I have been to many types of fundraisers throughout my almost 70 years. When I was a little kid Pie Suppers were popular, if you don’t know about Pie Suppers ask an old person with a rural or small-town background. When the girls were growing up we did lots of carnivals, raffles, auctions etc., I helped with a lot of those and on a few occasions I was one of the “go to” guys. The proceeds always went to a worthy cause, usually class trips, or athletic equipment or just to provide things the schools couldn’t afford.
Recently I attended my first, but if God cooperates it will not be my last Relay for Life. To say I was impressed is an understatement, amazed is more descriptive but I really think I was more than amazed. The outpouring of generosity and support exceeded all expectations and it appeared to all be from the heart, I didn’t get the feeling anyone was there because they had to be.
I saw a clown with a bucket, I put some money in his bucket, or you could have a burger, popcorn or some cotton candy. I visited with an old guy who paid to color his hair; it was purple; I don’t have enough hair to do that. All the proceeds went to increase the chance of survival or Life vs. Death over this thing called cancer; kind of makes the class trips or baseball uniforms seem insignificant.
Those responsible for putting it together and making it happen are to be commended, and I extend a personal Thank You.
I wasn’t obligated to go, I didn’t go expecting to have fun. I just, for whatever reason felt I needed to attend, my only contribution other than increasing attendance by one was a monetary donation I was comfortable with; this was in addition to what I put in the clown’s bucket. I laughed a little, cried a little; I enjoyed visiting some old friends and I think I made a few new friends.
Sharyl was a volunteer for a number of years prior to her illness; it never entered her mind that she would be a victim of cancer and would not be among those walking the “Survivors Lap”. My emotions hit both sides of the band during the survivors lap; so happy for the large group who have won or are still ahead in the fight. I wouldn’t have wanted Sharyl to replace anyone in the group but it would be wonderful if she could have joined them. We never heard the words remission or cancer free, we were thrilled to hear stable on two or three occasions.
I mentioned Sharyl always volunteered, I didn’t. It shouldn’t be this way but it appeared the female volunteers outnumbered the males by probably 4 or 5 to 1. Among the things I have learned a little about these past three years are compassion, kindness, and helping others; this should not be a gender thing. I’m going to try and do a little better.
The long-term goal is to no longer have a need for Relay for Life because Cancer is just something mentioned in history books along with Polio, Smallpox and some others. The short-term goal is to increase the ratio of survivors to victims, or more “in honor of” donations and fewer “in memory of” donations. If we can change that ratio ever so slightly the effort is a success.
I think the very active evening, the complete focus on cancer caused me to relive or at least reflect on the last 3 ½ years. I probably shouldn’t but I will share some of those thoughts.
Beginning with Sharyl’s diagnosis in’08 I have done a lot of research on cancer. Some of what I have read is fact a lot of it is opinion or theory. One of the things I have heard and read continually is the importance of a competitive spirit and a positive attitude; I am in total agreement, however some will lead you to believe if you have these characteristics you are probably going to beat this thing, because it worked for them. This obviously is opinion and not medical fact.
I knew Sharyl for almost 50 years and served as her primary caregiver during her battle with (adenocarcinoma) lung cancer. If you open the dictionary to competitive spirit you very well might see her picture. She “laced them up” and came to play hard every day. It made no difference if it were a softball game, monopoly on the dining room table, a wildcat business deal or the fight to see another sunrise; she was going to do everything in her power to win; it was hard for her to intentionally let one of the grandkids beat her at checkers. If you knew her personally I don’t need to elaborate on her positive attitude. Within two weeks of her death she continued to believe she just might have one win left.
How many of you guys have gone to bed at night and asked god to please let your wife have breast cancer; I have. When we knew it was cancer but didn’t know where it originated the Dr. told me “if we’re lucky it started in the breast because there are some things we can do”. I’m in no way trying to downplay the seriousness of breast cancer. It is just a documented fact the survival rate is much higher than with the kind of cancer Sharyl had.
The competitive spirit and positive attitude make the trip a little easier and may extend the journey but sometimes it just isn’t meant to be. I sometimes think it is more difficult to watch a highly competitive, sore loser get beat especially if the fight is for their life.
I definitely still need and appreciate your prayers and I will try to get back to something a little more lighthearted next time.