Pedaling through the pain

In fifth grade, Nora Anderson, junior, relied on friends for rides and had to make her own lunch. She had to do this for almost a year, because before, Nora’s mom was diagnosed with cancer and began to receive treatment.

Erin Anderson found a lump on her neck six years ago. After seeing the doctor, and having a surgery to remove it, they found out the lump was cancerous. Erin was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck. She would have to go through 30 rounds of radiation in order to remove the tumor.

“I had seen other people go through cancer treatment, and I didn’t think I had it in me,” Erin said. “I didn’t think I would be strong enough to survive it.”

Nora and Taylor Anderson were in fifth and fourth grade when they were sat down by their parents and told about their mother’s diagnosis. Taylor, sophomore, said she and her sister did not think such a life-changing event would happen while they were so young.

“You don’t expect someone you’re really close to to [have cancer],” Taylor said. “You see it all the time but never think [it will happen to you].”

Because they had to experience their mom’s cancer at a young age, Nora said she and Taylor had to mature quickly to help their daily routine go smoothly. Although they might have been young, the grown-up aspects of life they learned still impact them today.

“[My mom’s cancer] definitely forced Taylor and [me] to grow up a lot faster than we had anticipated,” Nora said. “My mom was so sick and tired all the time that we had to do a lot for ourselves for almost a year.”

Adaline Bray

According to Nora and Taylor, Scott Anderson, their father, played a large role in how they handled everything. Taylor said her dad did a good job of balancing everything and being there for both his wife and daughters. Despite lifestyle changes, the family agrees good has come out of what may have been a horrible part of their lives.

“Although [the experience] was hard for all of us, my mom has been able to help so many other people by going through that process,” Nora said. “As a family we’ve grown from [the experience] and have become better people.”

The Andersons said they have found a positive outlet on the struggles they went through with Pedal the Cause. Pedal the Cause is an organization that allows people to register for a bike race, then fundraise as much money as possible before to raise money for cancer research.

“It was nice to be surrounded by people who knew what we were going through and who could relate to us,” Taylor said. “I think we’ve gotten closer to a lot of people [through Pedal the Cause] who’ve had the same experience as us, and have made us feel supported.”

The Andersons said the obstacles that come with cancer helped them realize what is really important in life. Now five years cancer-free, Erin said she has turned into a person who wants to help try to make it different for the next generation.

“[Having cancer] made me realize life is short and precious, and you have to see the beauty in everything,” Erin said. “Nothing is serious, but everything is important.”