By Carolyn Christensen
I participated in my very first Relay for Life event on Friday night. I was not prepared for the feelings I experienced during the night of staying awake, walking, listening and seeing all the luminaries lit.
My dad died of lung cancer in 1991 & I still miss him every single day. My mom is a survivor of cancer of the vocal chord 2 years ago & in March had her cancerous bladder removed. My dad’s mother & grandmother and all 3 of his sisters and 3 of his 5 brothers also died of cancer. Seeing all the luminaries lit in memory of Dad & in honor of Mom, as well as the luminaries for the many other family members gave me a lump in my throat. When I saw Mom doing the survivor lap with all of the other cancer survivors, I couldn’t help but get a little teary thinking about what she’s been through these last 2 years with radiation therapy & surgeries & how thankful I am that she’s doing o.k.
The person who gave their survivor story during the opening ceremony is a young, single mother who last year finished her treatment for an aggressive form of breast cancer. Melissa is also a relative of mine. Her story was so moving; especially how she told her young daughter about her cancer. She urged everyone to get to know their bodies so that we know when something isn’t quite right & to educate ourselves on symptoms of cancer so that we can advocate for ourselves the medical care that we need.
But, it was a festive atmosphere with every booth lit up, all kinds of goodies & other items being sold & people milling around visiting & laughing. There was also a talent contest where each team had someone imitate a famous person. Our talent was one of our male team members dressed as, & doing an imitation of Aretha Franklin singing “Chain, Chain, Chain”. It was evident on the faces of the people watching that they didn’t expect such an excellent portrayal of that talented singer. The Rutland General Store had 2 women portraying Elvis. They had the audience rolling the aisles. At 1:00 a.m., it was a good pick-me-up.
Our booth sold a variety of popcorn as well as hamburgers, hot dogs & floats. The Rutland General Store booth sold smoothies, candy and t-shirts. I think there were 13 or 14 booths & every booth was selling something just a little different. We all wanted to raise as much money for cancer research as possible.
Staying up all night was difficult; I need my sleep. Walking was also difficult towards the end; I was so tired. That’s the purpose of staying up all night & walking all night… to get some sense of what a person with cancer goes through.
Yes, it was a tough night. But, it was only one night. Those who have been struck with cancer put in many nights & days worse than what we went through on Friday night. We just lost some sleep for one night & in a couple of days, we’ll be back to normal. We won’t lose our hair, throw up or die from the effect of one night of lost sleep. People with cancer struggle with the effects of their disease every day for weeks and months and even years & too many lose that struggle.
The goal of Relay for Life is to raise enough money for research so better, more effective, treatments can be found & cancer can be eradicated. The Sargent County Relay for Life teams raised a total of $34,000 toward that end. I was so proud to be a part of it.