Saturday, June 21, 2008


When I was a little girl I remember my mom telling my sister and I that my grandfather was sick and couldn't drive his big truck anymore. She told us that he was ok right now but that at some point he wouldn't be ok. A few years later he developed lung and throat cancer and despite a horrible fight he left us before I started high school.

Three or four years later I signed up for Latin and tried to hold my trembling hands still as I listened to our teacher explain sternly with military precision his expectations for our class. Our class was a close one and we took three years of Latin with Coach. He was the wrestling coach and our Latin teacher. Most of us took AP history with him and whatever else we could fit in to our already packed schedule. He was a military guy and spent two weeks each year at a foreign location doing riot training and the likes. He was in the CIA for a while and could scare anyone with one eye!

Coach had a son that when mentioned could light his face up like a lighthouse on a dark stormy night. His little boy had Downs' Syndrome but anyone that knew that little boy knew they had found an earth angel. He had gotten leukemia but had fought it off valiantly the year before. If you ever wanted to get out of a translation or a tough essay all you had to do was mention his child's name and Coach would melt. We heard about the legos he stepped on in the middle of the night and the funny things done the day before. One day as we filed in Coach remained seated at his desk. He was tired and didn't have his spunk. He told us with tears in his eyes that he had spent the night at the hospital holding his son's hand as they gave him his first dose of chemo. He was only five years old. His little boy fought so hard. We all prayed so hard and our class held each other as we sat, excused from school, in that church staring at the tiny white casket. We watched our stoic teacher cry and help his wife into the car. We drove to their farm 15 miles out of town and hugged Coach as they buried his son.

Three years ago the "C" word came back up again. My dad had been having problems and went to what was supposed to be a routine doctor's appointment only to find himself with scans and MRI's. He had a cancerous mass thankfully caught early with a very high survival rate. We worried and prayed as he had surgery and then radiation. It changed my dad. He survived but not without the scars of fear. He won't tell anyone when he has a doctor's appointment but we can all tell. He gets kind of crazy and starts doing things that don't make sense. He worries about silly things. I guess I would too.

We have all been touched in some way by cancer. I think of Topcat as I write this. She and her husband should be enjoying the happiest time in their lives but are instead riddled with fear and what-ifs. I don't think any of us can say that we have escaped cancer's grip on a family member or a friend or even ourselves.

Last night I attended my third Relay for Life celebration. My dad takes pride in being a survivor. I am proud of him too. We go and walk hour by hour keeping vigilant through the night in the hopes that more miracles can occur and more people can survive. We light luminaries for those battles lost and won. We hug each other a bit tighter as they call out names of those not with us and those that have joined us stronger some still wearing caps to cover their hairless heads.

I love this night. We have teams and we raise money all year long. There are awards for various things throughout the night. We have a huge beautiful fireworks display just before midnight and then the funny games begin. Usually we stay all night. This time hubby who came for the first time had to work early so we left just after the fireworks. It didn't take away from the night though. I know that this week I will hug my dad one more time and I will think more often of the ones lost. This has become such a wonderful tradition in our community and we truly celebrate it with more enthusiasm than July the 4th which is quickly approaching. Our fireworks are twice as big and our music is twice as loud.

I hope that you can remember this week along with us. I pray for each and every family that has to hear those words "It's cancer." I pray that we all find strength and that we can love each other and work harder to find hope to light up a dark scary reality.

As I type this my dad is visiting a friend that he worked with for years. They have found lung cancer and despite the statistics my dad has urged him to fight. He has promised a hunting trip in a year and I watched tears fill his eyes last night at the thought of losing his friend. They have caught it a bit early and maybe just maybe he can make it through. I pray for him and for all those fighting right now. I pray they find the strength and if they can't I pray that God can give them a little of mine.

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