Friday, May 20, 2011

Relay for Life

Something I have looked forward to for the past few years is participating in RELAY FOR LIFE, sponsored by The American Cancer Society.

But this year it took on an entire different meaning for me. The word,

says it all!

If you do not know much about "Relay", it is a 24 hour event. The goal is to have at least one person from every team on the track for the full 24 hours. There are theme laps, opening ceremonies, and a fabulous luminaria celebration (see pic above). The entire football field becomes a canival-like event where team booths are set up raising money. Every single dime earned goes directly to ACS. It is a blast! Then the die hards stay the night. This year my whole family stayed and it was great!

Beginning years ago I participated on a team at the elementary school I had been working at. At that time I would just show up for my scheduled hour to walk, usually in the middle of the night. I'm wierd like that. I never donated. I never raised funds for my team. I simply walked.

For the past two years I have participated on our current elementary school parent organization team. We have a great team and it is growing each year! There is nothing more bonding than spending the night, on a football field, in the wind and rain...and doing it all because we have all been touched somehow by cancer.

My Cancer Story
My dad's parents both died from cancer, but I was younger and they were elderly. I didn't fully understand what this disease was all about. I simply thought it was something that "old people" die from.

Then about six years ago, my mom told us that she was having a "procedure" to remove something from her breast. It was cancer...never spread...and never referred to as cancer. She followed up with radiation treatments, which my dad took her to, and never had any side effects. You can probably tell that I went through that period oblivious to what was really going on...denial?
Just a few months later my dad got word that there were cancerous cells in his prostate. Thanks to preventative health, it was caught early, he had surgery, suffered some discomfort and is now living life to it's fullest. With these situations, cancer was just a scare to me that was fairly easily remedied.

Although all around me I saw relatives, neighbors, friends and acquaintances suffer more severely from cancer. I am sure you know people like that too. You know, 1 in 3 people will hear the words, "you have cancer." That is a lot!

My experience with cancer intensified at the beginning of this year when my older sister, 18 years older to be exact, called me on the phone. It is not often she picks up the phone to call me. I figured I had done something to tick her off ...I never expected her to tell me that she has stage 3 ovarian cancer. From that moment on I made a concious decision to not go through this process in a cloud like I did with my parents. My relationship with my sister has evolved over time. It went from her basically raising me (since she was so much older than me) to actually having full on adult sibling fights, and everything in between. When she told me about her cancer all our past disappeared.

My sisters and I at Relay for Life 2011.

She is now in the middle of her chemotherapy treatments. After her diagnosis she had surgery and is doing great! She has never had one moment of self pity. She has looked at this as a challenge and she is meeting each challenge with perseverance and determination. She really is a role model to me.

When it came time to plan "Relay" this year, I knew it would take on a whole new meaning to me. I decided to push hard to meet my goal to raise $500. I did it!!!

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to all of those who donated to me!

A couple of days before, she told me she would like to come and walk in the survivor lap. I was so excited to celebrate her accomplishment of fighting this disease!

I hope that you will get involved with a Relay near you! It is great fun and supports a cause that too many of us have seen very close to home.

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