Matt Cardoza

Riding on the 3,000-mile, cross-country charity Ride to Awareness would be a dream of mine. I will be making the week-long trek from San Diego, CA to Phoenix, AZ. I wish I could do more but that’s all my schedule and commitments allow.

Parents of a friend taught me to ride a bike when I was about 5. I remember I first learned to ride and flew over my handlebars when I ran into a sprinkler on the very same day. My training wheels were the grass. I rode small amounts recreationally while growing up. My friend and I would tow lawn mowers and weed eaters behind our bikes with a rope when mowing lawns in the neighborhood. In high school, my parents let me ride to school before I could drive. The agreement was that I could ride as long as I took back roads.

When I was in my early twenties I began riding with some friends, we would do some serious mountain biking. Before riding with them I did not know what “mountain biking” was. A few years later they also talked me into getting a road bike.

In May of 2003 I was hit by a car head on while riding my bicycle. Luckily I was wearing a helmet and only suffered from some bruising and burnt leg hair on my quad from the friction. This accident led to the CAT scan MRI and the eventual discovery of a benign tumor on my brainstem the size of a large lime. Before discovery of the tumor I rode in the century ride around Lake Tahoe. The ride was in June and I had surgery to remove the tumor in July.

In December of 2008 I had to have a repeat surgery. During the surgery, an artery was accidentally cut which caused a stroke and complete hemiparesis on my left side. Because of the location of the stroke I had to relearn to swallow (I spent a few weeks on a feeding tube), I was unable to regulate my body temperature, I had double vision, etc. In 2012, after several years of therapy both inside and outside the hospital, I attempted the century ride in Lake Tahoe and completed 38 miles, in 2013 I completed 56, and then in 2014 I attempted and completed the whole century. In 2014 I also completed my 6th and final class since my stroke to get my bachelors degree in computer science. In 2014 I logged a little over 3,000 miles all year, this year I’m on target to log over 4,000.

I’m blessed to have such a supportive wife who has stayed by my side through all of this as we were married just over a year when I had my stroke. My wife grew up in San Diego just miles away from the starting line for Ride to Awareness. I have a large Instagram following (@strokerecovery) and she is the reason I got on Instagram in the first place. She gave me the idea to log my progress so it would be easier to see.

The reason I mention Instagram is because that is where I first heard of Ride to Awareness. I started following the account and would intermittently talk with Allen hoping to do part of the ride.

Mental illness is something that is very close to my heart. I feel very blessed to be part of this group to raise awareness and remove the stigma associated with mental illness. I’m educated and willing to pass on information about mental illness to others who may not know the truth about mental illness. I’ve never done a cross state bike ride of this distance over multiple days but I know having a cause like this behind me will get me through it.

3,000 Miles of Adventure Cycling across the Southern Tier of the USA to benefit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)