Esta Faye - a mother, a grandmother, a radiant smile, an inspiration, an independent woman, and a fighter. Although I do not remember all of the details, I do remember the time spent with her - always surrounded by her joyful nature - whenever I visited her house at the beach in Charleston, SC. From encouraging my unhealthy obsession with Play-doh and Thomas the Tank Engine to trying to teach me Chinese checkers. From trips to the zoo to trying to the hand-stitched-applique quilt of my family members, which now - 14 years later - I still have. But I learned all too quickly about the bittersweet aspect of life. In October 1994, 5 months before I was born, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
5 years later, in November of 1999, the cancer returned. To a kindergartener, the concept of cancer is complex. Two years later, on March 25, 2001, I lost my grandmother. At the funeral, I remember my mom telling me it was okay to cry at the funeral. I remember watching all of the adults cry except for me. I had no emotional understanding of what cancer had done. I remember that of all the things to be upset about, my 6-year-old self was devastated that I had lost my perfect attendance at school. I was too young, as far too many of us are when we lose a grandparent to cancer, to understand the true impact of what had been lost by me and my family.
But as I have grown older, there is one loss that stands out the most: time. Time, I missed out on making memories that my siblings have of spending summers in Myrtle Beach with Nanny. All the inside jokes Sarah and Nanny had - like when they told people they were going outside to drink by the woodpile. The time where she peed her pants in terror after a parrot in a beach convenience store talked to her. Or the terrible fishing accident in which my sister Judy’s hook attached to her shirt, ripping it off. I remember my grandmother second-hand through my older siblings; I have their memories of laughter and joy, and I try to take their memories as my own. But it falls short of what I deserve to know about her.
But, I believe nanny would be proud, for we have never forgotten her love and her humour. The latter in which I wish I could have experienced with maturity, but I share this obsession with nanny’s favorite holiday movie, actually I obsess over it year round, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. As Clark Griswold says, “We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here.” The time has come that when cancer comes knocking at our door that it encounters “the jolliest bunch of assholes” because we can finally beat cancer and get right back to making memories.
Right now, I am ready to end this epidemic that removed a fearless woman. Despite being dragged through a storm twice, she empowered us to live with never ending hope and to never back down. So now, I Relay. I Relay so that my kids will have their own memories of their grandmother instead of having to rely on second-hand stories. They deserve the time to make the memories. I Relay for breast cancer free lifestyles in Esta’s five beautiful daughters and granddaughters. I Relay for my cousins and their children, so they can experience more of Esta’s love through their beautiful mothers and grandmothers. I Relay because cancer can’t take the love and memories of our loved ones, and we should not allow it to take it from children.