rmdixon (rmdixon) wrote,

Relay for Life

I got to be part of a really fun fundraiser for the American Cancer Society yesterday, "Relay for Life". I'm not typically big on fundraisers for big charities, because typically these things start out as a selfless man or woman with a vision and within two generations has an executive director making $350,000/year who has all his friends and relatives on the payroll as personal assistants. They just take on a life of their own.

Be that as it may, since I have (had?) prostate cancer I wanted to support this fundraiser out of a sense of responsibility. I was part of a relay team run by the wife of a guy at work, "Team TOFU (This One's For You)".

Relay for Life was started in the 1980's by one doctor who ran a 24-hour marathon around the track at a local college and is now more of a festival where relay teams aspire to keeping someone on the track from the beginning of the relay at 10am on Saturday until the end of the relay at 8am on Sunday. It's a big festival, with bands and vendors and people selling all variety of stuff to raise money while people walk/run/stroll around the track doing the relay thing.

It's now the largest fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

I went to the one at the local high school in Cary NC, and my expectations were suitably low. This was unexpectedly a hugely fun event. They started out with the survivors lap, which was quite sobering. There were maybe 50 - 60 cancer survivors at the event. Most of them were women. Some of them were teenage girls who had been cancer survivors for over ten years already. Some were older women who had survived 25 years, and I was amazed at their energy at being survivors so long after the fact.

I introduced myself as having had prostate cancer surgery two weeks ago, because I was unsure if I was a "survivor" or in "wait and see if it's really gone" or what.

Some were exceptionally sobering for me.

One was a women who currently had colon-rectal cancer and was still out there walking.

Another was a guy who introduced himself right after me has having "metastic prostate cancer", which means it got outside the prostate before it was discovered, and once cancer metastasizes it's exceptionally difficult to get rid of.

Another was a guy I walked next to for nearly a mile with myeloma. I had no clue what that was, and it turned out to be a form of blood cancer that's considered incurable. He has had a bone marrow transplant and is now undergoing daily chemotherapy for it.

Likely the last two are death sentences. I just looked up myeloma, and the life expectancy with it is 3 - 7 years. The guy I talked to is in the middle of that range somewhere, but you would never know it from the way he walked and talked.

The survivors lap was very inspiring, because as we walked around the track everybody lined the inner edge of the track and clapped. Some cried. My situation was so easy compared to others that I felt guilty even being out there. This was just an operation for me and not the day-in day-out grind of chemotherapy and new "discoveries" that so many endure.

All day after that people came up to me, remembering the guy who had just had surgery two weeks ago. That seemed to mean something to people, so I tried to walk as far as possible just in case it was somehow meaningful to someone to see me out there, so close to having surgery. All in all I walked 5 1/4 miles in the five hours I was out there. I didn't try to push particularly hard. When I got tired of sitting I would get up and walk some more, and walking around a flat track is not too difficult, especially with lots of stuff to look at.

There were people selling everything from hamburgers, chips, sodas, baked goods, and hot dogs to some kind of charged ion bracelet what was supposed to make you more flexible, stronger, and improve your balance. People would sing opera for a dollar, or you could get your picture taken sitting in a really big folding chair. There were inflatable houses where you could bounce, and about anything else you could think of. Any number of things from quilts to iPads was being raffled off.

Just at the hottest part of the day all the costumed characters showed up. There was a walking taco from Taco Bell, a dragon from a local grocery chain, Yo Gabba Gabba from Nickelodeon (I think), and several others I was too culturally illiterate to recognize.

It was really enjoyable for me because I've been on disability from work for nearly three weeks, and the chance to look at all the people, see all the signs, smell the smells, listen to the bands, and just walk around and look at all this stuff was a tremendous relief from just sitting in the house by myself all day.

It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm with a high somewhere in the upper 80s.

I got a ride there, and the event started at 10am. I had planned for Sarah to pick me up at 12:45 and go home, but I was having fun so I asked my daughter Rachel if she could give me a ride home, and she picked me up around 4pm. I would have probably stayed there all day if I could have, just walking and sitting and talking and taking in everything.

Many people camped out overnight, seeing as how it's supposed to be a 24-hour relay (well, 22 in this case). Still in recovery from surgery I wasn't wild about sleeping on the ground, but I'm looking forward to next year's event already so I can get more involved and do more. There was a luminaria at night in honor of those who lost the fight, and midnight pizza and a movie. I'm sure that was a great party.

This event would be fun to go to even if you weren't participating, just to look at everything.
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