Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer: Why I Ride

Since April, I have spent all of my free time in shorts with a built-in cushion and a very uncomfortable seat. Before that point, I had not ridden a bicycle in 15 years. Very quickly, I picked up a road bike and helmet, learned to clip into bike pedals (after many failed attempts) and racked up hundreds of miles of extensive training to prepare for the Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer ride.

Why? Because to me, it’s an honor to be able to give back to the healthcare community that motivates me on a personal level every day.

I grew up as a patient with an autoimmune disorder, at a time when there was limited data and research on the disease. With inadequate answers and treatment options, this experience was more defining than I realized back then. It fueled my desire to serve patients as a clinical provider, putting me on a path to pharmacy school. As my career and professional goals evolved, one thing remained constant: my commitment to patients.

Among these patients are numerous friends and family members who have been diagnosed with cancer. Most recently, my aunt passed last year from head and neck cancer. Her diagnosis was difficult on my entire family. She lived on the other side of the world in India, and so for us, watching her struggle from afar was one of the hardest things we had to face. I wish I could have done more.

Thinking back on what I faced as a child, combined with the experiences of my family and friends, I understand all too well the need for more research – especially for patients with cancer. That’s why I volunteered for the Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer ride.

This ride is so much more than fundraising. It is about a journey for such an important cause: cancer research. Dedicating time, energy and strength to something so much bigger than me has been both challenging and rewarding.

Some days, I wanted to give up halfway through a grueling hill when I was 35 miles into my ride and walk the rest of the way. On my worst days, I had too little energy to get up and get on the bike. I often found motivation in the number of people who thanked me for doing this ride and shared the name of a person they love who was diagnosed with cancer. These things kept me going.

As I set out on my journey from Boise to Salt Lake City with my Bristol-Myers Squibb colleagues, I would remind myself of the people I was riding for who had days far worse than mine and that I was riding for all cancer patients because there is more work to be done.


Alka Bhatt is a Bristol-Myers Squibb employee who volunteered to participate in the Coast 2 Coast 4 Cancer ride to support the V Foundation for Cancer Research.