Juliana Bicycles ambassador Vanessa Hauswald has the butterflies. Not because she's out riding some insanely technical trail, but because she's a week away from standing up in front of a large crowd of cyclists and telling her story of surviving stage four colon cancer. In a talk titled "Fight Like a Girl," Hauswald is hoping to not only educate, but also to inspire other cyclists and people dealing cancer.
As the current executive director of the NorCal League for high school mountain biking and a former English teacher, this isn't the first time that Hauswald will have spoken in public, but it is the first time the subject is personal. "Yes, I’ve done lots of public speaking, but no, not about cancer. I’m nervous," she says.
The talk will take place on Tuesday, April 8, at 6:30 p.m. as a free event at the Juliana Bicycles and Santa Cruz factory in Santa Cruz, California. It is going to be the first "Bike Nights" event for the Juliana Bicycles brand, but according to brand manager Katie Zaffke, it certainly will not be the last. "The Juliana Bicycles crew is composed of some amazing women. And I want these amazing women to be able to tell their stories and share their experiences," says Zaffke. "This might mean that they share their story as a key speaker at a social event at the factory, such as Vanessa. Or it might mean that they share their bike skills at a tech night or evening skills clinic. Either way, it's women learning from women."
"I think we build strength from this," continues Zaffke. "We look at our own lives differently after; we look at our own struggles and fortunes differently, and we come out of it feeling strong. Vanessa, for example, is going to share her story about her battle with cancer and how the biking community helped her beat it. This is heavy stuff. But it's also inspirational. And I believe that Vanessa's story is one that should be shared because she is strong and successful and has her priorities right. She works hard, and she plays hard, and she fought when she was faced with the worst. This is something that other people should get to hear about."
Hauswald has been riding mountain bikes for the past 20 years, and the sport has kept her motivated throughout life's battles. "I've always been stoked to click into my pedals and ride, whether that’s to town, on the road, or on some sweet single track. But after cancer I just feel even more joyous when I get on my bike," she says. "I often have moments where I say to myself, 'F–k yeah! You were half dead from chemo and now you're ripping an awesome trail with your friends.'"
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This joy is one she plans to continue to spread. She hopes that people who hear her story will be inspired to live their lives in a more conscious manner. "We have a choice about the way we are going to live our lives," she says, "and every day when we wake up, we are given an opportunity to make it awesome."
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