Thursday, January 22, 2009

Why I Relay

I must admit, before I interned at the Canadian Cancer Society cancer wasn't a bit concern of mine. I had very few people around me touched by this disease. I had never held the hand of someone I loved as they underwent chemotherapy or radiation. I had never had to see the health of anyone close to me deteriorate before my eyes. I had never seen the fight that survivors go through, or experience the victory when all signs of cancer have left the body.

The only real experience I had with cancer was when a girl in my elementary school died of the disease. And we weren't close. I chose the internship at the Canadian Cancer Society because it was good experience. Because the women who worked there were friendly. And because the City of London had decided not to take an intern, afterall. I knew I'd not only be a part of the public relations team at the office, but I would be the entire public relations team. You'd better believe that looks awesome on a resume.

I loved working at the Society. I got so involved in the cause that I started working extra hours, I started volunteering for events like Daffodil Days. I started hosting volunteer training sessions in the evenings. The women who worked there became my family. We didn't just share a job, we shared our lives, our stories, and in some cases, experiences with cancer itself. I met so many people who were in various stages of cancer treatment, so many survivors, and so many families and friends of both those who beat the disease and those who lost. These people changed my life.

I volunteered for the Canadian Cancer Society's Relay for Life that year, and seriously guys, I never expected one event to touch me so deeply. When the cancer survivors started off Relay with the Survivors' Victory Lap, we cheered and applauded with tears in our eyes. Their victories were the victories of the thousands of people who showed up that night. Their victories were proof that cancer could, and will, be beaten. Their victories held hope for those who were recently diagnosed and their friends and families who put together teams to support them. It was an amazing high.

Later, at dusk, when the luminaries were lit around the track, casting a glow over the field as Amazing Grace rung out, friends and strangers united in their common grief. They lit candles to remember those who couldn't be at the event because their bodies weren't able to beat the disease. They lit candles in hope that those they loved would kick cancer's ass. They lit candles for friends, for family, for people they had never met. To walk around that track and feel the presence of all of those who lost their battles, to see the tears in everyone's eyes, to see friends and family grasp their loved ones tight in support, it was overwhelming. It no longer mattered that cancer wasn't overly close to me. What mattered is that we find a cure.

In 2008, it is estimated that approximately 166,400 new cases of cancer and 73,800 deaths would occur in Canada. That's an average of 3,200 Canadians diagnosed each week, and 1,419 Canadians who would die of cancer every week. Every one of us will be touched by the disease in our lifetimes, if not personally, then by dealing with the disease attacking a friend of family member.

Guys, I don't like to ask anything of you, but it would mean the world to me if you would pledge me for Edmonton's Relay for Life event this year. On the right sidebar, I have a link to my personal, secure page where, if you want to, you can make a donation. If you're in the area and want to join my team, give me a shout. The event is absolutely incredible and I encourage you to participate in an event near you (by the way, the Canadian event is based off of the ones done in the United States -- so even if you're not Canadian, you probably have one of these things taking place in your area).

Let's fight this disease for those who haven't been able to, for those who don't have the strength, for those who are too busy supporting their loved ones to have the energy. Let's make cancer history.


Kaye Bee said...

Last semester, in my clinical placement I saw the bravest kids and families I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. My peers and I stood around watching as a helpless two year old boy died in his parents arms. I worked first hand with a family who lost a son to brain cancer only to find that the baby the mother was carrying at the time would also be diagnosed with an incurable cancer, a family with such strength and so much heart break. And watching a little girl leave the ward after her final day of chemotherapy, wearing a one of a kind dress made just for her by Disney, her very own princess dress. Those days were heart breaking. They are/were amazing kids, fighting for their lives. I complain of having to write an essay. Some things in life we should be thankful to get the opportunity to do.

Ashley D said...

That internship sounds like an amazing experience! I did relay for life a couple times in high school and loved it. I should look into it and see if there is one around here where I can volunteer. I'm sorry to say that I can't pledge any money right now (seriously, my bank account is in the negative numbers), but maybe next week?

Elle Bee said...

Oh Kitty, those are are such sad stories! You're very right about how things we complain about, these children have the right to grow up to complain about too. They grow up only dreaming of what they could be if they grow up, rather than planning for the future and experiencing it. Like you said, these are some incredibly brave, strong little people.

Ashley: No problem! There's no pressure to donate anything, obviously, but I'll keep the link up until the event. xo

Sarah said...

I almost choked on the cracker I was eating while reading this. It had no room to get by the lump in my throat. I'm so glad you're involved with the relay!

Sarah said...

Aw. You're very welcome. I just wish I had more to contribute! Thank YOU for actually getting involved with the fight.
Oh, and if you ever need my email, it's I couldn't actually find yours either. And it's not even early!