AUSTIN, Texas – October 12, 2016 – Sunday, October 16 marks the 20th straight year that the Austin-based Livestrong Foundation has held the Livestrong Challenge, the city’s largest bike ride, and the only Austin race which begins and ends in downtown. Riders of all levels are invited to participate and can choose to ride one of four courses between 20 and 100 miles. This year, there will also be a 5K run/walk option for those who cannot or would prefer not to ride. Through these myriad Challenge events, the Livestrong Foundation aims to raise $1 million for the benefit of cancer survivors.
Part of Livestrong Challenge Weekend is the celebratory Ride for the Roses Dinner on Friday evening, October 14—which celebrates the passionate efforts of committed Livestrong volunteers and donors. For the 20th anniversary celebration, special guest, State Senator Kirk Watson of Austin, will be on hand to make some remarks about Livestrong’s contributions to the cancer community over the last two decades. Watson is an important figure in Austin’s public policy and medical communities. Five years ago, Sen. Watson challenged the larger Austin community to transform the city’s healthcare offerings and local economy by laying out ten goals that would need to be accomplished in ten years (10-in-10) in order for the city to reach these goals. That public commitment and belief in the 10-in-10 plan helped to facilitate a new partnership between Livestrong and the University of Texas at Austin. That vision is now coming to fruition.
This year’s event benefits the groundbreaking Livestrong Cancer Institutes of the Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. This $50 million gift to Austin’s new medical school—to be given over the next decade—was announced in 2014. The Livestrong Cancer Institutes seek to reinvent the way cancer patients and survivors are cared for and supported. This gift encourages the “re-thinking” of cancer care from prevention to diagnosis, treatment to survivorship. The defining characteristic of the Livestrong Cancer Institutes is patient-centered research and care.
Participating in the Livestrong Challenge is an opportunity to make a difference and help support Livestrong’s free programs and services that help people affected by cancer.
As Livestrong president Greg Lee puts it, “This race is defined by the inspiring stories of cancer survivors and the way they have taken the fight to cancer. It showcases the human spirit and the medical treatment and perseverance required to beat cancer. The Livestrong Challenge also reflects and supports the efforts of millions of families, friends, and caretakers who have been there for loved ones affected by cancer. Ultimately, this race is about triumph over adversity.”
Here is just one example of countless survivor stories that will help to illustrate the drive and determination possessed by so many people who are diagnosed with cancer:
Ever since his feet first hit the track at his elementary school in the third grade, Iram Leon has been running—and running hard.
He never missed a day of work, and was only absent five days of school from Kindergarten through college due to chickenpox. But everything changed in November 2010 when Iram woke up in the back of an ambulance after experiencing a grand mal seizure.
Following a battery of tests, he was diagnosed with a Grade 2 diffuse astrocytoma in the left temporal lobe, an aggressive and invasive form of brain cancer. Iram said his doctors had a hard time agreeing on a course of action after he received his diagnosis. A member of his running group eventually referred him to Livestrong>for access to resources that would help him manage his diagnosis.
“At first I was just kind of sitting around not really knowing what to say or what to do, but my friend put me in touch with Livestrong, which helped connect me with Duke University, where I had my brain surgery,” he said.
During this time, Leon continued to run. In January 2011, it was decided he should have brain surgery in order to reduce the size of the tumor. However, Iram requested to have the surgery delayed by five weeks, so that he could run in the Boston Marathon.
“The doctor said it increased some risks but that who knows if I’ll have another opportunity to run a marathon after that,” he said. “That was actually the first time I had ever qualified for Boston and I actually won the cancer division a couple of times.”
Iram said learning how to ask others for help was challenging at first. He was at the point of shutting down when he first heard about the Livestrong Challenge from a friend and decided to compete in 2011. Being a marathon runner, he decided the longest distance was where he should start and signed up to do the 100-mile bike ride, which he has continued to participate in for the past five years.
However, this year Iram is changing up his routine to introduce his nine-year-old daughter Kiana to the race. The pair is excited to be riding with one another in the 20-mile portion of the Livestrong Challenge. This is what the Challenge is all about—supporting cancer survivors and their families, and ultimately, bringing the community closer together.
About the Livestrong Foundation
The Livestrong Foundation fights to improve the lives of people affected by cancer now. For 20 years, Livestrong has been a voice for cancer survivors and has directly served more than 3.5 million people. A pioneer in the field of survivorship, Livestrong remains a world leader in providing direct services to cancer patients and survivors, advocating for policies that enhance survivors’ quality of life and developing partnerships that create access to cancer programs across the country.
Since 2007, the Livestrong at the YMCA program has made a return to fitness and wellbeing possible for more than 40,000 survivors in more than 530 YMCA locations across America. Working with The University of Texas’ Dell Medical School, Livestrong is building the Livestrong Cancer Institutes to reinvent and redesign cancer care for and with people affected by cancer.