On Relay for Life at Kenyon
When I was 7, my mom’s best friend from college was diagnosed with lung cancer. My mom’s seldom-closed bedroom door was shut, and I lingered outside, listening to her talk on the phone. It was the first time I remember ever hearing my mom cry. Over the next three years, my mom, who hates planes, took frequent flights across the country from our home in California to visit her friend in Maryland. When she returned, she would show me photos of hospital beds, sheared hair and surgical scars. It was my first insight into cancer, a word which had held little meaning in my life prior to this diagnosis.
As I got older, cancer became a constant. I was lucky in that it was always one step removed from my life: it was a classmate’s uncle, a grandparent’s friend, a character in a novel or a passing cause of death in a biography. Nonetheless, cancer felt like an omnipresent force, threatening to strike at random, marring unexpected lives.
Despite the fear surrounding cancer, in the past few years, it seems as though much of the cancer rhetoric has shifted toward that of hope, of fighting back and of taking control over a disease that has taken so much from so many. This was the atmosphere I found to be most prevalent in the KAC earlier this month during Kenyon’s annual Relay for Life event. Although I was worried that a 12-hour event dedicated to cancer would end up being just too dismal, the day’s positivity worked to keep things mostly light, allowing for an occasion that celebrated life and hope.
Relay for Life is an event put on by communities worldwide (including colleges and universities) to raise money for the American Cancer Society, an organization that, among other things, provides support to cancer patients and sponsors cancer research. People fundraise in teams, and at Kenyon, students typically form teams based on the campus organizations of which they are members. Fundraising occurs primarily by means of the internet during the months leading up to the event: students reach out to family and friends asking for donations. The event itself takes place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the KAC’s indoor track and features ceremonies, games, activities, music and more. Many teams set up booths to raise money — this year, for example, I participated in Relay with the equestrian club’s team, and we ran a sugar cookie decorating booth.
The day was packed with fundraising events and activities — there was a bubble soccer tournament, an opportunity to pie Denison University students in the face, and the constant worry that the swim team would put you in jail (their fundraising booth involved paying a dollar to have someone put in “jail;” it cost another dollar to get out). The whole thing was much more fun than I expected — the music was upbeat, the activities were entertaining, and even the speeches and performances were uplifting and hopeful. A member of the equestrian team gave a speech during the Fight Back ceremony; she spoke about her dad’s battle with cancer and how his remission was made possible by research funded by events like Relay for Life. Her speech was lovely and optimistic, and it was especially nice that so many members of the equestrian team were able to be there to support her.
Some members of the equestrian team at our Relay for Life cookie decorating booth.
Overall, the equestrian team ended up raising almost $2,500 for Relay for Life, and the entire Kenyon community raised over $36,000 — money that will go to the American Cancer Society to improve lives for cancer patients as important research is being done to try to eradicate this disease.
My mom lost her best friend to cancer when I was in fourth grade. I still remember the phone ringing that morning, a few minutes before I was about to head out the door to school. I’d never experienced anything quite as heartbreaking as seeing my mom that sad. Now, as I write this, I’m sitting in a study lounge with three of the best friends I’ve made at Kenyon. It’s a warm Sunday evening, and we’re listening to country music while we do homework. I think of all the memories we’ve made together over the past two years and how many more we’ll make in the future. I can’t even imagine getting a phone call from one of them in 25 years like the phone call my mom got from her college best friend. I think about that, and it makes me realize the importance of events like Relay for Life — the importance of supporting cancer patients and the importance of raising money to fund cancer research, with the hope that one day, we won’t have to.
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