Why I Ride

I think it’s time for an update to the world about how Illini 4000 has been so far! For those of you who have been keeping up with my trip so far, you know that I have the team position of “journalling” – but I just call myself the blogger. So those beautiful homepage posts labelled “Day _” are all mine, written daily with love. However, sometimes it’s very hard writing these blogs, not only because I tend to be tired at the end of a day of riding my bicycle, but also because it is my responsibility to fairly represent the team’s overall experience without discussing blog-inappropriate situations or having a one-sided point-of-view. So… here’s a blog written by Grace, from the heart.

A lot has changed since the last blog post. My top speed has increased from 43 to 46 mph; I have ridden my bicycle in 7 states (Illinois is state #7!); I have faced headwinds with the help of a paceline – something I could never have done without this fabulous team. But that’s not all… something else has changed.

I’ll start with my basic I4K story, the one I tell people when they ask about why I’m riding across the country. But this will be more detailed. So I was never really too into cycling. Fun fact: I didn’t even ride my bike without training wheels until I was 10 years old. But on my first day of college, quad day, I walked by the I4K booth with my campus bike, curious about the cool people at the table. I heard that they were biking across the country, and asked what for. When I heard it was cancer, I may have been a bit disappointed because it had not yet affected my life, but I added biking across the country to my bucket list of cool things to accomplish in college. Fast forward to November of that year. My parents came to visit my brother and I, bringing bad news. My mom had been diagnosed with primary bone non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma of the jaw. She went through 6 rounds of chemo over the course of 4 months. During this time, I saw how the chemicals pumped into her body destroyed her. Chemo is poison, yet a necessary evil: she has now been in remission for approximately one year. She is a survivor and an inspiration.

Last fall, my best friend’s dad was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. We were all devastated. When I found out how deadly pancreatic cancer is, I didn’t want to know any more. All I wanted to do was come beside my friend and support her in this very hard time. Back to Illini 4000… I had found motivation, so now I learned more about the organization and realized this was what I was being called to do.

What changed was on June 3rd. My friend’s dad passed away after a 10-month battle with pancreatic cancer. I saw how cancer had ravaged his body and taken so much from him. It took a toll on his family, yet ultimately, I believe the struggle brought them all closer to each other and to God. For the past week and a half, I’ve been processing this loss and wondering how to present it on a blog, but there really is no good way to explain how much it means to me. I was riding for my mom and for my friend’s dad, but there is no difference in life or death. The people we ride for range from survivors to fighters to those in heaven. And that was the most important step in processing the loss: acknowledging that there is a heavenly hope for those who love God. I have full confidence in where my friend’s dad is currently and that is what brings me peace of heart.

I ride for everyone else who has been affected by cancer too: for the pastor whose wife died of bone cancer in her jaw; for the man whose fight with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was much like that of my mom’s; for my grandmother’s niece who died at age 5; and for many, many more people. These people are everywhere: we see them at work, at school, and at church. We love them, and we remember them. I ride for all of them. And I will continue to wear my remembrance bracelets and purple pancreatic cancer ribbon until they fall off. It is all because of love.

My grandma and second-cousins Becky and Sue came to visit me in Clifton.

Comments (2)
  • dan thuente says:

    Grace,
    Seeing you the other day was so great. Your smile & enthusiasm are so energizing. Seeing & hearing people come up to you or your dad to say how much your journal means to them,(myself included) makes me so proud to be even related to you. Your message today hit home in another way. You may know my dad died when I was 13, leaaving a wife & 7 kids aged 15 to not quite 2. What you don’t know is he died of lung cancer. I guess it has been so long I don’t really think of how he died, just he isn’t here. Here to see how I have grown up, my beautiful wife, three amazing kids, & spouses & now two beautiful grandchildren. I wonder if he could have lasted a few more years, if science might have helped him. Probably not, but we still need to as you say erase this disease. I also lost an employee about 10 – 12 years ago. He was first diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was about 21 years old. At least twice that I know of he was told he only had a few months to go. Both times, through different kinds of treatment, some each time newer than the last, he lasted almost ten years. Still passed away too young, but in his memory, there is a golf outing each fall. So far I think the total raised is approaching $250,000, for brain cancer research. We have been able to meet the people working, in part because of that fundraiser. Pretty amazing, what one person can do. I feel the same way about you. Your riding the ride, sharing the daily updates, & sharing your story is reaching more people than you can imagine.
    Keep up the great work.
    Love,
    Dan

  • Peggy Nichols says:

    Dear Grace,

    I can’t tell you how much Christy’s dad and I appreciate your service to the team in your job as blogger. I can only imagine how tired you are each night and how tough it must be to know that you then need to write about that day’s experiences. I just want you to know that many people, rippling out from many circles that each Illini 4000 team member creates, read your words with anticipation and interest on a regular basis. Knowing that you have all made it safely to your stayover and getting a glimpse of what you have encountered that day brings me peace of heart. Know that many people are praying for each of you daily and that your words help keep us all connected.

    With deep gratitude,

    Peggy Nichols

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