I'm thankful that the sturdy waterproof sandals I ordered arrived in time to use at this weekend's Relay for Life. I'll spend hours in the rain and puddles, and I'll do it with a grateful heart and a smile on my face. One of my favorite lines: Life's not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain. I've been looking forward to this year's Relay since last year's. Relay is the few hours each year I let myself return to my cancer experience.
In this blog I've already shared some of my cancer particulars: salivary gland tumor the size of a lemon; surgery, radiation; altered taste; lost hearing; radiation burns and scars. I haven't shared the struggle to find a new normal. I haven't shared what it was like trying to cram the rest of my life into a single minute because I was afraid I wouldn't have a chance to live it. I haven't shared what it's like to wonder daily whether this sensation or that signals the return of a tumor. I haven't shared what it's like to suddenly not be able to swim because muscles were cut during surgery. I haven't shared the discomfort of medications, the dizziness of a hole in my ear, the frustration of not being able to lead singing at Mass, of always having to use only my left ear when I use the phone, of using closed captions because I can't understand actors' mumbling on TV.
Nor have I shared my profound life shift: learning that I cramming life & food into me all at once doesn't help: that it's better for me to find the sacred in each moment and to not run myself ragged in some crazy effort to outlive death; that regular exams have shown no return of cancer (and the back of my mind says "yet"; that I am able to swim again, and am strengthening my shoulder in WOW; that I no longer have to take any pills, that I'm learning to manage the dizziness, that I can still sing – though not for anyone but my kids, that I experience changes in pitch just by blocking one ear or the other, and that there's very little on TV that's more worth watching than my life is worth living.
I was diagnosed when our eldest son was 9 months old. During the drive home from the doctor's, I had to ask "Did the he just say I have cancer?" I think I was still in shock. My next sentence: "I want to live to see my son grow up." And the flood gates start again. I finished treatment the day before his 1st birthday.
Relay for Life lets me walk a lap with other cancer survivors. We'll walk it at 6:00 tonight at Euclid High Stadium. We walk to celebrate that we're alive, and we walk to show others that there is hope. There is hope.
At 10:00 tonight there will be a candlelight ceremony during which names of loved ones lost and of persons diagnosed with cancer will be read.
From 6:00 tonight until noon on Saturday, team members will walk the track – most likely in thunderstorm and pouring rain – in a living metaphor of the long fight against cancer. It's a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, so there'll plenty of ways to spend money, have fun, and help the cause: a bounce house and kids' movies; music bands and karaoke; karate and jazzercise; raffles and bake sales.
On behalf of Euclid's Relay for Life, I invite you to come, experience, and participate. On behalf of those who have already been stricken by cancer, and for those who will be, I invite you.
Celebrate. Remember. Fight back.