Hello, my name is Sara Alexander, and I’m Paul’s youngest sister (check out the picture below of us as kids!). Paul asked me to write something for his blog while he is out of internet range on his 6,000 mile Riding4Research trek across the continent to raise awareness and funds for metastatic cancer research.
Two of my earliest memories of Paul were him holding a fishing rod (which became an appendage) and him wearing a snorkeling mask (which became a regular facial feature) as he caught or studied for hours the fish in their crystal clear habitat, the waters of Sebago Lake in Maine. Paul’s early love of fish never left him, and I am proud of my little brother for very recently harnessing his continued passion for all things fish and fish-related by earning a PhD in Marine Biology. I hope Paul’s research will help with additional widespread efforts to preserve the North Carolina wetlands, the fish nurseries and habitat for many vital species in the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Paul has more energy and enthusiasm for adventure than anyone I know. Our mom fostered that trait early by sending Paul (and I, separately) to summer wilderness camps for children. I have fond memories of weeks-long trips biking through the Novia Scotia countryside, backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, and canoeing on the remote Allagash waterway in Maine. As adults, Paul and I have continued our many outdoor adventures together, with camping, canoeing, hiking and backpacking trips in the wilderness from Maine to Alaska. No doubt for Paul, his childhood adventures were formative, and this ride of his is just another example of the way Paul embraces wilderness and adventure.
Our mom was a major force in Paul’s life, and as her youngest child, Paul was the apple of her eye. She, along with my Dad, provided constant opportunities for her four children to engage in and explore the world around them. She was a committed wife and was married to my dad for almost 60 years before she died. She was also an accomplished cook who studied volumes on nutrition and read a plethora of cookbooks and shared a love for hospitality. She was a committed community volunteer, a scout leader, and contributed her time and talent to our schools and to all the organizations she held an affinity with. She loved to sing with all of us, while pounding out the tunes on her mother’s old piano. She loved German Shepherds and bred show-quality dogs, giving most of them to the Seeing Eye, an organization near where she grew up in New Jersey, to become guide dogs for people who are blind. Quelly, now Paul’s dog (shown in the picture below), was one of the many dogs she and my dad later adopted from the German Shepherd rescue. Quelly was once an abused and neglected dog, who with my mother and father’s care (and now Paul’s), is happy and thriving. You can see pictures and video of Quelly greeting Paul and Jason here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9fc3WJ7AME
Until our mother was hospitalized and very shortly thereafter diagnosed with an aggressive and rare stage 4 metastatic lung cancer, she was asymptomatic. One day she was living a full life and 5 months later, she was dead. This, even after chemotherapy. She did not smoke and took good care of her health; eating well, taking vitamins, and walking regularly with Quelly. Our mom’s death still haunts us: How could this happen to such a vital woman? Three years later, we still don’t know or understand it all, and we now hope and pray that Paul’s ride to memorialize her is safe and successful in raising awareness and funds for finding answers at Duke Cancer Institute.
As Paul mentioned in his blog’s opening narrative, cancer is one of our society’s top killers and affects all of us. We need to persist in finding an answer to the question, “How can we find better treatments for cancer? “ I hope that Paul’s ride is not in vain and that somehow my words have touched you, reader, and that you will be moved to help us find some answers. I hope that you will consider giving generously to Duke Cancer Institute in any amount. Nothing is too small. You will be personally helping to unlock improved treatments for cancer for all of the many individuals and families that suffer with this disease and grapple to understand it. To donate, go to http://riding4research.org/make-a-donation/ to sign into Duke’s secure portal.