The past weekend was the Relay for Life. It was the first time I had been able to participate. It was such an amazing experience. It was emotional as I missed my Grandma, my dear friend Tina, and thought about a special 3 year old, Rylie. They all lost their fight to this disease. I was inspired that my Uncle is in remission and my friend is a survivor! I thought about my husband and my girls and prayed they never ever have to fight this disease. I laughed and cried and feel like this was a very personal life changing event.
I was humbled that SO many people donated to me. 49 people donated online. Many more donated in person. Words could never express my gratitude to each and every donor. I was brought to tears many times over my donations.
The day started bright and early. I picked up balloons that I was able to get Safeway to donate and headed to the track to wait for the opening ceremony to begin. Little did I know that I would be called to the front in front of every single person there to receive flowers for being the second highest fundraiser for the entire event! After the opening ceremony commenced, all the survivors took the first lap, followed by caregivers.
So we walked. We walked and we walked. We stopped at booths. We learned. We visited. We had fun. After a few hours I had to head home to put my girls down to bed. I was able to put my feet up and relax a bit before we all packed up and headed down again. This time my girls and Mother-in-law joined me in the walk - where we walked and we walked and we walked. We stopped and got beads for each lap we completed. I had bought purple spray for our hair so we stopped and got our hair sprayed. We bought cookies. We walked. We held hands. We had fun.
Right before I had to leave to get the girls dinner, bathed and to sleep, they started setting out the luminaria bags. Those little bags made me tear up right away. I found my friend Tina's first, and then my Grandmother's bag. The bags are set out to remember those that have passed, those that are currently fighting the disease, and those who are survivors. Once the sun goes down they light the bags. It's an emotional event to see those bags lit, to share in the personal emotions with every single person there. They played a slide show which had every person I was walking for in it. I had the ugly cry. I missed my grandma so very much. I was so heartbroken for Rylie and her family. I thought about how she never got to do the things my girls get to. Three is such a young age. I missed my friend Tina tremendously and thought about the last words she shared with me. I thought about my Uncle and knew that the battle he went through was probably a lot harder emotionally and physically than he let on. I thought about my friend Trina and how scary it must have been to have been pregnant with her first born and going through chemo. I thought about the new friend I had just met who was wearing her husband's sweatshirt that passed away. My heart broke for the little girls who sat in front of me bawling their eyes out because their daddy was in heaven. I thought about my husband and how I'd never want to be sitting there wearing his sweatshirt because he had passed. I thought about how I'd never want my girls to be feeling the raw pain that those girls were feeling and crying as hard as they were. I thought about my girls and prayed and prayed they never fall victim to this disease.
I am honored that I stood with over 200 men and women that want to see a cure. I am honored that I was among survivors. I am honored that others donated to support me in this event. If I could have walked all night, I would have. But with a husband on shift and a mother in law watching my girls, I had to leave around 1030. Next year, I hope I can stay the night.
Between my girls and myself we walked about 8.5 miles. They originally said every 4 beads equaled a mile. Then some other people that worked the bead booth later on said every 6 beads equaled a mile. Then right before the luminary ceremony, I was told every 8 beads equaled a mile. Whether we walked 8.5, 11, or almost 17 miles, I wish I could have walked more.
I don't think that unless you experience the Relay first hand and you are doing it for personal reasons that someone can truly *get* how life changing this event can be.
I am leaving you with these words that were very fitting. They were in the bulletin from last year:
I am tired. I smell. My feet hurt. My eyes feel like grit, and my head is pounding from lack of sleep...but I am grateful.
I have all of my body parts with which I was born. I have all of my hair. I didn't lose my breakfast in a bucket. I can hold my loved ones.
I will collapse in my bed tonight and pray for all the people we raised money for through Relay For Life, and I will cry for the people we were too late to help. I will pray for all the people who helped make Relay a success. I will give thanks for every minute of my life and all the blessings in it.
I will NEVER ask myself why I wear myself out raising money for a fight against cancer because I know why.
IT'S BECAUSE I CAN...