This year marks the sixth year that I’ve participated in Relay for Life of Second life. It was an emotionally draining but rewarding weekend with only one bump, but after I got past that bump, the event was a culmination of months of hard work and dedication by my team and me. I’ll try to do justice to my feelings on the weekend, but it is hard to put words to these feelings. It’s been almost a week and I’m still recovering from staying up almost 24 hours straight (I caved around 4 am and took a short nap. I don’t know how the whippersnappers do it! Staying up 24hours or longer at a time. lol).
Every year, I start with the Honor Lap, but really, this year, my journey began at the beginning of RFL season when I became a reluctant team captain. I didn’t want to be a captain. It seemed like it would be too much for me, but in the end I am glad that I was captain. I met so many wonderful people that I hadn’t met before, even with all the years that I had been involved in RFL. After I stopped letting people sway my view of RFL in a negative way and brought the team home to where it belonged and why it was created to start with, things picked up and I was swept along with it. After I brought the team home, the early “bumps” righted themselves and made the team shine. We overcame some big obstacles and earned, to date, close to $230 USD. That is amazing to me. Eventually, the head of the department the team falls under liked my ideas so much that I’ve been given the run of the team from now on. It’s fun, but also allows me to give back not only to the group, but to help raise money so that others can become survivors like me.
Through the Honor Lap, I explored the journey that I experienced, both my cancer journey and my journey as team captain. Remembering what it was like to be told I had cancer the first time, but that we would be controlling the growth with medicine to try to save my thyroid. Remembering when my doctor took me off the medicine saying that I didn’t need it, only to have the nodules grow back and bigger than before, proving to her that I had needed the medicine and then fighting her to see a specialist. Feeling the overwhelming relief when I finally got an official diagnosis, but also the overwhelming fear of what would happen. Feeling alone and afraid because I was told over the phone, while I was by myself, instead of making sure that I had someone with me. I remember calling my dad, crying and upset after I hung up with the nurse and how he brought my mom home from work to be with me. My brother and mom sleeping in my hospital room after each of my surgeries. Working on my MA thesis after I woke up because I was so bored and needed something to do, but being unable to really concentrate because of the medicine so ended up sleeping. I remember seeing my scar for the first time and crying because it looked like someone had slit my throat…and preparing for radiation therapy, which they said wouldn’t result in hair loss…but did. And finally at the end of the lap, I remember the joy and celebration that I felt when the doctor congratulated me and said that I had no re-occurrence of the cancer and I was free, but also a little guilt because I was here and others weren’t. Even though I was free of the cancer, I have to have thyroid medicine every day for the rest of my life and that it would have to be watched carefully, so in reality it still has a slight hold on me in the aftermath, but a small price to pay compared to what could have happened. I remember all of this and more. It reminds me why I walk every year, even in a virtual world and why it is so important to me. It also reminds me why I should never have let someone tell me that it didn’t matter and why I never should have let what happened early in the season affect my friendships, myself and where the team had it’s home.
The day was amazing. I walked around the track, found my picture at the Survivor sim. The feelings I experienced when I saw my picture was widespread. I felt so many things all at once, they were all a tangle. I felt happy, warrior-like, honored, cared for…loved…Not so alone…Seeing all of the survivor and caregiver pictures up there was very moving. It was similar to what I felt when I saw my picture hanging in the Hope Exhibit. Later I walked the track during the Luminaria ceremony with T and Nora listening in silence as they read the dedications over the air, two of which were my own dedications. Stopping to see the Luminaria’s being released, each in honor of someone. It is probably the most moving lap after the Honor Lap of the whole night. I continued to walk through the night with friends until around 4 am when I couldn’t stay up any longer, I ended up taking a nap for a few hours. I made it back in time for the formal hour and the closing ceremony. The closing ceremony is always emotional for me. It means the season is pretty much over. That the hard work and months of fundraising is coming to a close. There’s still a month left for last minute donations, however, but the race to raise money for the cause has come to a close. Awards were handed out, honors given and thanks were given to friends. Plans made for the coming year. A mixture of excitement to find out what the next years theme would be in August but also sadness because all the fun is over for the next 8 or 9 months.
In the end, my relay this year was awesome with a lot of newness and breaking out of my shell a little to do new things. Like hosting my first event with a little help from one of the event coordinators. Meeting new friends like Rowena, TS, Henrietta, Cuddly and so many others….But the final ritual of relay in the closing ceremony spells out everything. Why I relay…all of my feelings rolled into that one story about the empty table. (A story I will share in the next post.)
So I end my RFL reflection with sharing the RFL album I created on Flickr and follow this link for the album from the Flickr RFL group. I’m looking forward to next year. I have so many new ideas and learned a lot from my new friends. I may even start attending the Sunday chats with the survivors group at times. I realize through my journey this year that I feel guilty for being here while people like my cousin are no longer here. It is difficult to deal with those feelings while also feeling happy that I have so many more birthdays to go.
Celebrate….remember…fight back! The slogan for RFL hits home even more this year than in years past and the above is why. Thank you for reading my journey!