Margaret's Musings: Relay For Life on the horizon - a survivor’s taleHudson’s Relay For Life is coming up June 26-27 at Newton Field, the track and bleacher area located on the grounds of E.P. Rock Elementary School, 340 13th St. S. The successful fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society is probably the most poignant way the organization has devised to raise funds.
By: Margaret Ontl, Hudson Star-Observer
Hudson’s Relay For Life is coming up June 26-27 at Newton Field, the track and bleacher area located on the grounds of E.P. Rock Elementary School, 340 13th St. S.
The successful fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society is probably the most poignant way the organization has devised to raise funds.
Raising money for the ACS was an activity that took place in our house since I was in sixth grade. That was when the only grandmother I knew died from it. She was my dad’s stepmom, who had stepped in to raise my father and his sister when their mother died at age 34.
It was probably shortly after his stepmom’s death that my father volunteered to be a “block captain,” going door to door soliciting funds each year for the American Cancer Society. Ten years later, my grandfather died from prostate cancer a few weeks after attending my college graduation. Ironically, she had died on Mother’s Day and he on Father’s Day.
Through the years, Dad — with mom’s support — did his part to raise money to fight the disease that claimed both his parents. When Jail and Bail was introduced he didn’t hesitate to be locked up for the greater good. Maybe it was because of the family connection, but cancer was more than a word or a good cause; it was always lingering in the background of our lives.
Today, both of my parents are double cancer survivors. In 1992 my mom was diagnosed with bladder cancer. It was frightening, and she swore Dad and me to secrecy — no one, and I mean no one, including her sister who lived next door, was to know.
Of course, it didn’t help that the sister was a retired RN because for many years, “CA,” as the nurses called cancer, could only mean one thing.
Five years later, when getting her all-clear for that cancer, doctors discovered breast cancer, which was subsequently treated. She was in her early 70s and this time, having survived once, she was confident she would again so secrecy wasn’t an issue. She only missed a week of work and scheduled all her radiation and chemo at the end of the week so she could be back to work on Monday.
Dad, on the other hand, developed prostate cancer, not unusual for a man of his age. The disease was treated, and last year he had minor surgery for skin cancer. Both my parents still participate in fund-raising.
When the Hudson Relay For Life started, I participated on our HSO team the first couple of years. In 2000 my best friend died of cancer. It was a hard year to be at the relay. The next year I was there covering it for the HSO, and even though I had been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer that year, I just could not put on a survivor’s shirt and walk with them because that was reserved for people who survived an actual battle — I was lucky to be diagnosed at stage zero. I really didn’t feel like I had earned the right to walk.
If you haven’t visited the Relay For Life, I would encourage you to stop out or get involved. It is a time for reunion, for remembrance and for hope.
One year, my parents were up for Father’s Day. I was going to work the event for the paper and asked if they wanted to go along. Much to my surprise, they not only wanted to go they enthusiastically signed up to walk in the survivors lap. It seemed only fitting that I join them. And so it is that for several years, we three have walked the lap together and were joined on a few occasions by my uncle who survived one cancer to die of another in 2008.
It is not the kind of family gathering that most people would cheer about but for us it is a joyous experience. It also gives me in particular a chance to visit with fellow Hudsonites, share their joys and listen to their stories, which are inspiring, to say the least.
As you quietly walk the track in the semi darkness, the luminaries tell a story all their own, of friends and acquaintances that may have survived, of family members missing their loved ones, of mentors that have passed, and reminders of the number of people affected by cancer including caregivers and family members. Some of the luminaries are artistic, some are simple and straightforward, but they all tell a personal story.
I am not sure we three will be there this year because my folks will be celebrating their 60th anniversary around the same time.
So if you haven’t had the opportunity to visit the Hudson Relay For Life, perhaps this is the year for you to get involved or just stop by for the opening ceremony or the lighting ceremony. No doubt you can count among your friends or family members someone who has been touched by cancer. All you have to do is watch the survivors lap to realize progress has been made even though there is still a long way to go.