Lexi Flanders: Founder of Pedals of Courage, Researcher of Lactic Acid, and Future Pediatric Cancer Oncologic Pathologist
#SheInnovates Stories: Innovation is solving the world's problems. What problem are you solving?
Lexi Flanders: Pediatric Cancer Patients are not surviving long enough to find a cure. According to the Coalition Against Childhood Cancer, "Cancer is the number one cause of death by disease among children."
#SheInnovates: When did you realize your innovation was a breakthrough?
LF: I realized my innovation was a breakthrough when on my last active toy donation at MD Anderson, I figured out I wasn't the only one researching how [being] active helps keep kids strong during treatments and live longer. When I met with a doctor doing similar research to mine, she told me she had never thought of the cancer's lactic acid environment in the body and how that impacts curing the cancer.
#SheInnovates: What were some unexpected obstacles you overcame in the innovation process?
LF: 1. My age. When I first started this project, I was only 8. Many hospitals would not even talk to me, even though I was serious about this work. I kept trying and eventually found the right people.
2. Specific items that hospitals need. Originally, I thought any active toy (bikes, trikes, plasma cars) would work, but hospitals need certain things and only have a limited amount of space. Many items that are requested are very expensive; however, I also learned that "active" comes in a variety of forms. Standing up while painting, yoga, drawing on windows, building Legos and creating robots are still considered being active.
3. Finding donors. It is very hard to provide what hospitals need without donors. My family and friends can't do it all. Many times I contact businesses and they don't even respond...but that doesn't stop me. I have found a few awesome supporters through Twitter and my Amazon wishlist. I couldn't do this without them.
4. Access to lab mice. For my lactic acid research, I only have myself and my own lactic acid from swimming. I found amazing doctors who share knowledge with me and I share my research with them. Together we WILL.
#SheInnovates: What inspires you to love your work?
LF: The fact that 43 children are diagnosed with cancer every day and 1 out of every 8 will not survive is what continues to inspire me. My 3-year-old cousin was one of the children who didn't make it and I want other kids to survive and live a full life of fun and happy potential that my cousin could've had. I WILL find THE cure!!
Interviews have been lightly edited for clarity and length.