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This time, it's personal
I moved to Springfield on June 19 last year, and before I even had a chance to unpack my bags and get settled into my new home, I was covering my first story for The Springfield Sun. That story was last year’s Washington County Relay for Life, the signature event of the American Cancer Society.
I had never heard of Relay for Life before. I had just moved from St. Louis, Mo., where the big event to fight cancer is the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which usually consists of a 5K run, a 5K walk and a Fun Walk.
Relay for Life is like a slow track meet. There are several teams, and each team must have at least one member walk around the track during the event. It’s not a race really, it’s just a walk to show your support in the fight against cancer.
Last year, I was really too nervous to absorb the full meaning of the event. I was just hoping not to screw up on my first assignment! This year’s Relay for Life, which will be held at St. Catharine College June 12-13, holds an even deeper meaning for me because I lost my mother to breast cancer this past October. This time, it’s personal.
I’ve lost several members of my family to cancer before – my maternal grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins. But it wasn’t until I lost my mom that I realized the devastation that cancer can leave in it’s wake.
It hit my mom fast. She was diagnosed in August and left us on Oct 25. In a way, I’m glad it was quick. We watched my grandmother suffer through the disease for almost two years. Rather than place her in a nursing home, she stayed with us in a spare bedroom. It was a painfully slow process that bordered on the surreal at times.
I had one last, good visit with my mom in mid-September when I dropped in during a break in football season. Things deteriorated rapidly from that point. Following the Commanders’ home game against Danville on Oct 24, I went home and played a phone message from my sister saying I needed to get there as quick as I could. By the time I arrived, my mom was already unconscious. Two hours later, she took her last breath. Yes, it happened that quick.
This year, my mom’s name will be written on one of the luminarias at Relay in her memory. Everyone involved with the event has a special connection with why they volunteer, provide sponsorship or participate as a team. This year, I am no exception.
We always try to distance ourselves from the ugly things in life, saying ‘Thank goodness that’s not me.” And then when something bad happens to us or someone we are close to, we suddenly take an interest and try to become an overnight expert.
I encourage you to do your part to support the Washington County Relay for Life. That could be anything from donating a dollar, 10 dollars or 100 dollars. It could be in the form of company sponsorship or simply turning up on the day and wanting to volunteer your time.
I ask these things not for my personal reasons, and certainly not in a plea for sympathy or attention. I just ask you to help because, like me, you could find yourself in the whirlwind of chaos caused by cancer. It could strike anyone at any time, and no one is immune to it. Next year, it could be personal for you.
While I’m not on a team this year, I will be there as a committee member, and also covering it for this illustrious publication. I may even take an occasional lap or two here and there for my own personal reasons. If you feel like joining me for a lap, please feel free to come out and say “Hi.”
You don’t need to have a loved one affected with cancer to volunteer.
The best way to stop something is by preventing it from happening in the first place. That’s what this is all about. Those who have fought and won, and relatives and friends of those who have fought and lost come together in the hope that you or one of your loved ones will never have to fight.
Please support the Washington County Relay for Life, June 12-13 at St. Catharine College in Springfield. The event kicks off at 7 p.m. next Friday and ends at 7 a.m. Saturday morning.