Monday, August 11, 2008

Relay for Life

This past weekend was Gladwin County's Annual Relay for Life event. My family participates in this event because we have had cancer touch our lives numerous times.

My grandmother was only 63 when she died of brain cancer. My father in law was 69 when he died of multiple myeloma. My sister in law's mother has just been diagnosed with cancer again - almost 5 years ago she had breast cancer that they thought was cured. Now it's in her liver, bones, and who knows where else. And I was 27 when I was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Now, I don't say that to try and make myself out to be some big hero, but to say this. I don't feel like I should be included in the list of survivors. Yes, I had cancer, but all it took for me to be cured of it was surgery. They found it early. I didn't have to have radiation. I didn't have to have chemo. I only had to go to my OB/GYN every three months for a check up for a couple of years, then every six months for a couple of years, and now it's every year. To look at me, you would never even know that anything was wrong or had been wrong. I'm not scarred, I'm not missing parts, I'm just me. So when the people on my team put my name in as a survivor and I got all the goodies that survivors get - a special dinner, a t-shirt, a hat or visor, a survivor sash, everything, I felt like someone who shouldn't be there. When we did the survivor lap I tried to get off the track but since I had on a purple shirt, I was urged to get back on and walk that "victory lap". People all around the track were clapping and cheering as we walked and I felt so unworthy!

I tried to tell my family but didn't have the words and still don't. And when I think of it, even now, I cry. I just kept thinking to myself - "Those people that are out there are fighting for their very lives!! This dreaded disease has taken over their bodies and they are fighting for their very life!! I didn't have to do that, so why am I out here. I feel like such a fraud."

My mother and husband both told me that I was just one of the lucky ones - that if they hadn't caught it early I could "be six feet under" as my husband so delicately put it. And my mom keeps telling me that "it was a big deal." My kids couldn't understand why, when I was making luminaria bags for other people, I wouldn't make one for myself. And I couldn't explain it to them.

So to all those people who really had to fight for their very life, I applaud and cheer you and I will just keep relaying - hoping that my small effort will help eradicate this disease forever!

Until next time,


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1 comment:

Colleen Johnson said...

Good grief Denise, we have way too much in common! I too was diagnosed with early stage cervical cancer (28)and went through the same process. As my mom is a breast cancer survivor, I know those that wear the badge of "fighting for your life".

You and I were very lucky that docs found it early or we would be wearing that badge. Some people never have to deal with it at all. We're just easy survivors.