Sep 27, 2022
This month, one Georgia Tech student is taking her personal story and turning it into a way to support research for childhood cancer.
Abigail Neuman, a graduate student in psychology, has spent September participating in the Great Cycle Challenge (GCC), an initiative that unites cyclists with the Children’s Cancer Research Fund. Neuman also participated last year, riding 300 miles and raising more than $1,000. The challenge, for Neuman, is personal.
“In January 2021, my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer. She encouraged me to participate in the challenge last year,” Neuman said. “My mom supported me proudly and wrangled many of her friends together to support my cause. In January 2022, my mom passed away after a courageous fight with cancer.”
This year, Neuman was asked to be a GCC Champion, acting as an ambassador for her region by organizing group rides, recruiting more riders, advertising their goal, and serving as a local spokesperson for the initiative. Her personal goal this year is to ride 400 miles and raise $3,500.
As a psychology student, Neumann’s research interests lie at the intersection of neuroendocrinology, aging, and behavioral and cognitive performance. Though her research is not directly related to childhood cancer or its effects, she finds overlap in the importance of an active lifestyle.
“Childhood cancer is typically not caused by lifestyle, but by genetic and environmental risks or random chance. However, healthy and active lifestyles may make cancer-related health deficiencies more obvious in children, thus leading to a quicker treatment response,” she said. “Healthy lifestyles are also incredibly important during and after cancer treatment in children, as this can mitigate the development of chronic diseases known as ‘late effects.’ In adults, lifestyle plays a remarkable role in cancer risk . A healthy diet and habitual exercise decrease not only the risk of cancer in adults, but also the risk of cognitive deficiencies like Alzheimer's disease and dementia.”
In addition to fundraising and supporting research, the challenge has proven positive for Neuman’s own lifestyle — giving her a goal and prompting her to develop a habit of cycling even amid a busy academic schedule.
“My hope is that continued research into the effects of a healthy lifestyle on a multitude of biological domains will be used to educate people young and old on the importance of eating healthy and being active. The reduction of cancer or age-related cognitive deficiencies is a win in my books. Hopefully my contributions to science and to GCC will help.”