Sunday, April 10, 2011

Relay For Life

We are less than five weeks away from the Relay For Life of St. Augustine. I feel like it's been forever since I blogged about anything...probably because it kind of has been forever! :) But the Relay is something very important to me, so I thought I'd post a quick blog about why.

The Relay is the signature event for the American Cancer Society. Steve and I have been participating for more than 10 years now...this year makes 11. We started because the hospital where we worked had a team that participated, and we got hooked on how fun the event is. There are six different events held in St. Johns County, but we have always participated directly with the St. Augustine location (there's also Pedro Menendez, World Golf Village, Bartram Trail, Ponte Vedra and now Nocatee). Teams set up campsites around a track (ours is at St. Augustine High School) and from noon on a Saturday until 6 a.m. on Sunday, they participate in the wild and crazy activities. The main idea is to have someone walking laps on the track at all times during the 18 hours. Each campsite has a fundraiser or two (or five) planned. For example, this year we're selling tickets for a chance drawing and the winner will get a 32" flat-screen television.

At noon when the event kicks off, the first lap is walked by cancer survivors and their caregivers. It's so amazing to see how many people have been affected by cancer...too often we focus on the negative, counting those we have lost. We need the reminder that there are those who survive cancer and make every day count. They are the ones we celebrate! The most powerful realization I get every year when I watch that first lap is that cancer sees no affects the young, the old, men and women, people of all nationalities.

At 9 p.m. (for our Relay events, anyway...your mileage may vary), the luminaries that surround the track are lit. Each paper bag bears the name of someone who has survived cancer or someone who has been lost to cancer. The candles inside are lit and the lights on the track are dimmed. We walk in silence around the track, listening to the PA system while someone speaks the names of those recognized. Each year the list gets's a scary thing to realize that next year, more names will be added. But in the bleachers there are luminaries on one side of the track that spell out the word HOPE and on the other side spell out the word CURE. Because that's what we're there for...we hope for a cure so that one day cancer will not be such a threat.

Steve's grandfather had lung cancer. I don't know many of the details about what he went through. But my grandmother also had lung cancer. I was 13 when she was diagnosed, and I remember being so scared that she would die from it. She had drastic surgery and part of her lung was removed. She was in remission for years. She developed emphysema and eventually passed away due to complications. Cancer wasn't what killed her, but it compromised her system in a way that she couldn't recover fully. She also had several battles with skin cancer (partly due to the fact that she was a sun bather, and partly due to natural heredity). We write our grandparents' names on a luminary each every year and it gives me mixed feelings when it comes time to watch them be lit. But I know that we are doing our part to make sure that others might have a better chance when it comes to cancer.

There are a lot of technical details about Relay that I won't post here, because my main purpose is just to inform others about what Relay is and why we participate. Steve and I started Relaying each year in memory of our grandparents, but we have watched as friends and other acquaintances have gone through cancer battles of their own, or with their family's devastating to realize how many people cancer affects. Our goal is that one day, Megan and Jeremy will not even have Relay each year, because a cure will be found. It's a lofty goal, but we pray for it each year!

If you'll be in the St. Augustine area the weekend of May 14-15, let me know...we'd love to have you stop by and visit our team's campsite. :) The more the merrier!!!

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