Christopher Woytko: Why I ride |

Christopher Woytko: Why I ride

Christopher Woytko
Brian Ray

— I ride for three initials taped on my handlebars: MLW.

I wrote those words about a month ago in preparation for today’s Ride 4 Yellow event.

This week, I added another set of initials: AC.

My motivation to take part in this event originally was to ride in memory of my aunt, Mary Louise Woytko. She died in March 2004 after an eight-year battle with breast cancer.

Then, on Wednesday, the Steamboat community lost a friend in former tennis pro Andy Caress, who died after battling melanoma for the past 2 years.

I didn’t know Andy as well as some did, but after meeting him, it was hard not to consider him a friend.

When I met Andy, he was in his peak athletic form. The last time I saw him a few months ago, he looked like an entirely different person. But he was still the same guy. That’s what I’ll remember most: His attitude never changed.

Despite his fight with melanoma, he used it to do something for other people when he created the Mela-KNOW-More foundation.

Reflecting on Andy’s willingness to take his own situation and turn it into a way to help others brought me back to my aunt.

At family gatherings, you always could pick her out of a crowd. She had a passion for bright clothing and jewelry, and the laughter from her conversations was always the loudest.

It would be easy to say people flocked to her, but that’s not quite right. She brought them in. How much, we didn’t find out until after she died.

At her viewing, the line of those paying their respects stretched outside. About 750 people passed through to share their own memories and personal stories.

During her battle with cancer and the time she worked in the housekeeping department at the Reading Hospital in Reading, Pa., she would sit down with anyone she could find who had been diagnosed with the disease.

She would talk to anyone, and she would share her strength and her desire to beat the disease.

As I talked to my cousin this week, he told me the one thing she held to throughout the whole ordeal is that she didn’t want to die from cancer.

For 4 1/2 years during her fight, she was cancer free. But the cancer came back worse a second time and then a third time.

By then, it had spread into her bones and her liver. She never stopped fighting, but she knew when it was her time.

Even though she lost her battle, it was not one she fought in vain. Because of her, many members of our family have entered into the fight against cancer.

And today, I take up that cause, as well.

So today, I ride for those initials on my handlebars. I ride for those who’ve offered their own support in donations and encouragement. I ride for those family members and loved ones who’ve been affected by the disease, and I ride for those still fighting.

But most of all, today, I ride for those who have lost their battles with cancer so that their causes and memories will be carried on.

Today, I ride for MLW and AC.

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