This is my 9th year to participate in Relay for Life to raise money for The American Cancer Society. I have participated in many different parts from being on the planning committee, to simply donating money. No matter how involved I am, every year I write why I relay.
It started with my brother Clay. When he passed away after an 8 month battle with Leukemia I felt helpless. Relay gave me a purpose, a way to feel helpful. I was even fortunate enough in the first few years to share my story, well Clay’s story. I spoke at fundraisers, ACS events, and for legislation.
A few years ago my reason changed when I became a caregiver. I was taking care of my Dad while he battled Lung Cancer. I struggled with this title. I had a hard time seeing myself like the men and women who were taking care of their children or spouses. During the Relay there is a special lap honoring caregivers and all they do for their loved ones battle cancer. It hit a little too close to my heart. Dad and I both decided that year not to attend Relay, it was emotionally too hard…so we wrote a check.
Last year was my first year to attend after my dad passed away. It felt great to walk and celebrate the survivors. But there was something surreal about seeing Dad’s name on a luminary. How can a white paper bag with a candle in it bring so much emotion? I had not intended to stay all night, I went home after the luminaria ceremony but within an hour I was back on the track and walked through the night. Just like with the passing of my brother, Relay helped with my healing process.
This year I’m not Relaying for Clay or Dad. I could say I’m Relaying for my kids but it’s not really true. My reason is far less noble and even a bit petty. I’m Relaying for me, because I’m scared. Last fall I had to fill out a medical questionnaire that asked if I had any history of cancer in my family. I nearly laughed out loud…should I start with the most recent and work my way back or vice versa?
My father died in 2009…Lung Cancer
My brother died in 2007…Leukemia
My grandmother died in 1996…Cervical Cancer
My grandfather died in 1958…Brain Cancer
The harsh reality is that the statistics alone are scary. One in three women will be diagnosed with cancer. 1500 lives are lost to cancer EVERY DAY. You partner statistics with family history and I admit it scares me. I don’t want to be one of these statistics. I want to know that as a strong, healthy woman I have done what I can to change the statistics. That’s why I’m Relaying this year. The money we raise goes to research to find better ways to diagnose cancer sooner, better treatments, and hopefully one day a cure. By participating in Relay I won’t be another statistic…I will be changing them.
Will you help me?