Biochemistry student spends summer running to raise awareness of cancer
Hannah Ricketts took a road trip this past summer from San Francisco to Baltimore. Except she wasn’t in a car — she was powered by her own two feet.
Ricketts, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry from Danville, Virginia, participated in the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults run to raise funds and awareness about issues that affect young adults dealing with the complications of cancer.
But that isn’t the only way Ricketts is tackling cancer. As a student in Professor David Bevan’s computational biology lab, Ricketts works on modeling enzymatic reactions that could potentially target specific kinds of cancers.
For Ricketts, participating in the 49-day run was the culmination of a lifelong dream to give back to Dee and Larry Head, two people in her life who died of the disease. Though they were not blood relatives, the Heads were more like her grandparents when Ricketts was growing up. The couple often took care of her when her parents worked odd shifts as paramedics.
“I’d been looking for a way to honor them for a long time, and this event seemed like a good opportunity,” she said.
The summer was a test of her physical and mental strength. The runners dedicated days to people in their lives who had battled cancer and wrote the names on their calves. Less than midway through the race, Ricketts had an especially tough day running at high elevation in Colorado. It was a day she had dedicated to Dee Head. Her teammate reminded her that Head didn’t have the option to stop and neither did she.
“When I started the run, I didn’t think I would make it to the end,” Ricketts said. “Now I feel like I have that mental toughness to push through anything.”