Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Relay for Life...

About six weeks ago my wonderful father in-law was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer. It's inoperable because it has grown into his chest cavity so he is about to start six intensive weeks of chemotherapy and radiation combined. We feel pretty helpless and aside from visiting the oncologist with him and my mother in-law, there's not much we can do. 

My friend in Maine posted on her Facebook page that she was doing a Relay for Life in Windham, Maine and I thought, "I can't do anything to help ABG1, but I can walk to raise money for cancer research!" So I jumped onto my friend's team - the Windham Police Association team. (My friend's husband is an officer with Windham PD) and raised $235 in about ten days. Yay!

I ran my 5K the week before the Relay (more on that in another post) and was wiped out all week. It was more than the run... It was a busy busy weekend with friends and travel etc. So after the race I didn't exercise all week. 

We arrived at the Relay in the late afternoon and I had been warned that this would be a "life altering experience" but I hadn't put much thought into that part of things. After a rather long opening ceremony (during which I felt bad for one of the women we were walking in support of as she had had a chemo treatment the day before and standing for an hour in the sun was too much!) they did one lap with all of the survivors and caretakers. That was intense. In that procession were cancer patients from ~18 to ~80 - one young girl on a walker with a port in her arm and one very elderly gentleman in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank - and their loved ones. Too many in all!

Then the walk began. The idea is that someone from your team is on the track walking at all times during the 12 hour overnight walk. Our team was small but mighty! We had about nine on the team but only four committed to walking through the night. 

After dark, the hundreds of personalized luminaries were lit and the stadium lights were turned off. Then the team captains spent the next ~1.5 hours reading the names of those that we were walking in honor or memory of... That was also really intense!

I had made luminaries for everyone I love who has been affected by cancer - my mom, my dad, three of my four grandparents, my brother, my sister, two of my uncles, two of my aunts, and, of course, my father in-law. Finding the luminaries as we walked around was touching and after a while I had to stop reading all of the bags of all of the different people - again... Too many!

We had thought that our team captain had dropped the ball on getting our list in but (because we were the very last team in the alphabet), the very last two names read were my father in-law's name and my friend's father in-law's name. It took my breath away and my friend (whose beloved father in-law passed away a few years ago) melted down. It was incredibly emotional. But we kept walking. 

We walked all but about an hour of the whole walk. We took a few short breaks (it was too damp and chilly to sit for long) but for the most part, kept moving. We also had to take a short break when we got "arrested" and had to beg for money for "bail". Thankfully we had a friend visiting who bailed us out! Around 10pm, the same friend who had stopped by earlier in the afternoon with her kids came back to walk with us and that was such an encouragement! She spent the whole night walking with us!

The organizers have a brilliant way to track your mileage. You get a string and every time you complete a lap, you add a bead to it. 

By the end of the night, we had collected 68 beads! And when you are walking on a quarter mile track, that adds up to 17 miles!

By quitting time at 5am, my hips were tight, my calves were locking up, and I had a huge blister on my toe (which thankfully I didn't know about until I took my shoes off at the end)... But I could have kept going. Sunrise does that for me. 

In the end, it was a long night that was filled with many tears, lots of laughs, deepening of old friendships, and a truly life altering experience... Just as I had been warned!