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Cancer Crusaders: Pelotonia

By: Anna Linnabary

About a week or so ago, my dad came to me asking me to write about why I ride in Pelotonia. It took me a few days to actually sit down and write because I had to brainstorm and really think, 'why do I ride? Why put myself through those grueling training rides, the early morning wake-ups, hour drives to trails?' A few answers came to my head along the lines of, it’s for a good cause, but to be honest, it’s way more than that.

Being involved in Pelotonia has given me a community that I consider a family, a way to remember loved ones and to try and keep hope that someday cancer will no longer be taking people from their loved ones and friends. In 2017, I rode in my first Pelotonia at the age of 15. I had recently lost my Grandpa to cancer just days before my brother was to graduate college. I looked up to him for a lot and when he passed away I knew I didn’t want other people to go through that pain of losing someone to cancer.

My dad started riding in Pelotonia back in 2010 and has participated in nine rides now. We used to go on bike rides together when I was younger and I found this love for biking but was too young to participate in Pelotonia alongside him. After my Grandpa passed I looked to my dad and told him that I wanted to ride beside him next year in Pelotonia, and that’s just what I did. Now, after three years of riding, I’m continuing to honor my grandpa alongside more than 7,000 other riders who are all cycling for one thing; to try and find a cure to cancer and give hope to those who have been diagnosed with it.

Hope. It’s a word that so many people use every day. ‘I hope your day is good.’ ‘Hope you feel better.’ But hope is far more than just a word. Every person has hope and a story behind it. To someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, however, hope is believing that one day they will walk out of a hospital, having been given the cancer-free diagnosis. To them, hope is their dream; that they will be able to live to see their children get married, or their grandchildren at a sporting event.

What do I want hope to mean? I don’t want it to be something to drown out the negative. When I think of hope, I think about happy things. I hope that someday people won’t have to worry about what their children will do if cancer takes their life because there’ll be a cure and there will be no more need to ‘hope’ that treatment works. Cancer will have no more lives to take and no one will have to fear it. I got the word hope tattooed on my side this June. I have this hope inside that one day cancer will no longer be taking lives as it does and by participating in Pelotonia I am trying to do my part in helping earn money that funds studies at The James Cancer Hospital.

Last August, my close friend's father was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Seeing my friend come that close to losing her father at such a young age was terrifying for me, and what she and her family went through was unimaginable. What was really touching about his story? His treatment was funded 100% by Pelotonia funding at The James in a new study. On February 20th, he learned he is in full remission and cancer-free.

It’s stories like these that keep me wanting to ride in Pelotonia. My friend could have lost her father, yet a study that was funded by Pelotonia saved his life. Now, my friend will have her father to walk her down the aisle when she gets married, to see her graduate, to see his grandkids grow up. It is moments like that which keep me pedaling.

No matter how many wrecks I take or how hot the day is, I’ll never stop biking because I know I have the ability to help work toward a common goal. I will use the power I have to try and make a difference in the lives of others. Together, we can work toward one goal; A cancer-free world.

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