Monday, June 4, 2012

Relay for Life

It was great to participate in Relay for Life last Friday.  I didn't stay the whole night, but we went up for the opening ceremony at 6 pm and hung out for a while and walked a few laps.  Then I went back and walked from 10-11pm for my team.  It was cool to partipate because I was also pregnant with Austin the summer I walked in Relay for my Dad's team.

I wasn't able to participate last year as I had a work conflict, but here is my post from the 2010 Relay. I have participated in numerous Relay's and couldn't even begin to figure out just how many now. Back in 1989 my Mom was diagnosed with cervical cancer and had to have a hysterectomy. It was detected during a routine pap smear and they were able to remove the cancer before it spread so she did not need any further treatments. For many years I would go walk with her at the Relay she would participate in in Colorado and cheer her on for the survivor's lap. She always says she feels like she is trying to take credit for something she didn't earn since they got the cancer out so quickly and she never really suffered or had to go through the nasty cancer treatments like chemo or radiation. I tell her that she is the PERFECT example and inspiration for what the American Cancer Society is all about since she DID get routine screening and they were able to act quickly.

Fighting cancer does not need to be an ugly battle!

In 2008 I lost my Dad to kidney cancer. He was the exact opposite of my Mom as he would never go to the doctor. By the time my Mom finally convinced him to go in it was much, much too late. Don't get me wrong when I say that I'm happy it took him relatively quickly, I miss my Dad and wish that he didn't have to die, but I am so happy his suffering wasn't long and drawn out. If you have never witnessed someone die of cancer it is a horrible awful death where you are reduced to skin and bones. It is incredibly painful for them and so hard as a loved one to watch. I was with my Dad the last two weeks of his life and helped my family provide his care. I shoveled so many super strong pain medications like Oxycontin and morphine into him and yet he would still quiver in pain and struggle to breath.

He died in February, the following June we put together a family team in his honor.  We raised over $1,000 for the ACS.  My Dad was a construction worker so we wore hard hats and tool belts.  We wore green and white lays because kelly green is the color for kidney cancer.

Relay is an all night event to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.  People form teams that fund raise and then have a member walking the course at all times through the night.  Walking through the night symbolizes the struggle a person faces when battling cancer.  The opening ceremony is before the sun sets so the sun setting is like the diagnoses.  Through the night it's cold and lonely and the tiredness sets.  The sun rising symbolizes remission and the hope and joy of conquering the illness.  But it is also a celebration and mostly has a fun atmosphere. They usually have fun music playing and do fun little games to make walking more interesting.  At some point in the evening they all have a luminaria ceremony where for a donation they have a white paper sack that you can dedicate either "in Memory" of someone who has died, or "in Honor" of someone who won the fight and they line the track with the bags and light a candle, or glow stick in them.  It's very surreal to see the soft glow and think about how many people have been touched by cancer. 

The theme of Relay for Life is Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back.

Who I Celebrate:
Doris H. (Mom) cervical cancer
Candy H (cousin) melanoma
Lisa S (co-worker) breast cancer, just completed chemo and radiation
Miriam M (co-worker) some kind of abdominal cancer
Dolores S (co-worker) breast cancer
Gayle K (co-worker) ovarian cancer
Paul R (co-worker) some kind of abdominal cancer

Who I Remember:
Carl H (Dad) kidney cancer
Catherine T (Maternal Grandmother) breast cancer
Bert H (Uncle) lung cancer
Doris T (Aunt) abdominal cancer
Roger S (cousin) lung cancer
Mike B (ARS co-worker) male breast cancer, actually survived the cancer, but died from a heart attack
Harvey "H-Man" S (tribal member and softball team coach) some sort of abdominal cancer
Earl S (co-worker) lung cancer
Darlene M (tribal member) abdominal cancer

Fight Back:
There are a lot of ways that we can all fight back against cancer.  The number one thing that we can each do for ourselves it early detection.  Cancer screening varies widely depending on if you are a man or women and what age you are.  If you aren't sure what screening you should have you should visit with your doctor, and visit the American Cancer Society page to find out more.  If you need to have something checked out call and schedule the appointment today!

I know I get an annual well women check where they do routine pap smears, breast exams, and blood work.  I also worked up the courage this year to go to a Dermatologist and have my skin examined.  I was especially scared of that appointment because I had numerous sunburns as a kid and fake tanned in college.  At home I pay attention to my skin and do monthly self breast checks. 

Another way to fight back is to help a family who is battling cancer.  I know it was such a relief to have people come and visit when my Dad was sick.  I know it's incredibly difficult as it's hard to know what say to someone who is dieing, but it means a lot to the whole family to know that they are not isolated or alone.  If you are worried about what to say, then call the family ahead of time to express your concern (believe me they understand) and ask that they stay while you visit and help guide the conversation.  I think when you are there all the time it's easier to make conversation.  Another great thing you can do is bring food.  Often times the cancer patient can't eat much more than soft bland foods, but the caretakers are also grieving and working very hard to care for the loved one and often don't take the time to prepare food for themselves.  This is the best time for good hearty comfort food.  One other thing that is probably the most challenging, is to offer to sit with a cancer patient and allow the regular caretakers to take a break.  It is SO EXHAUSTING to be a caretaker and it is so nice to take a break, even if it's just to take a simple walk to get out and get a breath of fresh air.

Three times now I have grown my hair out long, then cut it short and donated it twice to Locks of Love and once to Beautiful Lengths.  If you are blessed with fast growing, healthy hair like me this is a way to give of yourself to help a cancer patient.

And of course it costs a lot of money to find a cure so a great way to help the fight is to participate in the various cancer events such as Relay or all the Comen Breast Cancer events.  If you can't participate you can sponsor someone who is participating.  I always think of it as an investment, help the fight today and find a cure, then someday I won't have to suffer if I do end up with cancer.  If it doesn't help me it will definitely help a loved one, so no cent is wasted.


  1. Great post! We have a "Relay for Life" event here as well. My Mom was going to walk for my Aunt a few years ago but had to back out because my Aunt regretfully died. I think it's such an amazing idea.

    It's so sad to see how long the lists of people they are walking for have become. So many people are affected by cancer in one form or another... So sorry to hear about your father.

  2. What a Great story! Thanks for sharing and I love your dad's construction theme.

  3. What a great post! I never knew why the relays went all night. My husband and I are hoping to participate next year.


Thanks for taking the time to leave me a comment!