“If you are a cancer survivor, light your glo-stick.” A few lights sparked around us. “If you have a parent that has had cancer, light your glo-stick.” More lights crackled on around us as the stillness of an impending Midwestern thunder storm pressed down. “If you have a child with cancer, light your glo-stick.” My heart caught in my chest and I said a silent prayer, thankful that my glo-stick remained unlit. And on it went until the bleachers around us were lit up with red, yellow and green glo-sticks like so many fireflies in the deepening dark. As we stood to begin the luminary lap, Gym Buddy Megan leaned over and whispered, “They never said ‘If you have a brother with cancer…’ ” It was then I noticed the tears that glittered on her cheek.
If our parents are our past and our children are our future, then our siblings are our present. They are the only ones who’ve been with us since the day we’re born and experienced our lives in real time with us. Megan’s brother Kevin – 32-year-old husband and father of two – should not have cancer, but he does. As we walked quietly past all the lit bags, each inscribed with a loved one’s name, the announcer intoned, “This is why we walk, for the hope that someday no one will ever have to hear the words ‘You have cancer.'” Hope is powerful medicine.
Friday night found Gym Buddies Megan, Allison, Sara, Rosana and I participating in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. As you may remember from a month ago, we were participating in honor of Megan’s brother Kevin who is currently battling rectal cancer and Gym Buddy Jess who is 6 months cancer-free after being treated last year for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
When we got there, we – and by “we” I mean “them” – set up some tents (the buffet tent being the most critical, obviously!) and donned our tutus becoming the fabulously alliterative Team Tutu Turbokickers.
We started out the evening fresh-faced and fancy-free, giggling at inappropriate things (what happens at Relay stays at Relay!) and getting our butts smacked by Megan every time she lapped us on the track.
The first few laps were so easy, it was like flying – literally, if you’re Allison!
We broke up the monotony by showing off our sweet dance moves. Here Allison just finished doing her “ghetto walk” and Megan is demonstrating her cowboy jig. The best part was they were both talking in the worst Irish accents ever.
Then we met up with Jess and her family by the Survivor’s Tent where we took a dance break to first do The Potty Dance with 3-year-old Jack and then corrupt the preschooler by teaching him the “Roll, pump and slap” move from Turbokick. (If you are curious, you can check out the video I took!)
Jess’ two boys kinda broke my heart with their sweetly scribbled “Mom” luminary.
This may be my favorite picture of Megan ever!
Then the DJ played “Y.M.C.A” and of course we had to do the dance. Megan’s got the M, Al’s got the Y and Jess has… dyslexia? What is that letter, girl??
Megan made 3 luminaries for family members – Kevin’s was particularly funny since he has rectal cancer. (Get it??)
As the night went on, Allison and I decided to stick to just walking the track (stopping every couple of laps for more of Allison’s fabulous veggies and dip) but Megan pressed on. Her goal was to do at least 10 miles in honor of her brother but as lightning lit up the horizon and the humidity rising faster than my hair can curl, she wasn’t sure if she would make it.
The rain finally hit around 11 p.m. This is when Al and I – wusses that we are – decided to check out and go home. Megan stayed to run in the rain with Sara and Rosana. The beads on their necklaces show how many miles they’ve done. By this point, Megan was at 12, Allison was at 7 and I was at 6. They ended up ending the Relay early because of the electrical storm at 2 a.m.
The next morning it’s tradition to hit Turbo Jennie’s TurboKick class wearing our Relay For Life t-shirts. (Turbo Jennie: “Charlotte, when did you find time to doctor up your shirt between last night and this morning? Were you running the track with scissors??” Of course not! I’m a mother, I would never run with scissors! I was walking the track with scissors. Kidding – I cut it up at home. Also, note that we are all wearing fresh tutus. I love us.) This pic was snapped after we did like 5 straight finales so forgive the sweaty Turbo hair!
This is what exercise is really about. It’s about bringing people together. It’s about helping people live so they can be with those they love. Whether you’re walking to raise money for cancer research like we did or hitting the weights to keep your heart strong so you can watch your grand kids graduate from college, this is why we workout. (And also for the divine trail mix Megan made. Really you should have tried it – best combo of salty and sweet ever.)
Why do you exercise? Have you ever participated in a fundraiser like this? This was my first time actually being on the team and I gotta say it was a riot! HUGE HUGE thank you to all of you who donated to the ACS on behalf of our team. Each of you – whether you supported us monetarily or just with prayers or good vibes – are angels and we felt you with us that night.