Sunday, November 18, 2012

Relay for Life

Yesterday I did some walking laps as part of a Relay for Life team.

Relay for Life is a fundraising initiative of the Cancer Council of Australia, whereby people, in teams of 10 to 15 or more, run or walk around an oval or other venue in relays for a period of somewhere between 18 and 24 hours (depending on the event). People get sponsorship for their walk / run and the money raised goes to the Cancer Council for research into cancer prevention, causes, treatments and cure. Every year, Australian Relay for Life teams raise over $14 million for this cause through their efforts.

We only walked for a short time, really - we needed to get the kids into bed! - but our team delivered on the 18-hour commitment, and the experience was a very positive and moving one.

As dusk fell, tealight candles were lit - to celebrate survivors (of which we know several) and to remember those who have died of cancer. My girls and I weren't there for that part, dusk falling late in these late spring days, but we left candles to be lit in memory of our dear friend Dee, who died of brain cancer in 2010, our family friend Kerry, who lost a 12-year battle with breast cancer in 2005, and of my father-in-law, who died of cancer before I even met my husband. We also left candles to celebrate the survival of family friends who've been successfully treated for cancers of all kinds.

Walking around the oval in the cold evening air, I felt quiet and contemplative, thinking about Dee and my great-grandma and Kerry, and about the losses that friends of mine have suffered to this disease (I was particularly thinking of Veronica and Kim).

There isn't anyone who's been untouched by cancer - everyone has, to some extent or other, and as we age this will just get more and more true. It's an especially cruel disease, I think, because of the way it turns one's own cells against you, making it hard to treat without doing terrible damage to your own body in the process; and the way it lurks, waiting, in your very DNA, so you can never be sure it's really gone. (Often, sadly, it isn't). Yes, everyone has to die of something, but this is an especially pernicious and painful - and often premature - grim reaper in the modern world.

So while what we did was little, and more symbolic than anything, I'm glad we did it. I'm glad those lights were lit, to shine a little defiance for those who have won the fight, and to be a spark of remembrance for the beautiful souls that went too soon. I saw a community drawn together to do something positive on Saturday, and that is a marvellous, human thing to see.

This is post 18 in NaBloPoMo. 18 down, 12 to go!

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