We live in a day and age where it’s difficult to find someone who’s life hasn’t been affected by cancer in some way. Unfortunately, like many others, I can’t remember the point in my life where cancer wasn’t in my vocabulary.
From a young age I have been exposed this disease that has robbed me and my family of so many memories with the ones we love. It became all too real in high school, when my best friend was sleeping over on school nights while her parents were away in Mexico on experimental chemotherapy trips to attack her father’s colon cancer.
It became all too real when my aunt was asking us to come visit to explain her terminal diagnosis in person, rather than over the phone. It became all too real when my cousin, and built in field trip chaperone, was told that only 3 hospitals on the east coast would even look at his case because it was so rare and unexplored.
It became too real when the man who knew how to light up a room with his belly laugh was told he had throat cancer that barely allowed him to speak at most points during his treatment. It all became too real, and too unbearable at a speed that took my anxiety to a whole new level.
Every time the phone rang, my heart sank into my stomach wondering if it would be an update that would change everything. I lived my life in fear of what cancer was taking from my loved ones.
Day in and day out, I couldn’t find solace that I was away at college and unable to help, even though all I could do was miniscule in compared to their daily fights against this horrible disease.
As a confused little freshman, I joined a random person’s team (shoutout to my now BFF), and arrived at the rainy and chilly event, unsure of what to expect of the night. I knew there was music, food, and community, but I didn’t expect to find the comfort my soul so desperately needed.
As I heard others speak about their battles with cancer, the loss of their loved ones, their continuing bouts, my eyes were gently opened to all that I could do to help. Even from hundreds of miles away, I could do something that would help change someone’s life.
Here I am, 3 Relays later, 2 committee families created, and one final Relay For Life at Virginia Tech approaching, and I am at a loss for words to express how much this organization has given to me. Opportunities to stray far outside my comfort zone, to not settle for mediocrity, and to express all the love I feel inside of me for the wonderful members of the executive team and committee of Relay For Life at Virginia Tech.
A Relay friendship is unlike any other. It is created on the basis that we’ve all been hurt by the whirlwind of cancer in our lifetimes, and while that hurt is immense, we can counter it with hard work and determination to make our event successful and spread the mission of the American Cancer Society.
In every event we put on or Cookout milkshake we eat, we bond a little more, learn a little more about each other, and eventually fill some of the hurting void that cancer left with a friendship that will last a lifetime. I find myself at a loss for words to explain what these friendships mean to me and I’m continually thankful for all the twisted paths that brought us all together.
I am thankful to Relay this year in memory of my Aunt Marilyn and Rich Conklin, in honor of my cousin Terry Carson, and in celebration of Jere O’Brien kicking cancer’s ass this year.