It kind of hits close to home, as you’re walking the crowded track with a friend or two. You realize that the majority of people, swarming around you like a flood of hope, have been affected in one way or another.
(My sister Sarah is on the left, I’m in the middle, and that handsome fellow is my bro Matthew).
And you notice the many people around you who stand out with shirts of purple. They wear the color of those who now give others hope.
They are the ones who have faced it and won. They survived.
We all know someone who has fought it. Who is fighting it.
For my family, it has hit close to home, because my cousin has been bravely fighting it for the past two years. Despite the struggle and the pain and the physical toll, she has remained strong in her resolve.
She will beat this.
I must admit that I didn’t necessarily know what to expect when I signed up for the Relay for Life. My sister Sarah (on the right) and I did it because we love our cousin, and because we want her to know that she isn’t alone in this. She has an entire family behind her, cheering her on and fighting with her in any way we know how.
As I expected, there were moments in the relay when the tears prickled my eyes. When I had to clear my throat and swallow the lump that threatened to release the floodgates. Mostly it was at the end of our shift, as Nate and I prepared to leave.
Seeing all of the luminaries lit up in memory of a loved one makes you stop a moment. Makes you realize how silly you were to worry about your messy kitchen, or your stressful day at work, or even about packing in time for the camping trip. You realize how precious and beautiful life is and how those we love should be treasured.
You realize that you miss someone…
But I think what really touched me about the Relay was the hope and joy and positive determination that simply glowed from each person walking there. I think that more times than not, tears pricked my eyes because I was laughing so hard. Because I was running against the wind in an effort to throw my arms around a friend I saw walking on the track just ahead of me. Because I was happily becoming a part of something bigger than myself. And happy to be a part of it with my family.
No, there’s nothing sad or depressing about this walk.
The faces you see are smiling. Excited. Passionate.
And the stories are positive and uplifting. One of my favorites is illustrated by a string of beads attached to my cousin Lori’s camera. Last year was her first Relay for Life; and this year, she may as well have been hosting it for our entire team. (She’s an amazing person, and most definitely someone I look up to!). That string of beads represents how many times she walked around the track last year, as she took step after step — long into the night — to make a stand for a cause she truly believes in.
And I realized that cancer has stolen a lot from us. It’s one of the reasons why there is a relay. Money needs to be earned so that the cure can be found. So that we can stop saying ‘goodbye’ too early.
But as much as has been stolen, I know now that cancer can never beat us. Because there are the survivors. The miracles. And in the end, we all stand together as families, friends, and even perfect strangers. We all come together as one.
And as long as we all stand together in hopeful, prayerful unity, looking for the hope and the sunshine amidst the rain, then cancer can never — and will never — win.
Rain or shine, a cure we will find. Here’s to a cure in 2012! And here’s to a MIRACLE for my cousin!