Archive for Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Relay For Life: Walk with me

June 6, 2012

The walk around the track for Relay for Life is one of the longest walks I have ever taken.

This year, my third year, I hope it is easier.

I don’t think I will ever forget the first year; I was still in treatment, but I was handed a survivor shirt anyway and I wore it. I also wore, as I do each year, a yellow ball cap sent to me by my great-nephew Cameron.

Along with the cap, he sent me a birthday card, which he had made from blue construction paper and colored. I still have the card.

I still have the memories from that first walk. Something happened when I left the cafeteria where the dinner is held and began the walk down the hill. We gather on a grassy knoll and have pictures taken ­— hair, no hair, skinny, saggy pants, sallow skin, and sunken eyes. But we’re there.

Then, one by twos or threes or fours, we form a line of sorts and begin the trek down the hill. It is then for many that the tears start to flow — fatigue, relief and awareness of what is ahead, what is behind.

Then we reach the gateway, and someone hands each walker a bottle of water — cold, wet, and firm. Sometimes the water is accompanied by a pat on the shoulder or a nod of recognition.

Going through the gateway, hanging onto a bottle of water or to a fellow survivor, is one of those moments that is almost beyond description — like the first treatment it signifies one more step forward in the battle to fight and overcome cancer.

I said when I finished my treatments that breast cancer would not define my life or set the course for the rest of my journey.

Little did I know how it would introduce me to a culture of people with whom I would share so much and would continue to do so as the days and months unfurled. To whom much is given, much will be required.

We look to one another for understanding and hope. We share stories; we boost one another up and pull one another along.

I have been both caregiver and cancer survivor. It has been easier in some ways to be a cancer survivor — the one waging the battle; the caregiver is the bystander, who suffers, often in silence, watching the train lurching down a track, able to do very little to determine its course.

Caregiver or cancer survivor, what we do together is walk with and for one another. We walk with hope, we walk with courage, and we walk with determination.

Come. Walk with me. Walk with us. Walk with and for someone whose name you do not know and whose face you may never see.

One day, we may walk for you.

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