Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fighting Back

When Morgan came to me a couple of months ago and said she wanted to form a team of her friends for the Relay for Life here in Petawawa, my first thought was: I don't have time for that.

It shames me now, to remember how I considered all the things I had on my plate - three kids, hubby away, full work schedule, dance/cubs/soccer, all the things of our hectic life - and decided I didn't have time to take on anything else. Then I looked at her. I mean really looked at her face and into her eyes, and saw excitement, passion and a whole lot of hope. She was standing there asking me to help her continue this journey she started last year, to help raise not only money for a cause we care very deeply about but also awareness among her young friends as to how they too can help. The details of life don't occupy her mind, only the joy of the moment and the enthousiasm she is known for. So my answer was a simple, "Of course sweetheart."

What ensued was two months of awe inspiring behavior. Amid the daily chores and struggles we all contend with, I watched 9 young women learn what it is to give back to the world that has given them so much. I watched them swallow their fear and march up to the doors of perfect strangers to announce their participation in the Relay and ask for their support. I listened to them talk about the people in their lives that they have either supported through or lost to cancer, sad that they have had to cope with such things at this tender age. I have been witness to their hard work on behalf of this team, their determination and above all a level of enthousiasm the likes of which I have never seen...all for the sole purpose of fighting back against this terrible disease that none of us can escape entirely.

The culmination of all our efforts came together two days ago, when relay day finally arrived. I woke up to Morgan's resounding cheer of , "ITS RELAY DAY!!" and I'm happy to say the excitement never waned. The kids hit the field after school, donned their matching shirts and came together in an impressive fashion to show cancer that they are fighting back. We were lucky enough to have Morgan's nanny - my wonderful, beloved mother-in-law - with us as our own, personal cancer survivor. The father of one of our girls is also a survivor, and I will say that having those yellow shirts walking among us certainly put things into perspective.

There are many moments I will never forget, but a few stand out.

While gathered at the stage for the opening ceremonies I glanced over a saw a young boy of about 9 or 10 - much like my own son - swinging from a sign post and giggling. I smiled and was about to look away when he turned and I saw he was wearing a survivor's shirt. My blood froze, tears immediatly sprung to my eyes, and my heart ached for all the things that child has had to endure while my son has led such a happy, normal life. I then looked beside me at my husband's mother, also in her survivor's shirt, laughing with her sister who surprised her and made the trip to our town to see her. She alone has touched so many lives, enriched them greatly and continues to inspire us so much - it terrifed me to realize we could have lost her. I chose this year to run for Steven's little cousin Jaymee as well, who at a very young age began the battle for her life against this monster. I am so pleased to say she is now doing very well and living the beautiful life of a happy 9 year old child.

Later in the night I lit a luminary for a friend back home, who very sadly lost her father to cancer and who still misses him every day. I had a tear in my eye as I did so, thinking how unfair it is that she should be without him. I sent out a silent prayer for him that he might know how much he is loved and missed to this day. Once all the luminaries were lit and we had made our laps to see them, take pictures of how they spelled out HOPE, and commented how beautifully they lit up the whole track, I realized the scope of just how many people have been given that terrible diagnosis in our community alone. It spurred me on, gave me the boost I needed to keep up the walk, continue the fight and to never stop striving for the cure we so desperatly need.

The night was filled with laughter, tears, excitement, fear, love and friendship - but most of all it was filled with hope. There is hope in what we are doing, we can change the world one research dollar at a time, and I for one, will never stop.

I can hardly wait for next year's relay :)