I have always been told that I am the spitting image of my mother, not just in looks but also in our personalities. We are both passionate about the things we care about, are admittedly rather opinionated, and are religiously punctual about everything. However, there is one way that I know that my mother would never want us to be similar—her susceptibility to cancer. She is currently a two-time survivor of breast cancer and about six years out of her treatments
As a child, I always knew that my mom had cancer before I was born. It was just another thing I knew about her, like where she was born, that her favorite color is purple, and that she loves chocolate—it really had no depth at all to me. I guess maybe I was too young to understand; maybe my parents didn’t want me to know what it really meant. That all changed though the summer before I started seventh grade when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. I can still remember when my parents sat me down to tell me and I thought I was in trouble for who knows what. But all I wished for after they talked to me was that I had been in trouble instead of facing reality.
How are you supposed to react when the person who has taken care of you your entire life now needs to be taken care of, any you feel like there is nothing you can do to really help? I can remember coming home from school not wanting to see my mom, not because I didn’t love her and didn’t want to spend time with her, but because I couldn’t bear to see her so weak, so broken lying in bed after chemotherapy. I felt like school was my only escape from what was going on with my life at home, and when anyone would bring my mom’s condition up, I would immediately close myself off to them. I knew that they were just being considerate and show me that they cared, but I did not want to think about it, and the last thing I wanted was to be pitied. I just wanted to be a normal middle schooler.
Throughout the entire process, my parents would not stop telling my brother and I that my mom was going to be perfectly fine, but there were also times that, despite their very best efforts to keep it from us, I could see their fear too. I knew that they would never want me to know if things got very bad, so I just had to have hope that the doctors knew what they were doing. I guess that was probably one of the most difficult things for me. How was I supposed to trust these strangers with my mother’s life?
This sense of helplessness is one of the main reasons why I became involved with the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. My mother had started her own team the previous year and had encouraged me to start my own. I immediately felt the support from both friends and family who joined my team and donated to this cause, and from the committee itself. The members from the committee in my hometown still continue to be a great support for my family and I and have made me feel at home within their community. I have never felt so passionate about a cause because I know that this organization has helped so many. This year will be my seventh year as a team captain for this event and my first year participating at UVA and as a committee member.
I Relay to spread hope to families just like mine, because I personally know how it feels to see a loved one suffering. Nearly everyone has been touched by cancer in some way, and I believe that this disease has taken too much from too many. This past year, a family friend lost her battle against cancer after a considerably long battle. She had been fighting cancer since I met her daughter in elementary school. Throughout the entire process, their whole family faced her cancer with such admirable positivity. How was I supposed to react when I saw such a wonderful woman, wife, and mother lose her battle? I Relay because no daughter should lose her mother at such a young age. I Relay because it is the only way I know how to fight back against this disease. I Relay both in remembrance of the many lives that have been lost and in celebration of those who won their battle. I Relay because these people diagnosed with cancer are not just statistics, they are mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, wives, husbands, grandparents, best friends—they mean everything to someone. They matter.
I hope that through my participation in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, I am truly making a difference in the lives of others. While we may not be able to change someone's past, I think that we have the opportunity to change someone's future by raising both awareness and funds for the American Cancer Society. I Relay because after all that I have seen this disease take away from so many, I just can’t not do anything about it.
Team Engagement Committee