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Two reasons to ride: MUSC student pedals to honor a pair of important relationships

|   June 2, 2023

When she said “yes” to riding in LOWVELO21 with her best friend, who had just survived a cancer scare, Jaeger Parsons realized she had another personal reason for wanting to help fund lifesaving cancer research.

“The more I thought about it, I realized I had more personal ties to this with my dad’s cancer diagnosis when I was 15 years old,” said Parsons, who compares the moment her dad gave her the news to a bomb dropping.

Parsons’ parents were divorced at the time and both of her sisters were off at college. “My dad was a single man. So, it kind of became a lot of my afternoon routine to go home after school, to take care of him, to give him medication, to make food, do whatever he needed to do for a year or so,” remembered Parsons. “That was probably a defining moment. I didn’t think I was going to hit adulthood that soon, but it was when I needed to.”

Parsons’ dad ended up beating his cancer, but it changed the trajectory of his daughter’s life. It’s what convinced her she wanted to go into health care.

Fast forward to 2021. Parsons was studying occupational therapy, a three-year doctoral program at MUSC College of Health Professions, when her best friend and classmate Bridget Horgan decided she was going to ride in LOWVELO. Horgan had recently been treated for thyroid cancer and was excited at the opportunity to help raise funds for lifesaving cancer research at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, where she had received her treatment.

Together with two other teammates, Parsons and Horgan rode in their first LOWVELO in 2021 and decided that next time around, they would do it much bigger. And they did. In 2022, their team, The Training Wheels, was the largest team in LOWVELO22 with 53 riders. We spoke to Parsons after the ride to hear what she thought about her second time and what she’d say to anyone considering becoming part of LOWVELO.

What was it like riding in LOWVELO again and what route did you choose for LOWVELO22?

In 2022, I chose to ride the 23-mile route, as my best friend, Bridget, was diagnosed at age 23! Compared to the 10-mile route I completed in 2021, I had to complete some extra training. It was an amazing experience this year. The weather was beautiful, the event was larger, and my mental stamina was tested! Making our way up the Ravenel Bridge was tough. The incline was something I had not prepared for. However, all along the way people would pass by, say “hello” and make kind remarks and that kept my pedals moving. Flying down the other side gave me so much adrenaline ­– the wind rushing through my hair, sunshine on my face, and time spent laughing with Bridget the whole way down. It was so much fun to challenge ourselves. We have even briefly talked about completing the 50-mile ride in 2023!

What was the hardest part?

The hardest part was making it up the bridge. I was not prepared for the incline! In addition, as I was crossing Breach Inlet, the chain on my bike came loose and I had no idea how to get it back on. I had tons of people passing me and cars waiting, and I was so flustered. About five people from the end of the group stopped and helped get my chain on and get me on my way. I was so thankful for their help.

How did you feel at the end? 

I was so excited and happy at the end! The Training Wheels had a huge group this year doing all different routes. So, it was amazing to be cheered across the finish line and cheer for our other friends doing the longer routes! My boyfriend came out to the block party to help us celebrate which was great. There were so many endorphins flowing at the end I think I could’ve ridden another 23 miles! 

Would you do it again? 

There is no question – I will do it again. Bridget and I both have plans to ride in LOWVELO23 and make The Training Wheels team even bigger. The real question is if we are going to go big and ride the 50-mile route!

What would you tell someone who’s never done LOWVELO about the ride?

I would tell them that if they were considering it, do it! If they aren’t considering it, they should. There are so many different options ­– from doing it on the road, to doing it virtually wherever you are. There is something for everybody. I have never been someone who rides bikes that often, but I found that it is a lot of fun and the community and family feel of LOWVELO is even more worth it. I have fallen in love with LOWVELO and its cause, and I think anyone who rides will too. If they want to join The Training Wheels, we would be more than happy to bring them along for the ride!

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