Thomas Sikkema

May 3, 2022

My new life began on May 14, 2013. During the weeks leading up to this day, I had been experiencing multiple symptoms that appeared out of nowhere, from double vision, depression to severe headaches, and insomnia. Overnight, I went from being a normal 17-year-old kid, to a confused student painfully struggling to sit through my junior year chemistry class. My parents pulled me out of school to bring me to a psychologist to assess my depression and it was on that day in 2013, and the ensuing journey that followed, that my life would change forever. After a mere nine hours from the time I left my classroom for a 10-minute consultation, whereby it was determined that my symptoms did not appear to be related to mental illness, to a litany of tests at the local children’s hospital that included numerous scans, blood work and physical exams, I was diagnosed with a rare type of pediatric brain cancer called CNS Germinoma.

I spent the next six months battling for my life. Despite the struggle ahead, I was attuned to my surroundings and to what I believed to be my future reality. While sitting in my ICU bed on June 2, 2013, looking through different wheelchair accessories as I mentally prepared for my brain surgery scheduled for the next day, I had my ‘aha’ moment that led to an I idea that later became a reality.

On November 20, 2013, following four rounds of intense chemotherapy and five weeks of radiation, I went into remission. With cancer in the rear-view mirror, I dedicate myself to serving others by becoming a registered nurse. Throughout nursing school clinicals, I began to see a common trend: patients having difficulty accessing the care they needed due to transportation barriers. After months of research and development, I launched Ride YourWay, a wheelchair accessible transportation company. My experience fighting brain cancer taught me that there was a market void for an affordable and accessible service to address individual patient needs and interests. I began assisting community members to their doctor appointments, medical treatments, and non-medical events such as weddings and family gatherings. With this patient-centered approach to transportation, Ride YourWay quickly grew into West Michigan’s only 5-star rated transportation provider. After four years of community service, Ride YourWay has assisted thousands of clients all over West Michigan and beyond.

Earlier this year, in March 2022, the opportunity to become the Community Team Lead in Michigan for MUVE, a leader in mobility solutions, presented itself. In this role, I provide local support as MUVE rolls out its ‘Go MUVE’ accessible mobility app in Western Michigan. I know what it’s like to face uncertainty first-hand and I experienced the disability divide in mobility. The Go MUVE app makes getting around effortless. It takes the worry away and gives the user back their freedom. I am excited to be working with MUVE and to introduce the community, and people of all abilities, to this ground-breaking technology.

Life is a journey with ups and downs, and I am thankful that my life-scare, at such a young age, resulted in a positive outcome for me and gave me the opportunity to serve my community.

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