Since I was diagnosed and began treatment for cancer, I have wanted to participate in some kind of walk or event to help raise money for cancer research and other services that organizations provide to cancer patients. I was not physically up to it while going through treatment but had the privilege and availability last week to finally do one.
I hesitantly signed up to do Relay for Life by the American Cancer Society. I say hesitantly because when I went to thewebsite and read what it was all about I saw that participants “camp out” and stay overnight. I never even did many “all-nighters” when I was in college yet alone one outside at this stage of life! I emailed the person in charge asking if I HAD to do that and found out I could just attend whatever events I wanted to.
With only two weeks to go before the Relay I emailed and posted the event and was able to raise $450 for the American Cancer Society! Many of you were supporters, thank you! In total 37 teams and 973 participants helped raise $140,870.82 (latest figure) at the one I attended. Many communities do a Relay for Life and they happen around this time of year, I think all at high school tracks. More than 4 million people in over 20 countries participate in a Relay. Let me tell you first what the funds raised help do.
The American Cancer Society is celebrating it’s 100th birthday! No single nongovernmental, not-for-profit organization in the US has invested more to find the causes and cures of cancer than the American Cancer Society. Since 1946 they have helped make possible almost every major cancer research breakthrough. They provide a place to stay in one of the 31 Hope Lodge facilities for cancer patients and their caregivers while receiving effective treatment far from home. They provide transportation for cancer patients to and from treatment for those that do not have a way to get there or are unable to drive themselves. The ACS has a program to help cancer patients look good and feel better about themselves. I attended one of these and you can read of my experience. They also have a support program matching specially trained breast cancer survivors with those who are newly diagnosed that need someone to talk to.
The Relay runs from 6 pm to 6 am. The opening ceremony included speeches, songs, and the release of about a dozen doves. Then the State Troopers bagpipe band led a procession of cancer survivors around the track for the first lap, a victory lap! There were 208 survivors registered but less were there I believe due to the weather. The event is held rain or shine and storms were threatening. As we walked around the track, caretakers, family and friends cheered us on. It reminded me of Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.” (NRSV) There was a sea of purple as we wore our Relay survivor shirts. Each participant had their own unique circumstances, yet we were united in spirit sharing the same unfortunate struggle…CANCER…but as survivors! On the second lap around, the caretakers joined us. This was CELEBRATE!
During the evening teams had their bases set up on the grounds with large tents, not for sleeping in, but with tables and chairs and food. There were different contests going on through the event between the teams. Local businesses and groups like Shop Rite, the Fire department and Applebees also had tents and were handing out food. There were inflatables and activities for the children, a band playing, and a raffle tent for the survivors. All survivors also received a knitted or crocheted lap blanket. Once it was dark there was a luminaria ceremony. Decorated personalized bags in memory or in honor of someone with cancer lined the track with candles in them. It was quite a sight. There was a ceremony with a slide show and glow sticks were handed out. Lots of hugging and some tears were shed as photos flashed across the large screen. Walking the track reading the names and messages on the bags and looking at the photos on some was very moving. This was REMEMBER! It reminded me of how the whole chapter of Hebrews 11 is filled with examples of people whose faith brought them through; Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, etc. I could visualize their names on the luminares and those great heroes saying, “Remember us. Keep the faith as we did. Run the race. You can do it.”
The third part is FIGHT BACK! I was too tired to stay any later so I missed the Fight Back portion. From what I understand it’s the ceremony that encourages participants to take some form of action fighting back against cancer. What are you willing to do for yourself, your loved ones, and your community to make sure everyone can celebrate another birthday? There is a lot you can do! Starting with yourself, if you are a woman, be diligent with your mammograms and monthly self-checks. Be an advocate and encourage others to do the same. Watch the foods you eat. Don’t smoke. Exercise. In short, take care of your body! Support cancer research and participate in an event like Relay for Life. I plan on doing this again and will start earlier next time in raising funds. I hope to bring family and friends with me next time. There is a battle going on and we need to do what we can to fight back. The same is true in our spiritual lives. “Finally, let the Lord make you strong. Depend on his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor. Then you can stand firm against the devil’s evil plans. Our fight is not against human beings. It is against the rulers, the authorities and the powers of this dark world. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly world. So put on all of God’s armor. Evil days will come. But you will be able to stand up to anything. And after you have done everything you can, you will still be standing.” Ephesians 6:10-13
We need to make investments in things we feel are worthwhile. For me this will be one of them. I hope my small part will add more birthdays to someone’s life.