Paul’s Story

On March 9th, 2014 I stood in my boyhood home as I watched my mother draw her last breath through a morphine-induced coma after she succumbed to her battle with advanced lung cancer.  I was still in complete shock that such a strong and vibrant woman had lost her life to lung cancer only 5 months after being diagnosed. The pain of her loss burned in me, her youngest child, and  I vowed that something good would come out of her life being taken by such a horrible disease.  I promised myself that I would contribute to fighting cancer in some personally meaningful way.

My fundraiser will entail a self-supported, cross-continental bike ride across the northern tier of the continent.  Why biking? Well, I can thank my Mom for that.  She and Dad taught me to ride, and in doing so, they weren’t just teaching me how to ride.  They were also teaching me how to get on my feet again after taking the inevitable falls in life.  And why am I taking my journey through the north? Because the northland has become a part of my fabric.  When I was young, Mom and Dad sent me off on wilderness expeditions to the northern states and Canada. I was inevitably homesick during my first visit there, but I eventually fell in love with these wide open spaces.  I’ve spent many winter nights pouring over maps of faraway places I’ve yet to see – the Yukon, Great Bear Lake, Lake Winnipeg – places with endless views, the haunting cries of loons, and the Northern lights arcing over the nighttime skyline.

I’ve been blessed with good health, boundless energy and a sense of adventure. Now is the time for me to harness those elements of my life so that I may contribute to a cause bigger than myself.  Cancer killed over 8 million people in 2014 and my mother was one of the people that this horrible disease took that year. Cancer is not just an ailment relegated to my family or any one segment of society; it is a disease that affects all families, friends, and colleagues – mine, yours and others.  Fighting the disease is a cause we can all get behind, for it affects most of us in one fashion or another.  It is my sincere hope that you will get behind my cause: to raise awareness about cancer and help defeat the disease by raising research funds for the Duke Cancer Institute.

There’s one more reason why I am fundraising for cancer research.  When I eulogized my mother I implored those attending her service to not let Mom’s legacy die with her.  I urged them to take on Mom’s spirit of benevolence and giving as their own — to spread her warmth and kindness to others.  In an era full of tension and cynicism, with political friction and world turmoil driving us apart, we all have an opportunity to do something that helps bring people together. So really this ride is about spreading that everyday essential goodness that defined my mother.  And my ride, in turn, is about finding Mom’s everyday goodness in people I will meet along the way.

– Paul Rudershausen