Despite being the last one over the bridge, MUSC student empowered by LOWVELO bike ride

January 11, 2023
a sole bicyclist in the narrow shoulder of the bridge followed by cars
Emily Bott was the last LOWVELO rider over the Ravenel Bridge. "I was equally embarrassed and proud once I got to the bottom because, even though I was the last person to cross the bridge, I made it to the other side," she said. Photo by Bowen Gao

There were no other riders behind her as she came over the Ravenel Bridge. Not one. But still, a few months later, MUSC College of Health Professions student Emily Bott said she’d absolutely do LOWVELO again.

“The hardest part was by far the Ravenel Bridge,” said Bott of the 23-mile route she completed during MUSC Hollings Cancer Center’s LOWVELO22 in November. “I had only ever ridden it once during my training, and when I got to the day of the ride, it seemed to go on forever. I was equally embarrassed and proud once I got to the bottom because, even though I was the last person to cross the bridge, I made it to the other side.”

Bott will join her team, the Training Wheels, and other LOWVELO riders and teams for the Jerry Zucker Awards Ceremony for LOWVELO22 on Feb. 16 at the Harbour Club at WestEdge from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The night includes complimentary hors d’oeuvres and cocktails and celebrates the accomplishments of riders and the funds raised for life-saving cancer research at Hollings.

Bott never planned to ride in LOWVELO. But life threw a curveball at her last July when she went home to spend Fourth of July weekend with her family in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

“My parents sat me down and they said, ‘Your mom has cancer and don't look it up on the internet,’” recalled Bott.

The cancer her mother, Laura, had been diagnosed with was stage 3 triple negative breast cancer.

“When I did look at the internet, I felt pretty hopeless because of the previous statistics,” said Bott. “But thanks to research efforts it has a much higher survival rate than it used to.”

Bott’s parents encouraged her to go back to school, saying that was where she needed to be.

a young woman in bicyclist jersey points above and behind her at a large screen that has a photo of her with her mom 
Emily Bott spotted a photo of herself and her mom at the LOWVELO finish line on Isle of Palms. Photo provided

“So, I was looking for a way to support my family from afar,” said Bott. “To feel like I was helping in some way.”

Since research efforts were giving her family hope as her mother faced this battle, Bott decided that she could help by contributing to the process at Hollings. A group of her classmates were riding in LOWVELO, something she previously didn’t think she could do. But with a new desire to be part of the solution, she jumped in.

“I had not biked since I was a child. I don't have a bike. I thought it was awesome that my classmates were supporting each other and cancer research, but I did not think it was something that I was going to be able to do,” said Bott. “When I found out about my mom, I kind of resolved myself. I decided this is one thing that I know for sure that I can do to be part of this fight. So, I'm going to make it work and I'm going to go all in and do it.”

Go all in, she did. Bott signed up for and started training to take on the 23-mile route.

“When I got on the bike to train, it was the first time in several years. I was wobbly and turning was hard,” Bott recalled with a chuckle. “And my friends would laugh at me because I looked silly – like a baby horse or giraffe just learning to walk.”

It didn’t take long for her to get the hang of biking again, though. Bott felt empowered as she pushed through the months leading up to LOWVELO getting ready. Her team, the Training Wheels, ended up with 53 riders and more than $17,000 raised for cancer research at Hollings.

“I was so proud when I finished,” said Bott. “My roommate and friends were there cheering me on, and I felt ecstatic. It was so surreal that I actually biked 23 miles as someone who has never biked or cycled regularly.”

Bott might get that fighting spirit from her mother. She’s still powering her way through, too. She finished her last day of chemo on Dec. 27 and will undergo surgery this month, followed by radiation and immunotherapy.

a woman in hospital chair wearing head scarf holds a sign that says No Mo Chemo while a younger woman smiles with her 
Emily Bott, right, with her mom, Laura, who completed chemotherapy in December. She is being treated in North Carolina, near her home. Photo provided 

Despite being the very last rider to make it up and over Charleston’s biggest hill on ride day, Bott describes her experience with LOWVELO as meaningful and impactful.

“If I can bike 23 miles, anyone can,” encouraged Bott. “I say that people can leisurely ride 10 miles in under an hour, so 23 is a great goal for a little more of a challenge. The LOWVELO team set up many supports and made me feel so safe. I would recommend it to anyone.”

LOWVELO began in 2019 and has helped fund projects like CAR-T-cell therapy. In 2021, LOWVELO funded a research grant to create purified versions of CAR-T-cells, which are used to treat certain leukemia and lymphoma patients. This therapy can give hope to patients who have fewer treatment options left. Funds raised from the 2022 ride will be announced at the awards ceremony on Feb. 16.