So much can be accomplished when we support one another through difficult life challenges. At times when stressful living pulls in negative feelings or leaves me feeling overwhelmed with concern I find that taking positive action helps me reconnect to gratitude, and when I walk beside someone else supporting their journey I feel even more empowered.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I participated in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life but I continue to think about the many wonderful participants who shared the entire weekend. The Relay is such a striking event. People from all walks of life come together with guidance from community volunteers and national, even international ACS staff to “Celebrate, Remember, and Fight Back.” I have participated in the last two of the three Relays in my Altadena neighborhood.
The relay is a 24-hour event. Teams are encouraged to have someone on the walking trail at all times—cancer doesn’t “sleep” or take a break, so teams are encouraged to keep a 24 hour commitment. The laps begin with the Survivors starting out in celebration, enjoying the bright sunshine, and then as the night settles in over a thousand personalized and hand-decorated luminaries line the outline of the track and team members somberly walk the course “remembering” those already passed, friends and family hoping for a cure, and meditating on what the event has meant for each person.
There is a reverence and respect for each soul represented by the flickering candlelit bags– what one young girl called “stars on the ground.” Those walking the track during this “Remembrance” portion often shed tears as they honor those they’ve lost, remembering stories that have lingered in dark recesses of painful memory. Others walk to get back in touch with their own bodies, often regaining mental strength through just the act of sheer willpower; doing something healthy with their bodies after feeling months or even years of deep fear of their own mortality.
Each year as I go to my doctors for the Well-Woman Exams (PAP, Mammogram, Lab work) I am surrounded by doctors and nurses who have made it their life’s work to be there with women like myself and to provide comfort during some of the most vulnerable exams we can experience. We have all been in waiting rooms, filled with women, and family/friends that stand by while we consider the weight and tension of the unknown–what might the future hold? I’ve been there when reports have left me concerned and questioning.
This striking Relay for Life event is a way for me to celebrate my own good health while lifting a prayer for those who have not been so fortunate. I find the nighttime walking particularly meaningful. As time passes I see life moving forward into the following morning- just as promised in what my grandparents called The Good Book. The morning sounds shift as people begin to break camp and the culminating “Fight Back” ceremony begins. People share how they or their loved ones experienced the life-changing words “You have cancer” and how much hope is placed on current research.
The friendships and connections made at this very personal and emotional weekend event will remain as we look for other opportunities to support one another and cancer research! The American Cancer Society says of their goals, that by supporting these fine events, “you help the ACS save lives and help us move closer to a world with less cancer and more birthdays.”
Weekends are such wonderful times to think about new opportunities and fresh options. If you happen to live in the San Gabriel Valley you might think about stopping by the Duarte High School Football Field this Saturday to witness an American Cancer Society Relay for Life. Some cities even offer “canine walks” for those who want to involve their beloved pet in the festivities. Almost any weekend you can find a Relay, and if cancer touches anyone you love, I know you would find this a meaningful event. And remember, too, feeling good and doing good can combine to create a positive feedback loop. Wishing you a healthy and thoughtful weekend.
- Why I Relay (checkmypulseblog.com)