It was an early summer evening in 2007. The air was cool, not cold, but I still crossed my arms tightly to my chest.
It wasn’t the chill of the crisp air that I was trying to keep from my skin, but the flood of emotions I was trying to keep within. My eyes squinted as I tried to read the names lining the track. Finally I found it and was instantly happy and sad simultaneously. My mom’s name.
“In memory of Jere Leathers”
She never gave up, no matter how difficult the fight
I was, and still am, so grateful for the warm and loving mother, sister, wife, daughter, grandma, and friend that she was. And I’m so thankful for the time we shared as a family. She is remembered as a strong woman who fought cancer longer than many with her diagnosis, and she never gave up, no matter how difficult the fight became.
But it tears me apart knowing that she has to be remembered and cannot be here with us celebrating life. It’s not fair. She should be here. How can one cruel disease get away with taking so much life?
The answer is, we can’t let it. We have to fight back. And that’s what the American Cancer Society is trying to do at the annual Relay For Life events around the area.
What, exactly, is the Relay for Life and how does it help the fight against cancer? According to www.relayforlife.org, it is an “organized, overnight community fundraising walk.”
Essentially, teams come together earlier in the year and set up group fundraisers to raise money for their team leading up to the event. Then, on the night of the event, the teams camp out around the track, and each member takes turns walking around the track. Typically, each member walks for a specified block of time.
Some key moments at the Relay
In addition, there are “key moments” that all Relay events share. The Survivors Lap is the first lap around the track and is walked by all the cancer survivors at the event. It is truly inspiring to see all those who have been victorious in the fight. It’s such a great reminder that we need to keep pressing on so we can have more survivors and fewer memorials.
There is also a Lumineria Ceremony after dark. According to the website, this “is a time to remember people we have lost to cancer, to support people who currently have cancer, and to honor people who have fought cancer in the past.”
The Lumineria is a bag that has a loved one’s name on it, and maybe a personalized message or decoration. Inside the bag is a lit votive. When a Lumineria is purchased, the donation can either go to the Relay event, or to support a team or individual in their fundraising goal.
Funds help those battling cancer
The best part is, the donated funds go to not only support research, but also to directly help those who are battling cancer. The funds support the Hope Lodge, which provides free accommodations for patients and caregivers. They provide transportation to treatment, and support the “Look Good .. Feel Better” program, which offers beauty advice to women during chemo and radiation treatment.
Our event starts this Friday
So, our local Relay for Life event starts this Friday, June 21, at Patton Middle School at 6 p.m. As far as I can tell, donations can still be accepted online for this event. If you cannot be a part of this year’s event, I encourage you to consider next year. Cancer affects everyone. But we don’t have to take it lying down. We can walk. And we can fight this together.