The family of Julian Fraser was so determined to increase awareness and funding to combat the rare type of cancer that took the 20-year-old athlete's life, they were willing to bike nearly 5,000 miles to do it.
An emotional journey across the country will culminate at Santa Clara University in California on Friday when a ride spearheaded by Cristy and Alec Fraser finishes at the university where the youngest of their three children was a collegiate water polo player before his death in 2017.
"He would be thrilled that we’re just trying to continue his legacy, and turn it into a message of hope," Cristy Fraser told Erin McLaughlin on TODAY Friday.
The cross-country trek began in August with Alec Fraser and good friend Jamie Meehan cycling from the family's home in Connecticut with Cristy following in a support van.
Their journey has since raised nearly $500,000 for Cycle for Survival, which supports research and clinical trials led by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where Julian Fraser was treated. They will also arrive in Santa Clara in time for the annual Julian Fraser Memorial Tournament this weekend involving the men's water polo team.
"It’s an incredible ending to a wonderful journey across the country, and we’re so excited to finish in Santa Clara, which has been a loving, wonderful place for Julian and for us," Cristy said.
Julian was a sophomore water polo player at Santa Clara University when he suddenly developed a pain in his pelvis. The former high school All-American swimmer and water polo player was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
"We were hopeful at first that maybe it was isolated, a tumor that could be removed," Cristy said. "But when we got the prognosis, the cancer had metastasized throughout his body."
"They told him that he had less than a 1% chance of surviving this," Alec said. "But he said, 'I don’t care what they say. I’m gonna beat this. I’m gonna fight this with all my strength.'"
Julian underwent treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, but was gone less than a year after being diagnosed.
"We thought, 'He has a chance to beat this,' but you can’t beat that kind of cancer," his mother said. "Basically, they told him he had 10 months to live. And that, in fact, was what he had."
A quarter of all cancer deaths are caused by rare cancers, which make up about half of all cancer diagnoses. Doctors say that rare cancers often do not receive enough research and offer few treatment options, which has motivated the Frasers to do their part to change that.
"We really wanted to do something big to honor Julian," Alec said.
The family rode through 17 states totaling over 4,560 miles to not only increase awareness and push for more funding for rare cancers, but also help other families going through something similar to feel less alone.
"We’ve built this great community and we have this Team Julian that’s raising close to $2 million," Julian's brother, Andrew Fraser, said on TODAY.