I am so honored to be a Voice of Hope for The American Cancer Society. I have had the privilege to meet some of the most wonderful people, and to share laughter and tears, and give lots of hugs. It is so much fun to travel around and talk to other cancer survivors and to share my story with them. If I can walk away knowing I have inspired even one person, then, my cancer journey has been worth it all. I love to encourage and inspire others, but most of the time, it is turned around, and they are the ones who inspire me. I have met so many people from all walks of life, young and old, rich and poor. We all know that cancer is no respecter of persons. Last summer, I spoke at many Relay for Life events, and recently, I was honored to speak at the Making Strides For Breast Cancer walk in down-town Columbus, Ohio in October. My daughter, Bethany, and granddaughter, Savannah, walked the 5K walk with me. I am also a member of The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network. We get to talk to lawmakers about many different cancer related issues. It is so important to speak up for all of those who have no voice.
Last summer was such a busy summer. I spoke at many Relay for Life ceremonies, Opening ceremonies, Survivor dinners, and Luminary ceremonies. What an honor to share my story with so many others. Some of them were just starting their journey, and many others have been survivors for many years, while many others have lost loved ones, due to this devastating disease. Each year commemorates one more year of surviving cancer. Each survivor lap I am moved to tears, not only for myself, but for all of the other people who have fought so hard. Each one of them has their own unique story to tell, of a time when cancer rudely invaded their life, or that of a loved one.
At the Hilliard, Ohio Relay for Life, one of the most touching memories that I will always treasure was that of a woman in her late nineties walking the survivor lap with her walker. It was a very hot day. She got half way around the track, and it was then, she lost her strength. The other survivors pushed her on around on her walker. As they all finished that lap, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. What a shout of victory it was! That picture will be forever etched in my mind. Later, when I thought about that day, I thought to myself, “Isn’t that what we all do for one another?” When one of us loses our strength, someone else comes along at just the right time to help us regain our strength so that we can get back in the game again? We pass the baton to someone else. With all of our combined efforts, we will stay strong as individuals, and communities as well. By helping others along the way, our own light will not go out, but will be burning brightly for all of the other people just beginning a cancer journey of their own.
I spoke at the Knox County luminary ceremony where we honored countless lives lost to cancer. It was a beautiful heart wrenching ceremony. A peaceful hush fell over the crowd as there were no adequate words to describe the great losses each family felt as they remembered that special loved one. It was a very powerful ceremony. That particular relay raised about $260,000.00. They really know how to relay! It took a huge group effort to rally around and pull together. They brought some amazing results when their teams united, and as a whole, combined their efforts in their fight.
I spoke at the Westerville, Ohio relay for life. Another survivor also spoke that day. She spoke how her local Kroger store where she was employed, raised a lot of money, and how her community stood with her in her fight with breast cancer, alongside her husband and sons. We were both asked to carry the banner for the survivor lap that day. What an honor to lead the way for so many other survivors following behind us.
In my own home town of Marysville, Ohio, I spoke at the survivor dinner. It held a special place in my heart, as I remember facing my own diagnosis. I spent many Friday nights at local football games watching my son on the football field as he was in the high school marching band. I remember many fearful thoughts regarding my own future, and that of my family. As the years have passed, I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to come back on a more joyous occasion, and to bring hope and encouragement to so many others in my own home town.
I also spoke at the Upper Arlington Relay. Although, it was a bit small, the people attending were big on enthusiasm. They were every bit as passionate as all of the other relays that I have attended.
These were just a few memories that I am sharing with you, among so many others, too numerous to recount, but the main focal point is that it really does take a village, and we are all that village. It’s people like so many of you and thousands of countless others who are not afraid to be that village. The word, hope, rings true in all of our lives. Whether I am speaking to one person, or one million, hope is a spark to all of us to light the flame that will ignite and affect everyone we come into contact with. It does take a village and many villages all over this great land of ours. With everyone’s help, we will win the war on cancer once and for all!
Our 2015 season is nearing an end and it won’t be long until we will be ready to kick off our 2016 season. Get your families involved. Get the school aged students and college students involved. My little twelve year old, granddaughter, Savannah even got in the act. She goes with me everywhere I go to all of my speaking events. I am so proud of her. It’s so good to teach the younger generations to help others, because as we all know, cancer is a family affair. With this kind of support how could we not find a cure?!!