My column is a week late.
That sentence is both humbling and a slight reflection of how much I value this little bit of space I’m given in the paper each week. My byline is no longer splashed throughout the pages. Families no longer pick up papers in anticipation of how I may have ‘told their story.’ So, when my column time rolls around… putting it simply… I value it.
Last week’s issue (the May 1 issue) was no different. It was the Wednesday following Oakdale’s 12th Annual Relay for Life (the American Cancer Society signature fundraiser) and I just knew I would have thoughts to share with our readers.
Long story short, I like most Relayers was zapped of all energy not to mention brain power by Sunday at 10 a.m. Sunday at 8 p.m. was no different. The three hours of sleep and 13.1 miles I decided to run as my ‘track time’ at 4 a.m. Sunday had caught up with me.
Our Editor Marg Jackson is super human. She manages to stay awake through the entire event. She works it as both a staff member and volunteer, then packs it all up and … Writes.
Recognizing the responsibilities and timing of my primary job here at The Leader, she graciously gave me a bye.
The words however still must be shared, because it is only once a year that we all gather, stake claim in the Oakdale High School soccer field. It is only once a year that we all gather to hug, laugh, cry, smile and everything in between because of this thing called Cancer. It is a community healing of sorts. It is a renewal of hope, a reminder of purpose and a shoulder shaking at how amazing the human spirit truly is.
Our family was absent from the 2012 RFL, but this year we returned (at the request of my children) ready to rekindle relationships, make new memories and just be present in the greatness of this community.
Relay memories are always more lengthy than the 24 hours spent at the track, but this year proved special in its own way for varying reasons.
It was indeed the first year that I was not affiliated with the event in some way shape or form other than a ‘participant.’ It was actually cool to be a spectator and take it all in with my duo as so many others have for the past 11 years.
This year we returned to the track honoring and remembering far too many we love who have had cancer. More specifically, we returned with the loving memory of my Aunt Bunny. Aunt Bunny passed from breast cancer in 2007, when I was pregnant with my youngest and my cousin’s wife (her son) was pregnant with the first grandchild. Our daughters Madison and Madelyn were born days apart in June of that year. They will each only know the stories of this amazing lady and will never know the feeling of her physical arms.
Fortunately, our beliefs help us in a way of understanding her presence in our lives even if she is not with us physically. We (the kids and I) spoke of her quite a bit that weekend. They’re older now. They ask deeper questions and … they’re beginning to understand what all this ‘Cancer business’ means.
During a talk my daughter came to realize that her cousins (three more grandchildren have been born since then) were missing a ‘memaw.’ As I watched her five-year-old face grow sad at the thought I tried to make sense of it for her.
How does one do that? How do you make sense of cancer?
In complete honesty, I didn’t. I was lost for words. I had no logical explanation for myself, let alone a child. Instead… I did what I do most and best… I spun it.
I shared with my children that sometimes we don’t have answers, but we always have lessons. The lesson of Aunt Bunny was a good one. She was an amazing mother, wife, sister and friend. She was strong, she was brave and most importantly she was happy. She was always happy, always smiling and always loving. Even during her sickest of days with a scarf where hair once sat, she managed to smile.
We learn from people like Aunt Bunny who are brave enough to warrior through the horrors of cancer. We learn what matters and often times… what doesn’t. We are reminded why loving one another is not only important, but critical.
As I share these words, my eyes well up and I hear her laughter as if she’s sitting right next to me. That is the spirit of what we do and why we do it. My hope of course remains the same as it did when I first learned of my Aunt’s cancer. My hope is that someday it will be a word, a disease spoken of in History books. It was an epidemic that millions rallied to find a cure for. It was a disease which brought communities, medical institutions and all of humanity together to solve.
Then we will share the words of the warriors, the heroes, the ones able to battle this disease which once was, with awe inspiring courage. That … is my hope.
Teresa Hammond is circulation manager for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.