Relay for Life 2017

When you hear commercials for drugs they give you all kinds of statistics about what disease or illness they help fight, they then go on to spend the other 85% of their air time telling you about how their drug can kill you.  There are a lot of statistics about cancer, but no drugs that can cure it.

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Every year starting in 2001 my family has been participating in the Relay for Life in some form or another.  The early years of that was through our employer.  After my mom passed away in 2007 from brain cancer we decided to form our own fundraising team.  This was for her memory, and to honor my mother-in-law who is a 20+ year survivor of breast cancer.  Over the years we’ve had other people join our team and leave our team.  We aren’t too picky about who is on our team, just as long as they’re trying to achieve the same goal we are.  Trying to find a cure for cancer.

The one statistic I want to bring up every year is that 2 out of every 3 people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetimes.  I sit at my desk and look at my other 3 coworkers and know that most, if not all of us will end up with this horrible disease at some point in our lives.  I have a hard time finding people to talk to who haven’t been affected by cancer in some way.  Either they were diagnosed themselves, or they know a family member or friend who has.  This disease knows no age limits.  It doesn’t discriminate in any way against age, gender, race, color, religious beliefs, political affiliation, or sexual orientation.  It is rare that I go a week without hearing of someone I know personally who is diagnosed, or being examined for, this horrible disease.

Until recently this hadn’t hit home too much other than my mother.  My mother-in-law’s fight came before I knew her.  Last fall as my wife and I were waiting for our youngest son’s basketball game to start one Saturday morning we ran in to a longtime friend who had supported our team in the past.  We asked him what was new, and he seemed a little distraught and asked his wife to take their daughter into the hall.  Earlier that week he went to ER to be treated for what he thought was gall stones.  About 36 hours later and a bunch of testing he was home, with a stage 4 colon cancer diagnosis.  This is a man who is only three years older than me.  I still have a hard time grasping what he’s going through.  Not only with treatments, but also knowing that he has a grim prognosis and there is a distinct possibility that he will lose his fight before his children graduate from high school.

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Examples like this have helped me realize this is truly why I participate in the Relay for Life.  I still love to remember my mother, and honor my mother-in-law, but if I can be a part of something that potentially could help my friend live to see his kids graduate, walk his daughter down the aisle, or hold his grandchildren, then sign me up.  If I can help raise money for an organization that wants to see the same things I do in regards to this horrible disease, then sign me up.

This year has turned out to be a little more challenging when preparing for the Relay.  Our oldest son graduated from high school this past spring and is getting ready to head off to Western Michigan University in late August.  That’s caused some schedule changes in our personal lives that we’ve never had before.  So our participation in the year’s event is going to be much less significant that in the past.  That doesn’t change any of the need for what we do.  I have yet to see a legitimate news story that is about the cure for cancer.  There are many stories out there claiming that there are certain foods or supplements you can take to cure cancer.  Those claims are pretty baseless, because while they may help, if they were truly effective then the FDA would be regulating them.

This year we have made the decision to be part of the event in a lessor role.  We plan to spend a majority of the first day walking and visiting with all of the people we have come to know through our local event.  We will be attending to luminary ceremony and lighting up a few for those close to us.  This doesn’t change the need for your donations, and there’s still time for you to donate, but this year’s event is coming up quickly, 8/4-5, so don’t delay.  If you would like to make an online donation (preferred method) you can go to www.relayforlife.org/barrymi and still make a donation to the event.  If you prefer not to make an online donation you can mail or drop off a donation at my house, please hit me up for directions.  If you are writing a check please make it out to the American Cancer Society and we will make sure it gets turned in.  If you can’t make a donation by check right now there are other ways to donate.  One of the ways I’ve been raising money is through bottle refunds.  My coworkers have been brining me their returnable bottles and every one I turn in goes towards our fund-raising efforts.  If you’ve got a bunch lying around the house let me know and we can make arrangements to get them.

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So while our time wasn’t able to be put towards the Relay for Life as much as we would have liked this year, it doesn’t change the need for funding.  I hope you can find time in your day to donate, it may save your own life later.

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Relay For Life 2016, or What Happened when I Wasn’t In Jail

August 16, 2016 v3 p45

The day is starting off a little on the damp side.  At 10 a.m. we’re finishing loading up to head out.  The track may be damp, but our spirits aren’t!

We arrived and it started sprinkling while we were setting up the site decorations. I’m a little wet, remembering why I don’t wear cotton shirts.  The track has is muddy and has some puddles but it’s not bad. I can deal with a little weaving while I walk.  I hope the puddles dry up by dark or it may be difficult to see them. My feet are dry, for now.   The sun has started to peek through the clouds just in time for the opening ceremony.

After close to three hours of walking I’m through 5 miles. Last year I did a total of 32, but this isn’t about what I can do.  The rain has passed and there is a nice breeze.  I’m glad it’s nice out, hopefully that will convince people to stop out.  It already seems that it’s helped some.  The track is drying and my feet are still dry too.

Watching the survivors every year is tough.  Knowing that Mom never had a chance to participate in that kind of event really adds to my loss.  However, seeing faces that are repeating the same walk year after year helps remind me that I am making a difference.  I know that this may not be the year that a cure is found and we can eradicate this horrible disease,  but if I don’t try to continue to make a difference there is less of a chance that a cure will be found.

So far I’ve walked 10 miles.  My feet feel good, it will be time to change my socks soon.  My hip is holding up well, but I’m resting it while I cook dinner.  Burgers and hot dogs are on the menu, plus a variety of snack food that my fellow team members brought.  Bonus that we remembered to pack a spatula this year!

The luminary ceremony is always my favorite part of the entire Relay.  There is always a nice speech leading up to it then a silent lap when everyone walks a lap in silence with a candle. In past years this has been the toughest lap of the whole event for me.  That’s not because I’m tired.   Walking the last hour of the second day is way more taxing physically than a slower, reflective lap early in the night.  I usually do that lap by myself and finish in front of Mom’s luminary.  This year I prayed for the entire lap and found much more peace when I finished.

My wife is always in charge of making the luminaries for our team, she is much more artistic than me.  This year she pressed flowers between contact paper and cut out the bag where the flowers go.  This helps the candle inside light up the flower as well as the bag itself.  People are always looking at our luminaries and commenting on them.  I feel so fortunate to have a wife who takes so much care to create unique and beautiful luminaries every year.   It really adds a little something extra to the whole night!

Up to this point everything was written during breaks at the event.  Last year I had pretty much my whole blog ready by the time we left on Sunday morning.  As things started to wind down for the evening it appeared that there was going to be more participation overnight.  For the past few years there has been a volley ball tournament to help keep some of the younger crowd active.  This year was no different, except that while that was taking place there were a lot more people on the track walking than there usually are overnight.  I remember in years past when my wife and I would be walking sometime between 2 and 5 a.m. we could often go numerous laps without seeing anyone else on the track.  I think one year we split up and went in different directions and neither of us passed any one.  It was nice to see more people out there in the dark with us.

I have a lot of parts that of the Relay that I look forward to every year.  One of them occurs about 6:15 in the morning on the second day when I get to see the sunrise.  This year that didn’t happen.  With all the moisture in the air and on the ground from the rain the day before daylight didn’t arrive until about 6:45 and it was foggy.  It lifted pretty quickly, but when we stopped for pancakes at 8ish it was still pretty cloudy.  I was reengergized by the breakfast and kept on plugging away.  I was behind my pace from 2015 by a couple of hours and didn’t think I would pass my distance, but I was ready to continue walking.

About 2.5 hours into the event I was beginning to think I might not be able to complete 24 hours this year.  I was feeling a little stiffness in my hips, but a little rest and some stretching loosened it up.  I could tell later in the night that the strengthening exercises I have been doing over the past three months were working.  Normally about five in the morning I start to feel pain in my lower back, this year I never got that feeling.  There were a couple of times overnight that my wife had to ask me to slow down because she couldn’t keep up with me.  That’s when I knew all of that work was paying off.

She had reached the point shortly after breakfast that it was evident that it was time for her to stop.  It wasn’t that she didn’t want to continue, or couldn’t if she needed to, but that if she continued it would cause damage to her body.  It worked out nicely though.  That allowed me to get in a few laps with our 10-year-old in a one-on-one manner.  He really amazes me, as this year he walked enough to complete a half marathon.   It also allowed for me to walk at my pace.  I didn’t really feel like I was going that fast, but my wife told me later Sunday evening that I was cruising along well.  The third thing that happened was my wife was able to start packing up our site.  Normally both of our sons are there, but we had to take our older son home Saturday evening because he fell ill.  My mother-in-law normally comes back with my wife’s uncle on Sunday morning too, but when she was driving home late Saturday night she hit a large raccoon and it damaged her car to the point where it wasn’t driveable.  We didn’t take our whole site down, but a majority of it.  Most of the teams were completely gone with two hours left to go in the event.

Last year I amazed myself and walked 32 miles.  A lot of people asked me if I was going to beat that this year.  My answer is always that I’m not out there to walk a certain distance.  My only goal is to walk for a majority of the time.  As an endurance walker, as we’re called at our Relay, I am supposed to get a 15 minute break for every hour I walk.  I don’t take that many breakts.  One, because I don’t need that many breaks, two, because late in the event if I stop my body will begin to shut down and it will be hard to start back up up, and three, because cancer patients don’t get a break from cancer.  They dont’ get a break from chemo treatments.  They don’t get to sit down and say “I don’t have cancer for the next 15 minutes.”  At some point almost every year I break down in tears.  This year I didn’t.  I believe that is because of my faith.  I believe that Mom has been with me in the past during this event, and this year was no different.  What was different this year was how much I put my faith in God to help me keep moving forward.  With both of there help I was able to add six laps, or two miles to my total from 2015, and completed 34 miles.  I could have done one more but they moved the closing ceremonies up 15 minutes.

So for 24 hours I walked over 88,000 steps to help fight the horrible disease that is cancer.  It was emotional and painful, but I still don’t have any kind of clue what my mother went through when she was fighting.

I Love You Mom!