MUSC student fulfilling one of her dad’s final wishes: Riding in LOWVELO
They are a funky bunch. Just ask them. For Jen Langan and her family, it’s been an inside joke for years. Her dad was Marky Mark and she, her mom Nancy, and her brothers Jack and Luke were his funky bunch – just like the ’90s hip-hop act led by a young Mark Wahlberg. And then a few years ago, their worlds were turned upside down.
“He was the best dad I could have asked for,” said Langan. “He was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer in February of 2021 and he fought for two and a half years.”
She remembers those years as some of the hardest times she and her family have ever gone through. She and her brothers saw their father as a superhero. Langan described him as the smartest man in any room – sweet, funny, could have you doubled over in laughter and strong.
“To see him go through pain was extremely difficult,” said Langan. “It’s still hard processing it because he just passed away in May, but I have the best family and we’ve become so much closer and stronger because of it.”
That closeness will be taking on a new dimension on Nov. 4, when Langan and her family participate in LOWVELO, not just to honor their superhero, but to honor one of his last requests as well. Mark Langan attended LOWVELO22 to watch his daughter ride in his honor with her classmates, and he loved the atmosphere of the event. Near the end of his life, when he was at his sickest, Mark expressed his wishes.
“He was like, ‘I want to see our family enjoy Isle of Palms,’” recalled Langan. “I want to see our family do something positive. I don’t want to see people upset and I don’t need all these flowers. I don’t want that. I want you guys to go have an amazing weekend and raise money for a great cause and just have that family experience.”
And so, the LOWVELO team of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch was born, and it’s grown beyond this tightknit family. Aunts, uncles, cousins and several friends from all different stages of her father’s life will be flying and driving in from all over the country to be part of this last wish – more than two dozen of them. They’ll spend not only ride day, but the whole weekend celebrating Mark – the kind of guy who was always making sure everyone else was being taken care of. Now they’ll be taking care of his memory together.
“I think he’s going to have the biggest laugh,” Langan said with a chuckle. “Because we are a very fun bunch and we’re all different skill levels. I think he’s just going to love the fact that we’re all together and being silly and getting on our bikes and raising money for something that he was extremely passionate about.”
One of Mark’s wardrobe staples was a baseball cap. So, on ride day, all team members will be wearing one in his honor – and not just any baseball cap. This one will read “On your Mark, get set, go.”
“We thought that was a funny play on his name,” said Langan.
The right place at the right time
Langan was taking a gap year between college and graduate school when her dad got his diagnosis. She considers this a lucky break as it gave her the chance to be home to help at the beginning – a time she remembers as chaotic.
“That was pretty hard,” Langan recalled. “But I felt like there was a reason that gap year worked out and that I was home.”
Things got even harder when Langan had to leave home to start occupational therapy school at MUSC College of Health Professions. She had always wanted to be an occupational therapist but being home with her father as he went through treatments renewed that desire. She watched as occupational therapists and home health aides came in to work with him and realized that she had made the right career decision.
“I think it just reinforced how much I wanted to do it – just seeing how much occupational therapy played a role in his cancer journey,” said Langan. “I feel like it just increased the want and drive to do it. And now I feel like I have the drive that I want to work with cancer patients.”
It’s a decision Langan hasn’t made for sure yet, because she knows her feelings of loss are still fresh. Grief is a process and a journey of its own.
To others going through what Langan and her family have in the last few years, she has some advice.
“I think you just have to be there for that person, and that looks different for everyone. So sometimes it’s just sitting there and being with them through those appointments. Sometimes it’s being a brick wall for them to vent to and give no feedback. And you just have to be there for all the moments because you never know – one day might be really amazing and they might be doing their best and the next day could be the hardest day.”
Langan remembers as people began to hear the news about her dad’s diagnosis, how surprised she was that so many people came to her with their own cancer stories.
“There are so many people in our lives that are affected by it,” she said.
And that’s why she knows how important it is to be part of LOWVELO, a ride where 100 percent of participant-raised dollars go toward cancer research at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center.