“It’s cancer.” We hear these words every day—whether it’s in reference to the lump they found in your mother’s breast, the reason you just lost a loved one, or a friend’s recent diagnosis.
This is the reason I immediately joined UGA Relay For Life when I entered college, because I was tired of living in a world where everyone seemed to have cancer. Although no one in my immediate family had cancer at the time, I was constantly exposed to the sadness and devastation cancer wreaked on the people I saw every day.
Rather than throwing in the towel, I turned my sadness and frustration into passion and determination and gave my all to Relay in hopes that my efforts would help to someday create a world with no more cancer. Part of these efforts entail visiting the Atlanta Hope Lodge, a hotel-like accommodation near Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute where cancer patients traveling long distances to receive their treatments can stay free of charge, courtesy of the American Cancer Society and the money we raise through Relay For Life.
It’s a simple visit: we cook them a hot meal, make sure their needs are met, and sit down with them for some conversation. These people confide in us, sharing their stories fully and explaining how cancer affects their lives.
When strangers—and often, friends—hear me talk about Hope Lodge, they say, “why would you do that?” Why would I subject myself to so much sadness, why I would “waste my time” trying to cheer up a bunch of sick people in my spare time?
I’ve never felt more hope than what I feel when I sit with those people. Hope Lodge residents radiate a certain hopefulness that can’t be matched. Despite their circumstances, these people maintain positive attitudes and have an appreciation for life that no one else can really understand until they’ve been in Hope Lodge residents’ shoes.
UGA Relay For Life has taught me a lot, but perhaps the most valuable lesson is to never lose my faith in the organization’s mission and most importantly, to never give up hope. When I feel defeated, whether it be from school, a job, or what have you, I think of the endless hope that those cancer patients have and I realize how thankful I am to have had this opportunity to meet such inspiring people and to fight for such a worthy cause.