As I sit in the education building trying to finish up my last two weeks worth of homework, I can’t help but be distracted with the realization that in 25 days I will be biking away from New York City headed to San Francisco with the rest of Illini 4000.  Within those 25 days I am overwhelmed with the amount of school work, student teaching, actual work, preparation, fundraising, and training I have left.  Additionally, as I sit in the education building trying to do homework I can’t help but creep Facebook and see multiple statuses about Derrick Rose’s torn ACL which brings upon a whole new realm of realizations.  With today being May 1, I have broken what I call my “April Curse”.  On April 30, 2009 I tore my left ACL/MCL/meniscus.  On April 19, 2010 I re-tore my left ACL/MCL/meniscus and chipped my fibula.  Sometime around April 8, 2011 I tore my left hip labrum.  But this April, after making it through our 90 mile stay over trip during the last weekend, I can say I haven’t torn a thing in 2012.

While biking 90 miles in one day is a great feeling, what I really took away from this weekend was our portrait we conducted at the church that night.  I sat in on a portrait of one rider’s mom, and she told us how she lost not just one, but two moms to cancer.  Her biological mom passed away of cancer when she was not even a teenager, and then more recently her step-mom (who she knew as ‘mom’ for the large majority of her life) passed away of cancer.  Both of her moms had different forms of cancer, but eventually developed tumors in their spines which ended up taking their lives.   Her stories about being so young and having to care for her mom because she could no longer care for herself were beyond moving.  She told us that after a chemotherapy appointment, at nine and half years of age, she had to drive her mom’s stick shift home from the hospital, with her mom in the passenger seat, because she was too sick to do so.  And another story about how other adults didn’t think she was old enough to know everything that was going on, so when everyone knew her mom was coming home because she was dying, she had made ‘Welcome Home’ and ‘Congratulations’ banners for her mom thinking she was coming home because she had beaten her cancer.  Days later, she saw her mom pass away in her bed.  I could not even wrap my mind around these experiences and the stories she told.  They were so emotional and can only make me think, “Why does something like this have to exist?”

Before I signed up for this ride many people told me I couldn’t do it.  They told me that my prior and current injuries are going to stand too much in the way, and that it would be too difficult.  And I am not going to lie and say that the injuries I have dealt with have been easy on me.  They have very strongly affected me physically and emotionally.  Every time after being told something was torn I can remember crying and thinking, “Why does it have to be me, again?” The reality stands that due to these injuries I will be getting a third knee surgery, and a hip surgery all probably before I turn 24.  And the very real reality is that this ride could make the tears in either my knee or hip worse by the time we arrive into San Francisco.  But after hearing portraits like the one I heard over the weekend, it all seems so trivial.

Every time I was told I tore something, I was immediately after told that it could be fixed with surgery.  Those diagnosed with cancer do not get this luxury.  They are forced to start the toughest fight of their life after being given their diagnosis whether they are ready for it or not, and I have been so fortunate to have never experienced that.  Even if the tears in my knee or hip get worse, I still can arrive home knowing that two surgeries can help me with my problems.  Cancer patients never get the convenience of not worrying.  Even if their cancer goes away, years later it can come back, and that is just not fair.  So when people tell me this ride is going to be too hard with my injuries all I can think about is how lucky I am in comparison to those I am riding for.  When my leg hurts or gives me trouble, I just have think of the real reason I am riding and the future that I am riding for, where no one ever loses their mom, dad, brother, sister, or friend to cancer again.  These portraits I know will continue to drive me all summer, and I look forward to hearing each unique story.

And to my mom- No, I’m not going to ride when I am in a ton of pain and I know I am causing more harm to my leg, but I can give it my best effort until then. I already see that question/comment coming :)

Comments (6)
  • Kristen Kristen Miller says:


    a) love the last comment to your mom =)
    b) i am so happy that you beat your april curse! YES!!
    c) this made me tear up again thinking about the portrait. and I could not have put it in better words than you did in this blog.


  • Beth Taksas says:

    Jim and I want to wish you the best of luck and health on this ride. I am in awe of your perseverance and determination, considering all of the injuries you’ve experienced.

    Fighting cancer is a cause near and dear to my heart. I lost my Dad, age 43, to melanoma and my Mom, age 62 to leukemia. Jeff got to know his grandmother for only 5 short years.

    Beth Taksas

  • Annmarie Cross says:

    I am honored to tears that you wrote about my portrait here; I am also awed at your perseverance. I genuinely hope that your joints will manage your trip well with you, and I look forward to seeing you again, at San Francisco, when I am there to cheer on all of you at your completion!

  • Gene Kulyk says:


    We haven’t met. I’m Alex Kulyk’s dad. I was just poking around the site today and read your post. It really hit home. I just heard from a friend from my college days. He’s been in remission from aplastic anemia for 25+ years. But its back and its bad.

    Keep up the good work.


  • Kathy Maybaum says:

    Thanks for the reassurance…very difficult for me not to worry about your physical well-being on this trip, my love for you just lends to that. While at times you may experience physical limitations, never feel defeated because this ride is so much more… and is why I am so proud of you for participating in I4K. The people you meet along the way, the event days, and portraits you do and witness, are the heart and the soul of this trip, and you are limitless in the empathy, compassion, and kindness you can show and administer to others. I’m behind you 100%….ride safe! XXXOOO

  • I was very excited to hear you were involved in this major undertaking, Tricia! Best of luck during the ride. I hope it is an amazing experience and that you reach your fundraising goals.

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