Posted by: healingseeker | June 20, 2010

I attended the Greene County, TN Relay for Life on June 18th

Relay for Life Title Page

20 June 2010

On Friday, June 18th, I attended the all-night Greene County, TN Relay for Life sponsored by the American Cancer Society. It started at 4:30 pm where cancer survivors could pick up their free Relay for Life t-shirts at the pre-registration tent. This was an all-night event since cancer never sleeps. It was 92 degrees when I got there. Phew! The event would end at 7 am the next morning. I got there at 4:10 to make certain I got a good parking place and left a little before 11:30 pm.

At 5 pm, the entertainment began of a musician singing and playing his guitar. At 6 pm, the Opening Ceremonies began. This included the National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, and a guest speaker.

The event was held at the Greeneville Middle School track. Concession tents and other kinds of tents were set up on the grassy area around the inside part of the track. They had games, some crafts for sale, displays pertinent to cancer, and food and drinks galore. In the middle of the field was a huge tent filled with chairs and tables where anybody could go to get some relief from the hot sun.

I met a woman with her two young sons. She had breast cancer as well. The cancer I have started with a dimple on the breast. The cancer she had began with a bloody nipple discharge. She had stopped breast feeding a few months before and assumed it was some kind of complication from that. Instead, it turned out to be breast cancer. Her youngest was 18 months old when she received her diagnosis. Sadly, after her Mastectomy, she was not able to pick up her son for quite some time.

At 6:45 pm, all the Cancer Survivors gathered to line up on the track. In front of the group were people wearing different colored sashes to represent the many different types of cancer being treated in Greeneville, Tennessee.  Next, those of us who have known about our diagnosis for less than a year gathered. In my case, I have known about my diagnosis for six months. Behind us were the Cancer Survivors of 1 to 4 years. Behind them were the Cancer Survivors of 5 to 9 years. Behind them were the Cancer Survivors of 10 to 14 years. Behind them were the Cancer Survivors of 15 to 19 years. Bringing up the rear were the Cancer Survivors of twenty plus years. At 7:00 pm, all others lined the inside of the track. Everyone got absolutely silent. They began with the newbies like me. We turned around to face the 1 to 4 year Survivor group to see where we will be before long. Then the 1 to 4 year group turned to face the 5 to 9 year group to see where they will soon be. Each group turned to face the group behind until we were all facing the 20 plus year Survivor group in acknowledgment that we will someday be able to stand where they are standing. Then we all began walking one time around the track. All the Caregivers and supporters who lined the inside of the track clapped as we walked. It was extremely touching and emotional.

Check out the two pictures above. I am the one wearing pink pants, a pink long-sleeved gauze shirt with the purple Relay for Life t-shirt over it, a hot pink scarf, and a silver purse. I am waving in the first picture. A Greeneville Sun photographer took these pictures. We were about halfway through our walk at this point. By the way, my husband Randy attended this middle school many years ago. He said the track was not even close to being this nice back when he was there.

At 7:15, all the Caregivers of people with cancer or of people who had already passed from cancer lined up on the track. They walked one lap around the track as the rest of us lined the inside of the track and clapped.

At 7:30, they had all the Cancer Survivors gather in the large tent in the center of the field to get a cupcake and a plastic champagne flute filled with either Sparkling Grape Juice or Diet Sprite. They had a celebratory toast in honor of those of us who are still alive and fighting the cancer battle. I sat with several people from my cancer support group plus some new acquaintances.

I could not taste the cupcake; therefore, I only had a couple of nibbles of that. This time around, my chemo side effects are limited to minimal appetite and taste buds being dulled for most foods; otherwise, I am really blessed as I have absolutely no pain of any kind. The only things I can fully taste are lemonade, fresh fruit, vanilla milkshakes, and ice cream. Most other foods taste like nothing. With only one more round of chemo to go, I should be able to get back to fully tasting my food in just a few more weeks.

In between every big event, there was always a singer or musician featured. Periodically, they also had guest speakers who had their own cancer survivor success stories to tell or were physicians dealing treating people with cancer and/or other type diseases.

The next big event was the lighting of the Luminarias at 9:45. For $5, people were able to purchase white paper bags known as a Luminaria to decorate as they wished either in memory of someone they cared about who had lost his or her battle with cancer or in honor of someone currently fighting the good fight. Some of the decorations on these bags were very elaborate. I waited until that night to buy one. I dedicated mine to the people in my cancer support group. They placed a slab of wood with a votive candle inside each bag. These bags lined the inside and outside of the track. They also had Luminarias on one hillside spelling out the word CURE.

At 10 pm, everybody gathered on the track in silence and reverence. As a man wearing a Scottish kilt played his bagpipe, we all walked one lap around the track in honor of everyone past and present dealing with any kind of cancer. It was very touching and meaningful as well.

At 10:30, they had the Fight Back Ceremony. Prior to the event, they had already raised $160,000 to donate to the American Cancer Society. They hoped to raise an additional $10,000 that very night. I never did hear how much more they raised. One elementary school, who lost one of their members to cancer, raised over $19,000 for this event. This ceremony was intended to urge people to start early for their fund-raising events for next year.

Their late-night and wee hours of the morning events included things like a Dude looks like a Lady Contest, a Parade of Teams (i.e., the Teams were churches and various other groups who worked together to raise funds for the American Cancer Society), a purple lap and chicken dance, a cracker whistle, potato golf, chimp race, swimmers lap, pass the pretzel, relay ribbon race, egg toss, name that tune, various other forms of entertainment, and ending with clean-up at 7 am. I left before all these events took place. I wanted to make certain I drove home wide awake and safe. Plus, I couldn’t wait to peel off my clothes and take a cool shower before lying down on clean sheets. My husband Randy was so relieved that I decided not to remain all night after all as he feared me falling asleep on the road.

I made a 2-minute video of the more touching parts of the event that should be posted on Associated in a few days. I’ll include the link when that happens.

Relay for Life 2-minute Video

On June 17th, I visited my dentist to get my temporary crown to cover the tooth that had the root canal. Since they had to do drilling, I gladly agreed to have gas administered. This dentist actually numbed the area first with a cotton swab. She also started administering the gas before she gave me the two Novocain shots. As a result, the pain was not that bad for the shots. As for the drilling, I was flying so high with the gas that I never felt even a twinge of pain or discomfort. At the end of the procedure, they administered oxygen rather than gas to get me once again feeling alert and awake. Part of me would have loved to stay flying high with the gas. As for pain later on, there was only a little tenderness that first day once the numbness wore off. Taking three Aleve was sufficient to take care of that.

On June 15th, I gave my second storytelling performance since my diagnosis. I did two shows at a local library. My audience consisted of daycare and preschool kids for the first show and parents and children age 3 to about 10 for the second show. I did a lot of audience-participation stories. I wore my wig. I figured that nobody noticed as kids, who rarely know tact, would surely have said something otherwise.  I have another show tomorrow morning at another local library. I am looking forward to that.

Other than the lack of appetite and minimized taste, I have fairly normal energy and feel pretty good. I guess my body has finally built up a tolerance to the chemo drugs. Plus, I have pain pills that I take that even out symptoms that I might otherwise feel. The power of prayer makes such a difference. Thank you so much for your prayers and support!

To all the fathers out there, Happy Father’s Day today! I hope you continue to have a wonderful day!

It thrills me that I only have one more chemo to go on July 1st. That feels like a huge landmark event. Then I’ll just have to deal with surgery, radiation, and the low-dosage chemo pill I’ll take for five years. It all feels very do-able.

Thanks again for your caring, love, prayers, and support. Have a wonderful and blessed week!

With so much love,
Healing Seeker aka Debbie

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