Why I Relay — How Could I Not?
by Kimber Cook, Contributing Writer
Everyone involved with American Cancer Society’s annual Relay For Life event has their own reason and purpose for participating. For some, it’s their way of giving back to a community that has supported them in the past. For others, contributing their time and energy to a worthwhile charity is intrinsically rewarding. For yet others, it has a more personal perspective. Although I relate to and agree with all three of these reasons, my reason for Relaying is acutely personal. I Relay for my family – for the people who have lost their fight with cancer, as well as for those who have won.
Unfortunately, cancer seems to run rampant in the women in my family. Almost as far back as I can remember, nearly every female on my mother’s side has had to stand and look this disease in the face, not knowing whether they were going to win or lose, but ready to fight all the same. This includes my Grandma, my second cousin, my Aunt and even my beloved Mama.
My Grandma smoked cigarettes her whole adult life. In 1983, when she was 64, lung cancer became her greatest challenge. She had surgery where they removed one of her lungs and she went into remission for a miraculous seven years. In the late spring of 1990 it came back in her other lung. She fought valiantly, but sadly lost her battle in the summer of that same year.
My Aunt Roseanne was an L.A.P.D. vice, gang & narcotics officer and homicide detective for 33 years. She was diagnosed in 2001 with malignant fibrous hystiocytoma (a cancer that attacks soft tissue). It was determined to be work related from years of serving warrants at meth houses. It is a very fast growing cancer, and though she had surgery to remove the tumor on her bicep, it was no time before it started to grow back. The doctors told her that either they would have to amputate her arm or she was in dire jeopardy of losing her life. With the strength of the generations before her, she understood she had little choice. They removed her entire left arm, giving her a chance. She fought courageously for her life and is cancer free now, over 12 years later.
But there’s more to the story that needs to be told. In 2007 her youngest of five granddaughters was born, but unfortunately the baby’s mother, my cousin, was not involved in raising her. Somehow my Aunt Roseanne is raising her and has since shortly after she was born — with only one arm. I simply cannot fathom how she manages the myriad of daily chores that any other person would have been overwhelmed by. Stop and think what goes into raising an infant – the least of which would be changing diapers on a wiggling baby. It’s challenging enough, even to a person with THREE arms, but she made it look easy with only one. Each time I see my Aunt Roseanne, she has the most positive outlook I’ve ever had the honor of witnessing, whether things are going well around her or not. She has accomplished the seemingly endless tasks of running a household, she’s involved with her now-nearly-7-year-old granddaughter as her team’s softball coach; she helps her with her piano and karate lessons; she’s president of her community “pea patch” garden – not to mention having dogs and cats and rabbits and birds and fish to care for. And there’s so much more. I’m always amazed that she has found a way to meet each of these challenges, but somehow she has maintained her “all in a day’s work” attitude through every minute of it. I asked her one day how in the world she has always given of herself to her granddaughters so completely, but with only half the required tools to do it, all without even a whisper of self-doubt or complaint. Her reply literally stopped me in my tracks … and resounds in my ears today. Without hesitation, she answered, “How could I NOT?”
Those four words have come to encompass my attitude toward the efforts involved in contributing to the Relay for Life program. If I can give just a little bit of my time and energy to such a worthy cause, and the lives of the people in need will be so drastically improved, how could I not? Even though it involves giving without the expectation of receiving and working without pay, the people who are helped by this program deserve every bit of strength I can muster in my efforts to raise money and awareness for cancer education, research, prevention and treatment. After all, when my cherished Mama was faced with a diagnosis of skin cancer in 2006, she was able to have a simple day surgery and come home cancer-free to her family the same day. Because countless people before us had the generosity and foresight to take time out of their busy lives to raise money for this cause, she lives a busy and rich life. Research in finding a cure takes time and costs huge amounts of money. Yet because of the dedication of those who would not stop fighting for a cure, doctors were able to take care of my Mama quickly and efficiently. She was able to make a rapid, full recovery thanks to the selflessness and grace of the people who have been involved in this program since its inception.
I Relay so the people after me who are faced with cancer can receive the best possible treatment; so doctors can have the most extensive knowledge of this monster they’re dealing with; so they can live the longest, happiest lives after their cancer is eradicated. Thanks to these “angels on earth”, today I’m able to go give my Mama a big hug and tell her how much I love her any time I want (in fact, I think I’ll do that right now).
Cancer is powerful and it is relentless. I am honored beyond description to be part of a group of people who, in their quest for the cure, have become EQUALLY powerful and relentless. Today, we’re not just fighting back – we’re winning.
Relay for Life of Granite Falls will be held on July 19 (noon) to July 20 (10:00 a.m.), 2014 at Hi Jewell Field at the Middle School.
Sadly, evidence tells us it doesn’t always happen to other people — and even if it’s not our own personal experience, cancer affects all of us. Do you have a story you’d like to share. Articles can be submitted to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.