When Valerie Rasicci was 3 years old, her mother passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 38. When she was in high school, her grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away. In her freshman year of college, tragic news reached her again that her uncle was diagnosed with stage-four pancreatic cancer.
Rasicci said that in her life, her family members were diagnosed with cancer when it was too late for help. They went through treatment and tried to get better, but the cancer was just too advanced to be cured, she said.
Rasicci and another Ohio State student will bike across the country with 4K for Cancer, an independent nonprofit organization, this summer to support young adults whose lives have been affected by the disease.
Rasicci, a fourth-year in social work, and Jeffrey Crock, a second-year in actuarial science and math education, will begin their journey on June 5 from Baltimore and cycle to Portland, Oregon, where they will arrive on Aug. 13. Each day, they will ride to a new city, raising money along the way for young cancer patients.
“Nearly 70,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer in the United States each year,” Rasicci said. “It’s a very prevalent issue. A lot of people at our age just didn’t realize that.”
Started in 2001, 4K for Cancer is a 15-year-old program run by the Ulman Cancer Fund, which is an organization that makes connections and raises funds for young adults with cancer, according to 4K for Cancer’s website.
The college students who apply for the program will be part of either one of the four 70-day, 4,000-mile rides or one of the two 49-day, 4,000-mile runs across the United States, Crock said.
Before they begin the trip, participants must raise at least $4,500 in donations.
Crock said that all of the money raised goes to the Ulman Cancer Fund, where it is used to provide scholarships for cancer survivors, as well as fund programs like Cancer to 5K, that helps young adults with cancer start a training program to run a 5K road race while they are going through their treatment.
“The Cancer to 5K helps young adults with cancer start a training program to run a 5K while they are going through their treatment, which is really hard, but it’s cool,” he said.
Rasicci said that during the trip, the team will stop at local churches, YMCAs and community centers in order to build a connection with members of the community who have been affected by cancer.
Rasicci said they will speak one-on-one with the cancer survivors and present several scholarships to applicants who earn them during the 4K. They will also volunteer at cancer centers and hospitals during their journey.
“I want to raise the awareness that if something doesn’t feel right, people should go get checked at once because early detection really saves lives,” Rasicci said. “I also want to give people hope and show them that not every cancer diagnosis would be fatal.”
Crock said his family, too, has been affected by cancer.
He said when his mother was younger, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Though she overcame the disease, Crock said the repercussions of cancer still affected her afterward. His aunt is also a cancer survivor. Crock said that last year his family watched his uncle lose a very painful two-year battle with colon cancer. And now, another uncle is fighting chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
“Sometimes I feel that I need to be thankful that my parents, my sisters and myself have not been diagnosed with cancer,” Crock said. “When I think that way, I just feel a sense of responsibility to do something about it.”
Crock said it is hard to say how this project could make a difference to those affected by cancer in addition to the money they are raising, but considering how many people will go to connect with the young adults they’re helping, it is powerful.
“I feel that through an undertaking such as the 4K, I am connected to the whole community as someone who is joining the battle against the cancer,” Crock said. “But still, I don’t think I’m able to talk about how we’re going to change anything until we look back on the trip. It may include a lot of unknowns, which is exciting.”