By: Stephanie Griffin
Personally I enjoy helping others because it makes me feel gratitude and satisfaction seeing a smile on someone’s face. Participating in events in my community is something I take more than pride in. There is a reason why bringing communities together to help a cause like The Relay for Life does make a difference.
The Relay for Life is a 24 hour event where people in a community form teams to help raise money for cancer research. Since 2006 I have taken the time to prepare for the event each year thanks to my Mother. My Mother, Maggie, was diagnosed with stage 3 lymph node positive breast cancer in 2003. She battled a tough battle, however, her strength and courage to never give up resulted her in surviving that battle.
I learned about the Relay for Life from my Mother, who describes it as an event for a wonderful cause and a great way for our future scientists find a cure for cancer. The idea of Relay for Life began in the 80’s by Dr. Gordy Klatt who started the concept of holding a Relay for Life event on a track. People on each team would take turns walking on a track for an amount of time. For every team I have been on, I have loved walking the track in the early morning hours when I can just think to myself. I realize how important a lap around the track is, especially when I think to myself “I may be tired and I may be cold, but imagine all the people diagnosed with cancer that are battling it, lost the battle from it, or one day may have it. Doing this will help find a cure because nobody ever knows who may be diagnosed in the future, including myself.” This is why Relay for Life is all about saving lives.
Hope, change, inspiration and pride held within people who have been affected by cancer, like me.
I will never forget the night my mother told me she has cancer. I was 11 years old and my brother was 8 years old at the time. In my Mother’s terminology “cancer is like a bad cell that eats all the good cells, like in the game Pac Man, so I am going to go play Pac Man at the doctors a lot so I can win the game and make sure all my good cells don’t get eaten”. My brother understood because he had one of those plug and play Pac Man games. He went to school the next day and drew a diagram of Pac Man to his teacher at that time when he told his teacher “My Mommy is sick, she has a Pac Man eating her good cells”. His teacher knew exactly what he meant. She called my Mother. All of the kids in my brother’s class loved my Mother; they even made a life size card my Mother has in a frame today.
She waited to tell us. She waited until after my birthday. My Mother bought tickets last minute to a concert. She knows a lot of people, so she made a special arrangement. We had no idea where we were going until we got there. Walked in, my Mother was greeted by a security guard. Here I am thinking my Mom is in trouble when he said “follow me”. She looked at my brother and me and told us not to worry, everything is ok, come on, stay close to me. We go to a door, my Mother said to us there is people behind that door I want you both to meet, that is why this nice security guard met me in front. Those people were our favorite band at the time; Simple Plan.
It was the best birthday present I ever received. The fact she did this last minute prior to telling us and pulled strings to make it happen, made me realize after she told us the news she is a motivator. My Mother showed me anything is possible when you have trust and hope, believe and a dream can come true. At that time, and still today, my Mother’s dream is to keep a family happy and together.
She had her ups and downs. She had numerous surgeries and constant 911 calls to get her in the hospital. But every time, she would look at my brother and me and say “Mommy will be back, don’t let me see you cry”.
I overheard her the night she was in the bath tub washing her hair. It was a week after her first chemo treatment. She shouted to my Dad “Tom get the strainer before the pipes clog, my hair is falling out”. Most people would cry, not my Mom. She was more worried about clogging the bath drain. I came downstairs and saw my Mom’s beautiful hair with bald spots. She looked at me and said “I always wondered what I looked like bald, how about we give me a buzz cut”. I couldn’t believe she asked me to help her take the rest of her hair off. When everything was done, she looked at herself, she looked on the floor, she looked at me and said “Stephanie, let’s collect the hair and give it to your Uncle so he can get a new wig”. She was laughing. Then I looked at her head twice and saw this large scar in the back of her head. I asked her where that came from. She told me the reason for how that scar got there is why she wants to give my Uncle her hair.
There is more about my Mother’s journey through cancer. But there is one thing I know. My mother is an example of what the Relay for Life stands for. My Mother was told she may not win the battle. The following year, she led and walked that track. At another event, she got on stage, spoke and as I mentioned earlier she is filled with surprises, she sang the song “I Will Survive”. In her speech she mentioned how they told her she wasn’t going to make it. Then she mentioned how she reached into her faith, spoke to her pastor and realized that Heaven doesn’t want her and Hell is afraid she’d take over.
After she gave that speech, before she sang that song, looking at all the cancer patients smiling and laughing was exactly my Mother’s intent. Her philosophy is “Your eyes may be the windows of your soul, but your smiles tell others what your soul is thinking. A smile is priceless.”