Cross-Country Cyclists Stop by UAMS Cancer Institute to Promote Research and Fundraising

By Linda Haymes

A group of nearly 30 students from The University of Texas at Austin in Texas riding the 2019 Texas 4000 for Cancer charity bike ride arrived June 16 to visit patients and staff members at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.  The group, one of three from the university, are cycling from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska. <i>Photo credit, Linda Haymes</i>

A group of nearly 30 students from The University of Texas at Austin in Texas riding the 2019 Texas 4000 for Cancer charity bike ride arrived June 16 to visit patients and staff members at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. The group, one of three from the university, are cycling from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska. Photo credit, Linda Haymes

The students, part of the 2019 Texas 4000 for Cancer, the longest annual charity bike ride in the world, began riding May 31 and plan to arrive in Anchorage, Alaska, on Aug. 9.

The students, about a third of the 83 participating in this year’s 70-day, 4,000-mile ride, arrived late afternoon of June 16, visiting patients receiving chemotherapy and sharing tales from the road and messages of hope.

The patients were surprised but delighted to meet them. The students first visited with Autumn Lee, who is battling colon cancer, and her relatives.

“Thank you for what you are doing,” Lee told them.

Newly diagnosed myeloma patient Melissa Durham 49, of Strawberry, Arkansas, was also there with husband Eddie, to receive chemotherapy. Durham, diagnosed in April, began treatment at the UAMS Myeloma Center with her physician, Sharmilan Thanendrarajan, M. D., in late May.

“We did truly enjoy it,” Durham said of the cyclists’ visit.

The group also visited the Myeloma Center outpatient clinic and learned about the world-renowned myeloma treatment offered there.

“It was so wonderful to get to experience all the good that UAMS is doing for cancer patients in Arkansas and all over the world,” said rider Tricia Dillawn, 23, of Austin, a senior on the pre-medical track. “You all truly inspire us to continue to ride, even on the most difficult days.”

Nearly all the riders’ lives have been touched by cancer, including Dillawn whose aunt, grandmother and grandfather all battled cancer.

The team’s visit to Little Rock marked their 16th day of riding, having covered 1,000 miles with 3,000 more remaining. During the 18-month program, each student raised $4,500 to donate to cancer research and treatment facilities.

A black van and trailer travels with the students who take turns driving it, said rider Seth Krasne of El Paso, Texas, 21, whose grandfather died of brain cancer three years ago. A sign on the rear door window reads “Honk if you Hate Cancer.”

“It’s been amazing how friendly and generous everyone on the road has been,” Dillawn said. “They honk and wave and want to take photos or give donations. Everyone is so connected to this cause,” she said. “There are few people I know who have not been touched in some way by cancer. It’s cool to see so much kindness.”

The ride, with a mission of fighting cancer by sharing hope, knowledge and charity at stops along the way, began in 2004. Through the years, more than 750 students have made the trek, collectively raising more than $9.7 million in the fight against cancer since the ride began.