One of my biggest passions is the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life. It is the largest fundraiser in the world for the ACS. Everyone involved in Relay For Life has a "reason to Relay." Mine is an ever changing story. I started Relaying in 2005, when my friend, Stephanie Couch (that's her on the left), was battling ovarian cancer. In 2005, she was my reason.
Stephanie was a spectacular woman. She was kind and generous and loving and hilarious. We worked in the same office and in a short time we became great friends. She loved her family and her friends with all her heart. She laughed at the same crazy and inappropriate things that I laughed at. She had horrible jokes, that you couldn't help but laugh at. (Yeah, I know, birds of a feather and all.) Our desks faced one another for a while and we could peek around our monitors and keep each other laughing all day. (The "powers that be" did finally change up that particular seating arrangement. It was like being in school again.)
She started having some stomach issues and some "female" issues. After tests and more tests, those issues found a name. I remember her coming back to work and telling us it was ovarian cancer. I remember not knowing what to expect from that, but that we were all really positive. If anyone could beat this, it was Steph. With her attitude, she could beat anything. Lots of people had cancer and survived it. We had no idea.
Treatments made it seem like it went away. A complete hysterectomy made it seem like they got it all. Stephanie's attitude made it seem like she was winning this battle. She wasn't. She got the call at work and made the doctor just tell her right then (she was persuasive that way). It was back. And it was mad.
Because the cancer was so angry and so aggressive, she had to have serious chemotherapy treatments. She suffered through them like a trooper, keeping her attitude as positive as she could through the sickness and the pain of it all. At least her hair wasn't falling out. Until it did.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. It was Halloween, and Steph, being a huge fan of Halloween and always having clever costumes, was dressed in an all pink sweatsuit, with sprayed pink hair. She had a sneaker tied to the top of her head. She was a piece of bubble gum stuck to the bottom of a shoe. I'm telling you, she was funny!
What wasn't funny was when Stephanie noticed that there was something pink and kind of fuzzy on the floor. And there was some of it on her desk. And there was some of it on her keyboard. And when she picked it up, she realized it was her hair - her pink hair that she sprayed just that morning so she would be bubble gum. That's what I remember most about it all. How that pink hair just kept falling. I'm not even sure I can describe the feeling I had, much less describe how she must have felt. I know that it was heartbreaking and that the vision crept deep into my soul where, I believe, it will remain forever.
In the spring of 2005, another friend at work, Summer, brought us information about this Relay For Life thing. We didn't know much about it, but we knew that it gave us something real we could do to honor our friend. So we put together a team and we raised some money. We went to that Relay and we stayed up all night at the football field. We cried and we laughed. We drank the Kool-Aid.
In 2006, the demon that is ovarian cancer took my friend. It took her from her husband who loved her oh-so-very much. It took her from her children who adored her. It took her from so many who knew how special she was. It took her from me.
In 2005 at Relay For Life, I was a Team Member. Then I became a Committee Member, and then a Team Captain, and then the Event Chair and now I'm the Marketing & Communications Chair. My "reason to Relay" started with Stephanie. Then it was (and still is) my Aunt Margaret, who has been battling lymphoma for more than ten years. But now, the purple Kool-Aid runs through my blood and my "reason to Relay" has grown to something vast. Now, I Relay for YOU!
I know YOU have been touched in one way or another by cancer. I have learned so much over the past eight years about how the American Cancer Society can help in so many situations, and I am willing to share that knowledge with YOU at any possible opportunity. Whether YOU are the person reading this, or the clerk at the Post Office, or the gentleman I met in line at the grocery store a few months ago, I Relay for YOU. As they say at the ACS, "Having cancer is hard, finding help shouldn't be." Let ME help YOU find help.
There is an official mission statement that goes like this: The American Cancer Society Relay For Life represents the hope that those lost to cancer will never be forgotten, that those who face cancer will be supported, and that one day cancer will be eliminated. That about sums up why we do it - those of us who have drank the purple Kool-Aid. We're in it for the duration and just can't leave, because we believe we will not forget those we have lost...we believe we will support those who are facing diagnoses and treatment...we BELIEVE that one day cancer will be eliminated.
Thank you for reading this all the way to the end.
Much love and many blessings to you,
Are you thinking to yourself, "if only there was something I could do?" If you are, then YES! there is. You can make a donation to Relay For Life by visiting my Relay site... http://main.acsevents.org/goto/maryellentx. For your donation, I thank you.