Monday, June 20, 2011

Celebrating A World With More Birthdays

This past Friday was the annual Marshall County Relay For Life.

For those who don't know what Relay is, it is one of the American Cancer Society's signature events that raises money for cancer research and to provide services for cancer patients.  The event is held from 6 pm to 6 am, and participants from different teams take turns walking around the track all night, symbolizing the fact that cancer never sleeps and we must keep fighting until we find a cure.

My mom is a survivor of Hodgkin's Disease, so I was introduced to Relay at a young age. I remember being so enthusiastic about raising money and staying up all night. I think I was really just excited about the prizes you were awarded based on the amount of money you raised. The thought was there, but at that time, I had NO idea how cancer would affect my life.

Fast forward at least 15 or so years, and my thoughts on the Relay are completely different. I am on the planning committee, helping to coordinate an event that brings in over $50,000 for the ACS (and supports local patients and families).  I was involved each year I was at K-State (and even chaired the ENTIRE event one year) and am now involved again here in Marshall County. I've been Relaying for more than a decade, and I just can't get over the love and support present at that event each and every year. I bawl at the Opening Ceremonies and the Luminiaria Ceremony every year. Yes, we are celebrating life, but we are also mourning the loss of our family and friends who have died from this horrible disease.

In 2004, I lost one of my very best friends to cancer. I truly believe the good Lord above brought Lucas Wetter into our lives for such a short time for a reason. He was such a vibrant and amazing young man and I learned so much from him in his short lifetime. He taught me to be present in the moment, have fun, love your friends and family, and most importantly, to not take anything for granted. My fondest memories are from climbing trees and playing outside with Lucas as a child, with not a care in the world.

I lost my Godfather Slim to cancer two years ago this December. Despite his gruf and tough exterior, Slim was a softie and loved his family very much. I still miss his tight hugs and the smell of his aftershave.

Most recently, my friend Courtney, has been battling breast cancer. She is the most positive, inspirational woman I have ever met, besides my own mother, and I have no doubt she'll beat this disease because of her faith and her positive attitude.

In addition to those mentioned above, both my Grandpas, two Aunts, one Uncle, three of Joe's grandparents, and countless of my friends have been touched by this horrible disease.

All of these people are why I Relay.

I Relay in their honor, in the hopes that we will someday have a world with less cancer and more birthdays.