Monday, June 16, 2008


Friday night was the Relay for Life event at the WOHS track. Cancer survivors were invited to walk a lap together, wearing our colorful teeshirts inscribed witht he words, "Remember", "Celebrate", and "Fight Back" on the front, and "SURVIVOR" on the back.  My friend Kathy and I found the sign-up tent and I got my shirt, then looked around and took in the scene- a sea of shirts like mine, survivors everywhere: a toddler, an elderly man in a wheel chair, a beautiful woman with just the tiniest bit of hair..
Many of you know that my dad is a retired Oncologist as well as a cancer survivor himself, and he came to my heart as I walked with Kathy. I worked for him over summer college breaks and got to witness him with patients. One woman I remember had breast cancer-she looked like someone's second grade teacher. A year later she came back on crutches-it had gone to her hips, and she had consulted a faith healer before finally returning for more radiation. Who could blame the woman for wanting to avoid that. Many other stories live in my mind from the dinner table, my father telling us about these people. Memoirs around the house, gifts from grateful patients. My dad's weary eyes as he told the stories.
I talked to him on Father's Day. I told him  that I wondered if I deserved to walk that lap with the likes of Emma, my friend Barb's mother in law, who endured chemo and surgery three years ago when diagnosed with breast cancer.  The neat and tidy ennucleation of one eye seems to pale in comparison.  I don't know that i "fought" cancer. I basically had it removed.  
My dad called cancer " a perverse lottery".  You just get it, and it doesn't really give a damn who you are.  
Our West Ottawa team, headed up by the amazing teacher, musician and dad, Jeff Gaul, raised over 14K. Maybe this is how I fight back-by following his example, doing something good that allows me to forget about my damned self for a little while.
Thanks to all who do that each day so that I can walk with Emma and enjoy another sunset.

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