22 August 2008

ACS Relay For Life 2008

Relay For Life: May 31 – June 1 2008

I participated in the annual Relay for Life, an event that benefits the American Cancer Society. Participants form groups, and during the span of the 24-hour period, members of the group walk laps around the track. Members obtain contributions from friends, family, business, etc., and in turn donate all of the money they collect to the ACS. Since I wasn't involved last year, I have nothing to make a comparison to; I can only say I was incredibly moved by the enormity of participation! I was mightily impressed!

All participants received a white tee-shirt with the logo on the front. Those that are cancer survivors wore purple tee-shirts with the word survivor printed in bold white letters on the back. Those shirts were the ones that I paid attention to. Elderly, middle-aged, and yes, young children! When my husband and I first arrived at the high school stadium, the opening ceremony had just begun. I found our Pastor's wife sitting on the bleachers and joined her there. I noticed two little girls a few feet away from me. It was obvious they were twins. One was wearing a purple shirt. I had then and now again, a hard time containing my emotions.

Sitting next to my pastor's wife were a woman, a few years older than me, her daughter and two of her granddaughters. They were each wearing orange shirts. One said "I’m Abigail’s ga-ma", one said "I’m Abigail's mommy"; one said "I’m Abigail’s sister and bone marrow donor"; and then, there was the little girl whose shirt said "I’m Abigail". (here I go again). Later in the evening, one of our "sisters" introduced me to Abigail. She works with her mom. Abigail was two years old when she was diagnosed with leukemia, and now's she's five years old.

During the opening ceremony, a man spoke. He told about his experiences with the Relay for Life events, and how his wife was fundamental in bringing it to our area. He told of her struggles, and her courage and how she fought cancer for 18 years until it finally claimed her. As he lovingly spoke of his late wife, his tears streamed down his face, onto the purple shirt he was wearing. I don’t remember him saying if he was diagnosed before or after his wife’s death.

There were a lot of heart-wrenching moments, but, many filled with laughter as well. There was a table that was selling those funny leashes with invisible dogs (three of us from our group got them and had hours of laughs) to celebrate the success of the paws for life walk, which by the way, raised close to $59K! Then, we had the privilege of meeting Amber, a gorgeous one-year old golden retriever who is in training for therapy work. Her handler (daddy) works in a center for trouble youths and she goes to work with him. She’s already a pro in finding cigarettes, he said. He also shared with me that they will be adding a German shepherd dog to their family in the near future; his wife grew up with German shepherds and wants to train one to work in the same capacity as Amber. I met them while my husband accompanied me as I did my single lap. I was very proud of myself that I made it the entire way around with the use of only one cane instead of both!

A nasty thunderstorm which prompted a tornado watch rolled through and the officials cleared the field; everyone was ordered to go inside the school building. Lucky for me, my husband found a parking spot close to our tent and parked my car there, so a few from our group made a dash for the car and waited out the rain from the car. Some folks left, but most stayed.

I could go on and on but mercifully, I’ll close now. I just want to encourage any and all that, if your town or nearby community hosts an event like this, please, go; even if it’s only for an hour or two.

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