More than 1 million people in the United States are diagnosed with some form of cancer every year, according to the American Cancer Society. Almost every person in the country is affected by the disease in one way or another — whether through his or her own battle or a loved one’s. The American Cancer Society, through research and fundraising events, such as Relay for Life, are aiming for a world without cancer.
While Relay for Life is such a tremendous cause, I never felt like it was something that interested me. Walking around Rider’s indoor track in the Student Recreation Center just does not sound appealing — I didn’t get the meaning behind why that’s done. But after last month, I’ve come to gain more of an appreciation for the event.
I’ve personally known people who were cancer survivors, but I had been fortunate enough to not be affected as a result of losing someone close — until recently. On Sunday Feb. 22, 2015, I lost an aunt to cancer. She had just turned 59 this past December, and her battle with cancer lasted almost 10 years. With as long of a battle as she had against the disease, it put me at a little bit of ease to know she didn’t leave this world without a valiant fight.
But her passing left me far from unaffected. I knew my aunt had been sick for a while, but I truly did not know just how sick she was until I saw her around New Year’s. It was the first time I had seen her in what felt like a long time, as we would normally interact over Facebook since I was at Rider most of the year. So while I was starting to understand maybe I didn’t have much time left with her, I didn’t know just exactly how little time I had.
Through it all, however, I had to stay strong for my family, especially my cousins and mom. Once I got back to school, I had to find a way to be strong again. Normally I never miss class because I’m so academically focused, so I was swarming in a ton of work, including midterms. Being so overwhelmed, it felt like I had no helping hand. There were points during the day where I would just sit and wonder why my aunt had to be taken from me so unexpectedly.
At that point I could have given up and stopped caring about everything, but I know my aunt would not want me to go down that path. My aunt was a fighter and went through life always smiling and making sure her loved ones were happy, and that’s the person I am. More importantly, that’s who those who battle cancer are — fighters.
Rider’s Relay for Life is Saturday, March 28. According to its Facebook page, approximately 600 people have signed up for 63 teams and $23,000 has been raised as of March 21. I had the honor of helping out one of these teams, the 107.7 The Bronc radio station, with its annual Launch-a-Bronc fundraising promotion at a couple of the men’s and women’s basketball games this season. All members of the station participate in at least two games in the season, with all money going to the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life. This season, the station raised over $2,000.
Relay for Life honors all those battling cancer, those who defeated it and those who fought it bravely to the end. No matter the result, these fighters are all warriors for living their lives to the fullest while battling cancer. That’s why these walks are done: for remembrance, for strength, for the fighters.
Stuart Scott, the longtime ESPN anchor who lost his battle back in January, gave a memorable speech about his fight with the disease — winning him the Jim Valvano Award for Perseverance at the 2014 ESPY Awards.
“When you die, it does not mean that you lost to cancer,” Scott said in his speech. “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live. So live. Live! Fight like hell. And when you get too tired to fight, lay down and rest and let someone fight for you.”
Junior journalism major
Printed in the 03/25/15 issue.