4K was an opportunity for me to push myself and for a larger cause. I have always been a fan of stepping outside my comfort zone and the 4K was a great way to do that. It challenged me in so many different ways. The fact that those personal challenges would then have a positive impact on other people, especially those in the cancer community, definitely sealed the deal on why I wanted to ride. Knowing that what I would be doing (4K) would help or touch so many people inspired me to ride as well.”
“Having had multiple friends, aunts, uncles and cousins battle cancer I have seen the impact of the cancer community up close. This summer I rode for the 21 people in my life that can no longer ride, are battling today or are celebrating being cancer free.”
“My experiences participating in Pelotonia, a bike ride fundraiser event for cancer research in Columbus, Ohio, have shown me how much can be accomplished when people come together to create positive change fueled by the loss and grief that cancer so often leaves behind.
In addition to my desire to commit more of my time to fundraising for cancer research and connecting with other like-minded people, there are so many people in my life whose lives have been forever changed by cancer that inspire me to be a rider in the 4K. I want to ride for all of them: my dad, who deserved to live a long life, full of laughs, family, and love; my mom, who deserved to grow old with my dad; my Oma and Opa, who have endured more pain than any person should ever have to endure in a lifetime with the loss of two of their children to cancer; my twin sister, whose dream is to become a doctor so that other people don’t have to go through the pain we did; my younger sister, whose little eight year old self should never have had to speak at her father’s funeral; and every other family who has found hope and happiness in journeys with cancer that have been similarly devastating.”
“I did 4K for Mika. Mika was a fellow college athlete who was two years younger than me. Mika was a competitive horseback rider, a hardworking pre-med student, and a caring friend. I had great admiration for her positivity and ability to juggle so many things effortlessly. After I graduated, I learned that she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and underwent surgeries to remove nodules from her lung and amputate her lower leg. Before and after cancer diagnosis, one thing never changed – her smile. I remember in the video of her walking again for the first time after her surgery, she said “I don’t want to be normal, I want to be exceptional”. Despite the physical pain and emotional strain throughout her treatment, Mika stayed strong and kept her family and friends close. Mika recently passed away.
I am also riding for my host mother Judy. We met six years ago when she generously signed up to host international students from her alma mater, Mount Holyoke College, for Thanksgiving break. She has such a big heart and is constantly giving back to the world. She and her husband have foster cared/ adopted over seventy children during the past few decades, and they always open their doors to people who need a place to stay. Last time I saw her, I learned that she has uterine cancer. However her spirits were high as always, and she was fortunate in that her tumor was very responsive to chemotherapy.
Cancer can happen to anyone. I want to share Mika and Judy’s legacy and inspire people to live their lives to the fullest, just like Mika and Judy.”
“Like most people today, I have multiple friends and family members who have been impacted by cancer. However, my main inspirations for 4K are my younger sister Bailey, a thyroid cancer survivor, and her fiancé Bo, who we lost to Ewing’s Sarcoma in 2016. Bo received services from Ulman along his cancer journey, so I have seen first hand what an impact this organization can have, and I hope his story will help spread awareness along the way.”
“I am celebrating being 5 years cancer free this year and I wanted to prove to myself that I am strong enough. I met many people throughout my experience who did not make it or relapsed so I am riding in their honor.”
“I chose to ride across the country to honor my family members who passed from cancer, as well as those who are survivors. One of my cousins, Alex, passed to leukemia when I was very young. Around that time, my grandmother was battling breast cancer and went into remission a year later. Recently, my father entered remission after being diagnosed with Thyroid cancer for two years. On my ride I realized how much cancer connects communities through interactions with survivors and their friends and families. My why soon evolved to include those individuals I met on my journey and impacted my life forever.”
“One of my childhood friends growing up was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. I saw what he went through and wanted to dedicate what I could to him and his family. Also my neighbor was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was like my second mom and I know it would mean a lot to her. Also, getting out of the marines with the experience I had I wanted push myself again and re-establish myself through facing adversity, and unique experiences.”
“I rode for my aunt, who passed away from cancer when I was 18. I also rode for other family members and family friends that have been affected by cancer.”
“My ‘why’ is for my aunt who passed of pancreatic cancer my senior year of college and my dad who has gone through treatment for lymphoma twice.”
“I am traveling the 4,000 miles this summer because I believe that this is my first step towards making a difference in the cancer community. I do not have the ability to donate large sums of money or make advances in the medical field, but this is something within my capabilities.”
“My grandma never went for her annual checkups and eventually found out she had stage 4 breast cancer. She passed in 2013. I visited where she was buried in Vietnam and felt an urge to commemorate her life. 4K presented a perfect way for me to combine my love for adventure and my love for my grandmother.”