I write this on Sunday June 15th, feeling very proud today. Proud, and a bit achy. Starting on Friday 13th at 7:00pm, as a member of Island Radio's "Pirate Radio" team I walked through the night at Nanaimo's Relay for Life, a fundraising event for the Canadian Cancer Society.
Although the event is non-competitive, without targets beyond fundraising set for any individual or team, my aim from the outset was to walk 41 laps of the NDSS Rotary Bowl's 400 metre track, meaning a fraction over ten miles. Having done that with relative ease by 2:30am I continued to walk. Including the opening survivor's lap and closing celebration circuit, I eventually completed 62 laps, or 15.4 miles, by the time the relay wrapped up at 6:30am. In doing so, due to the truly humbling support of friends, I raised $2,200 for the CCS. (At this time, when visiting my participant's page below you may see that the total is lower than that: $210 gathered in cash and cheques, donated at the event, will be accredited to my team's total. There are more donation cheques on the way, too, from as far away as The Netherlands, which should boost my total enough that I may end up as the second highest individual fundraiser, behind my committed team captain, Daryl Major. How proud we are to have two of the top five fundraisers!)
I genuinely view my personal relay effort as a life highlight and real achievement. One reason I feel so proud is because in doing this I feel I have gone some way to amend so many times in my life not having had the courage of my convictions, or having followed through on honourable intentions. I have been "all mouth and trousers" way too often, but not this time. I walked hard, with determination, mostly alone and lost in thought as I ate up the track. I walked for my mum, nan and uncle, the last three of my blood relatives, all claimed by cancer. I walked for departed friends, customers, personal heroes or heroines, pets and anyone I know who has been affected in any way by this terrible disease. I walked for friends going through it right now, wishing them strength and courage for their battle.
I have been through cancer three times myself, so know firsthand how physically and mentally challenging the experience can be. There were days during the chemotherapy treatment of my second bout in 2001 when I had never felt more ill, thinking I was on my way out. And there were times following the surgery of my last bout in 2010 when all I could do was surrender to the pain and cry. Like any major health issue, it takes a lot of guts to fight through it, so when clocking up lap after lap at the Relay for Life I gave thanks to the universe that I have been blessed with the fortitude and feistiness to have done so, as well as the friends and family without whose support there would have been times I felt like giving up.
The Relay for Life was an epic and emotional experience, one I came away from with hundreds of memories and images that will live with me forever. I can never forget how my team member's colleague, recently diagnosed with myeloma, struggled around a lap with his walker, buoyed by the presence of friends cheering him on. I will never forget this incredible little boy, Dexter, the grandson of customers of Susan's workplace, and possibly the youngest survivor present. He was a bundle of inspirational energy, at such a young age already thankful for every minute on earth as a gift.
I will never forget the small, middle-aged man in the black hoodie, resolutely eating up the miles on his own in the outside lane. I bumped into him on a washroom break and he told me he was walking for his mum, taken by cancer ten years prior that very day. I will never forget the Lap of Remembrance when, as the city slept around us in the middle of the night, everyone walked with lit candles in silent solidarity in tribute to those we have lost.
I will never forget so much. Brave souls currently undergoing energy-sapping chemotherapy, pacing around the track with proud, beaming smiles; young parents pushing strollers for miles as their babies slept; the fun stuff, like limbo competitions and three-legged laps; the guy dancing laps in a Wolverine costume; the young man who ran laps solidly for over two hours; the visits from dear friends who walked laps with us; the hundreds of luminaries illuminating the inner rim of track... the games and laughter, the grieving and tears.
Rain had been forecast to fall at some stage, with an 80% Probability of Precipitation. It did rain... but on the very last lap. Just a few drops fell as everyone remaining walked the last 400 metres before heading wearily home. It felt symbolic, like collectively we had beaten cancer for those twelve hours, but that via the raindrops it had to have the final word. We didn't care, as if there had been monsoon-like conditions for the entire time the spirit of all concerned could in no way have been dampened.
The fact remains, however, that for the foreseeable future, until somehow a cure is found, that cancer will continue to have the final word. The fight goes on to find that cure and every cent towards it is precious. The fundraising continues unabated and therefore my Relay for Life page remains open for donations until the fall. If you would like to give it will be gratefully received: