Spring time brings out the best in people especially when it’s for a cause such as cancer. A ‘Relay-for-Life’ in Orange, CT drew a big crowd with an all night event even with the cool temperatures Friday evening. Tents were set up in the center of the walking path and looked like ‘occupy Orange’. That’s what cancer does when it comes – it takes over your life.
Cancer in all its variations, becomes too familiar in a wish-it-would go-away kind of way. If it hasn’t effected you personally, maybe it has to someone you care about. Survivor stories are the ‘good news’ stories, but even those come with tumultuous waves of comparisons between life before and after, living with cancer with the many side effects from treatment.
I can only imagine my own reaction if I learned I had cancer – starting with uncertainty and fear for all the unknowns. My aunt died of bladder cancer after a year-long fight where her body began a systematic shut down. The diagnosis was bad enough, but the chain of events, starting with surgery for bladder removal and hysterectomy, eventually caused her bowls to back up.
Years ago before Aunt Vivian passed away I participated in my first ‘Relay For Life’ in Southington. Meteorologist Dr. Mel Goldstein of Connecticut’s WTNH, was the guest of honor, and he spoke about his battle with multiple myeloma, a form of bone cancer that affects the body’s immune system.
Goldstein was a role model for cancer patients, maybe because of public persona, and perhaps because he was by nature, a cheerful person. He fought his disease with strength and humility, working while in treatment. Not everyone has that fight in them given the challenge that cancer presents.
My 2nd ‘Relay For Life’ came as a request from a a co-worker who has both a nephew and mother facing challenges.
So many teenagers walked the laps and when it grew dark, the mood quieted down.
Names of countless people were read after the luminary ceremony. Loved ones were called out and I could picture who they were – mom, grandma, nanna, uncle, aunt, friend, brother, son, and daughter being said over and over again.
White bags containing candles for luminaries were marked with ‘miss you’ and ‘love you’ messages and hearts colored red symbolizing loved ones, now gone.
Cancer is a war being fought in every town and it doesn’t care what age you are or if you can afford it. Cancer recruits the unknowing. Once detected, I think you have to fight with every bit of energy, whether you’re up for the fight or not. If you have people who care, lean on them – it’s life affirming to do so.
There’s no shame in feeling vulnerable. My aunt was strong until the end – and when it was time to let go she did.