Relay offers hope in cancer battle
April 4, 2011 —
While others spent spring break traveling, I went back home to the glorious Upper Peninsula, the antithesis of all things spring at this time of the year.
I wish I could say that my break was great, but it wasnít. I came face to face with an ugly and scary monster when I went home. Itís a monster thatís affected me before and I guarantee itís affected you too.
The monster I speak of is cancer.
In the weeks prior to my return home, my grandmother noticed something was off. She just didnít feel ďright.Ē A cancer survivor who defeated it over a year ago, her hair had grown back and she was feeling better than she had in years. So when something didnít feel ďright,Ē my family was worried.
The monster we thought she defeated came back and in a terrifying way. The cancer not only returned, but it spread. It spread to the point that chemo can no longer help her. The doctors said that while cancer acts differently in everyone, they gave her a diagnosis of six to eight months before it wins the battle for good.
With this information, I spent the majority of my spring break crying or on the verge of crying. Iíll still tear up in the quiet moments of my days and nights if I think about it. This strong woman is worthy of so much praise and is one of the most loving and supportive people in my life. To think that she, who has already overcome so much, will eventually succumb to cancer pains me to the point that even as an English major, I canít put it into words.
This is not the first time that my family has dealt with someone battling cancer. My grandfather lost his battle the summer before my freshman year at SVSU. Cancer was not the only thing that had ravaged his body to the point where he was nearly unrecognizable, but it was a major factor. He passed away in the early hours of the Fourth of July. The night before he passed, I sat with him in a hospice room and held his hand for three hours. He drifted in and out of consciousness in a state of pain so terrible that the highest doses of morphine didnít help him.
This man, a World War II bomber pilot who survived the Nazis as a prisoner of war, couldnít survive his own body. He did not go gentle into that good night, as Dylan Thomas had suggested. Instead, he went in absolute agony.
I realize my story isnít one of happiness. Itís not supposed to be happy, as much as I wish it was. But it is a story of hope.
The weekend after my grandfatherís death, there was a 24-hour event in the parking lot of my high school called Relay for Life. I never had much interest in it, but following a funeral, too much family time and too little sleep, I felt compelled to go.
It was a godsend. It was a place where my dad and I went to get away from the grief we couldnít escape at home. It was a place where I stayed until 1 a.m. walking with others under the summertime stars. It was a place where the track was lit by thousands of luminaries with names of those who had also battled the monster and hadnít won.
It was a place where for the first time during my grief, I didnít feel alone. It was the first time following the death that I didnít feel an urge to cry. Instead, I felt an urge to hope.
My story is not unique. I know that every one of us has had an experience with the ugly monster of cancer. There are stories with happy endings and there are stories that donít end as happily as weíd like. But that doesnít mean that we have to feel defeated, and this is why I appreciate Relay for Life and get involved every year. While I wonít be able to attend this yearís event at SVSU, as much as Iíd like to, my heart is with those who will be there.
Now that my family is coming to terms with whatís happening with my grandmother, itís a reminder that, quite frankly, we all have an expiration date. How we live with that reminder is what is most important, though. The first thing Iíll do when I go home is give her a giant hug and tell her that I love her. Iím determined to have no regrets in how I spend time with her while sheís still here.
The motto of Relay for Life says it all about the attitude we should keep when we face the monster of cancer. We celebrate those who beat it. We remember those who didnít. But most importantly, we sure as hell fight back.