This weekend took off like a bullet train, with an overnight at the Leon County Fairgrounds Friday night for Relay for Life. The express tour continued through the Red Hills Kids Triathlon and the 4th Annual Holocaust Essay/Art Awards Ceremony. The train is slowing down and pulling into the station now. Each of the three “stops” I have mentioned contained at least one blogworthy moment. Tonight, however, belongs to Relay for Life.
I have been Relaying for a while now (since 2003). For the past three years, I have been captain of the Gulf Winds Track Club team. For this year’s Relay, one of the teams (The Tallahassee Chrome Divas) was selling “Relay beads.” I started off with a string and one bead; by the time the Chrome Divas packed up, I was at bead #24:
I liked having the mechanism of the beads to track my progress at Relay. I also enjoyed interacting with the Chrome Divas each time I passed their campsite and got another bead (after every three purple beads, I got a “chrome” (otherwise known as silver) bead to signify that I had reached about another mile).
With each of the 24 laps, I tried to focus on thinking of someone specific who is dealing with cancer as a survivor, or someone who has been lost to the disease. To honor them, and extend the reflective feeling of Relay just a little longer, here they are:
Letha Rucker – my mom, a breast cancer survivor.
Dianne Dolan – my friend, a breast cancer survivor.
Rose Naff – my former boss and my friend, a cancer survivor who taught me (by letting me watch a radiation treatment) just how dehumanizing it can be to be written on with a sharpie (the tattoo to tell the radiographer where to aim).
Kaitlin Nash – my brother in law and sister in law’s friend’s child, who lost her fight with cancer just after her 1st birthday.
Chuck Kiger – my brother in law who survived cancer but passed away from other causes shortly after getting a clean bill of health.
Pam Stokes – a coworker and cancer survivor.
Terry Massa, a friend and cancer survivor.
Kenney Shipley, a role model.
Fran McLean, a GWTC Relay for Life team member and survivor.
Linda McNeal, a GWTC Relay for Life team member and survivor.
Bill Milford, a friend who I did not know was a survivor until I saw him in his survivor shirt Friday night.
Seab Rucker, my grandfather who died of stomach cancer.
Layla Grace Marsh, a young girl of 3 or 4 who died of cancer. I only “knew” her through Twitter and the web, but her family’s openness made me feel like a member of the family.
Lucy Dinnes, a parishioner with me at Park Avenue United Methodist Church in New York City who passed away from cancer.
Tom Meehan, my coworker’s husband who is a cancer survivor.
DeeDee Rasmussen, my friend who is a cancer survivor.
Robin Dunn Bryant, who I did not know was a cancer survivor until she and her family became contestants on the “We Live Fit” challenge and their lives became “an open book.”
Robin Roberts, host of Good Morning America and cancer survivor.
Lattice Marie Davis, my aunt who died of breast cancer.
Lew Killian, fellow parishioner at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church and cancer survivor.
Don Carraway, fellow parishioner at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church and cancer survivor.
Janice Zaehring, Wayne’s kindergarten teacher who was diagnosed with breast cancer in November of his kindergarten year and did radiation treatments at a super early time every morning so she wouldn’t have to miss any time with her class.
Jackie Palmieri, my friend and cancer survivor.
Andrea Hartley, who passed away from cancer. We were only acquaintances, but I was touched (blown away actually) by her fight at such a young age, and by a photo tribute I saw of her and her daughter, Emma, with Jack Johnson’s “Upside Down” playing within it.
That song, Upside Down, has a line in it that states, Please don’t go away.
Our team member Fran’s dog, Muddy, was always “first in line” to be washed at the annual Gulf Winds Track Club car/dog wash for Relay for Life. Muddy lost his life to cancer between last year’s relay and this year’s. Fran had a luminaria for him (one of the bags filled with sand and a candle, used to light the path during Relay).
It’s funny. Fran left Relay on Friday night, and said she would be back the next morning. She asked me if a group goes around and destroys all of the luminaria bags, because she wanted to get Muddy’s instead of having it tromped on and thrown away.
When she arrived Saturday morning, all of the luminarias around Muddy’s had extinguished themselves, with the exception of Muddy’s!
Fran shared with me in an email today what it meant to have that candle still burning. She stated that perhaps that’s why she felt drawn to return to the camp site (at its hottest, dirtiest hour!).
Upside Down includes this line: I don’t want this feeling to go away.
What I don’t want to go away, and am freshly reminded to hold tightly to, after a weekend at Relay, is hope:
I will hope to “run” into you next week, readers!