June 4, 2010

Why I Relay

Several years ago, the disease known as cancer crawled into our life and like an unwanted, unwelcome telemarketer, continues to call. I became involved with the Relay for Life the spring after it took a young mother friend of mine.  It seemed a fitting tribute to a woman who was one of my first friends in a new neighborhood, to celebrate her life while raising awareness and funds.

Relay for LifeI HOPED that would be the only time that annoying telemarketer rang our phone. Unfortunately, it was just the beginning. Within the next year, several more diagnosis of cancer came to our circle. I wanted to tell them they had the wrong number, or ignore it through call screening, but the phone rang off the hook. We watched several relatives fight a good fight, but still eventually lose the battle with cancer.

Uncle J. was a singer. In his last months of vitality, he recorded himself singing with beauty and joy, to be played at his funeral. It was a haunting and poignant moment to hear his strong tenor through the funeral parlor, reminding us to live with gusto.

Uncle E., lives on in his beautiful grandson. It seems patently unfair that the man who loved babies more than any adult man I ever met would never know his own grandchildren, but I know he smiles with pride and probably holds them in ways we cannot even fathom.

Uncle H., was hauling moving boxes around always ready to lend a hand to anyone in the family when a hand was needed. But that was one box he couldn't move out of his life.

Aunt K., was one of the most special people who ever touched my life. She had a spirit and verve like nobody I ever met. She fought her battle with a dignity that I envy. I can remember sitting on my patio telling her I wasn't drinking the water in town anymore, and she said, me either, get me a cold beer. Then she joked how she was so grateful she didn't have to shave her legs that summer. She had a smile to light up a room and it lives in her children.

M., was another young mother friend we knew. One evening at a party, she left early saying she just hadn't been feeling well lately, but was heading to the doctor the following week. She was diagnosed with cancer and fought with dignity. I ran into her at the store about a month before she died and she said, "We'll have to all get together soon." I never expected it would be at her funeral.

For the survivors, keep the faith. You have our love and prayers.

J., you have treated our family as your own and your beauty and love carries you daily. Thank you for being our Nana.

D., you're another lady who could teach the world about silent strength. You have handled and survived your cancer with a courage that fills me with admiration. I'm so proud to call you Mom.

B., we pray for your strength daily and are so proud of your fortitude. You've taught us all what strength under fire means. I'm honored to call you Dad.

This is why I relay. My world is filled with stories of fighters and survivors. Our life is peppered with people who showed us how to live with dignity. Having such strength in my world inspires and fills me with HOPE. I want to celebrate that HOPE.

Thank you family and friends for allowing us the opportunity to give back in some small way.

If you want to help sponsor our walk, I've included the link to our local Relay. If you'd like to participate in one, here is a national search for one local to your community. The money raised helps the American Cancer Society continue their valuable research to stop that insidious call in its tracks. Together, we can make a difference.


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