Monday, August 8, 2011

The Fight Against Cancer

When I was in college, my grandmother (my mother’s mother) was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She had surgery, went through chemo, and made it into remission for awhile.

After I graduated from college, I lived with her and my grandfather for a few months while I did one of my internships at a hospital near their house.  At the time, my grandmother, then out of remission, was struggling through her second course of chemo, which did not do its job that time around.  She held on long enough to give her input during the planning of my wedding and to hold her youngest grandchild in her arms for the first time, and then she went on ahead, two weeks before I got married.  And thus begun my membership in the I Hate Cancer Club!

Spurred on by this over the years, I’ve participated in at least 25 runs benefiting organizations involved in the fight against cancer, including the Race for the Cure, the St. Jude Marathon and Half-Marathon, and various other races.  Each time, I was proud and humbled to be part of the effort and excited to be part of the extended cheering squad for those involved in this war.

Last August, I participated in the Avenue of Hope 5K benefiting the American Cancer Society in honor of Cindy, a friend of mine battling cancer.  It was a small, local charity race, my favorite kind, full of meaning and spirit and camaraderie.  A group of my friends also completed the race in honor of Cindy as well as many other loved ones who are fighting or have fought this terrible disease.

Cindy with her "team" at the ACS race, August 2010
 Only eleven weeks later, taking part in the fight against cancer took on a whole new meaning for me and the rest of my family. 

Last weekend, I ran the Avenue of Hope 5K again, this time with my younger daughter Molly, who proudly wore her grandfather’s racing shirt in his memory and who won her age division.

While my dad was sick, one thing that irritated him was, as he termed it, “too much talking.”  I could never figure out if it was because of the fatigue from which he suffered because of the incessant insomnia caused by the medications he was taking, because of the tumor in his brain, because of the emotional stress he was under, or because of something else that he couldn’t tolerate chaos or noise during that time.  Many times he asked us to be quiet, even though oftentimes he himself would later break into the silence by asking a question or making a comment.  Most of the time, he just couldn’t tolerate someone talking about the same thing for too long or asking him too many questions, and he particularly disliked it when several people around him were having a conversation and when other people were taking what he considered to be too long to figure something out.  He just didn’t see the need for inefficiency, something to which I can certainly relate.  As we talked about schedules and plans and details that we felt needed to be ironed out, Dad often chimed in by saying, “Don’t worry – just hurry!” meaning he thought there should be less discussion and more action.  One of my nieces even paraphrased Dad at one point when we were talking about something we were going to do later in the day and said, “Let’s quit talking about it and just do this thing!”

As much as I am honored and motivated to continue to participate in events to raise money and to promote awareness for this worthy cause, though, and as much as I take notice of the bumper stickers and related paraphernalia for awareness of different types of cancers, I’m pretty sure everyone is aware of cancer and the devastation it leaves in its wake at this point.  What I want - what we really need in this fight - are prevention and a cure.  Now let’s quit talking about it and just do this thing!

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