Born and raised in Victoria, Texas, I’m finding out about big city life. My name is Jonathan Hyak, and I was born on September 27, 1991, and raised every day after. My brother TJ is 6 years older than me, and a Biology graduate from Texas State University. I also have a sister, Gemayel, who is 9 years older than me and a UT Pharmacy alum. She’s married to Chris Heinold, and they recently had a daughter, Kayla Annette. All three of us went to the same high school, Saint Joseph, where I was an active athlete and scholar. I started on the varsity soccer squad for four years, captaining the team my senior year, and also played three years of varsity football. During the spring semester I always tried something new, two years of drill team, one year of theatre, and one year of track. But those years are over, and now I’m defining my own niche on campus. Here at UT I’ve been a Camp Texas counselor, Camp Texas Executive, a Freshman Leadership Organization officer, and have raced with the UT Cycling team.
When I was very young, my aunt had a brush with breast cancer. Though I never grasped the magnitude of the situation at that time, she did. More than a kind soul, she would trade her health for another’s cancer if it was possible, if it could alleviate their suffering. And I believe many in my family are the same. Yet that is not possible as we found out years later.
When many would have zealously shared his burden, my grandfather passed away from pancreatic cancer my junior year of high school. Though we were not aware it would be his last day, I did not want to leave his side that Saturday. That day was also the day of the Sadie Hawkins dance, and I was ready to skip. But my grandmother, she begged me not to suffer with them, and begged me to live joyously. And I tried my best, though my heart was with him. I ride for my grandmother, the survivor--though cancer can destroy a body, it could never destroy her. At her weakest she's been stronger, and her ardor for life has been stronger. I've never known someone to love so much.
My grandfather had a way with his grandchildren, and no one wanted to disappoint him. And my grandparents never acted in a way that disappointed us. Our sole disappointment was realizing our grandfather’s mortality. But by the strength of our family, we rallied beyond that, and have learned to celebrate the life of the new children in our family. And to celebrate the continuity of the family we still have. I ride in memory of the family we once had, but also in awe of the new dynamic of love’s appreciation.
My grandfather was only able to come to one of my high school football games, and I partially tore my MCL my first play on the field. Though I never needed to impress him, I still always wanted to make him even more proud. I missed that opportunity to show off for him, so now I will be making a show for him. For his name. And for the family that came together to love him.
Football also had another impact on my desire to join this team. A few of my teammates mothers became sick my last two years. One thing we were able to do as a team was help support their families emotionally if no other way. We started wearing pink arm bands in honor of breast cancer during our games. In this way, we rallied around a teammate, and our team had a new aspect of identity. That rallying feeling and that unified identity are the heart of this Texas4000 team. Now, more than anything, I don't ride for the people who have been lost, but for the people who have survived. These people have fought and struggled in their own battles, some more than others. This team is made of those people. This is a group of fighters, who will not only prop you up if you need it, but lift you on their shoulders. This team, it's a sustaining rally cry.
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