A personal story – “Racing for More Than a Cure”
"And I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them." Ezekiel 3:15
"Dad, then why don't we just send the money? That way, we don't have to run," my 8-year-old son asked on our way home after the Race for the Cure(R) on May 7, 2005 in Boise, Idaho.
"Son, when we care, we give what we have earned. When we love, we offer that and ourselves. We run, walk or cry with those we love, when they hurt. Our presence and participation in the Race is the beginning of the healing process for many. Those who are grieving the life of a loved one that has been claimed by cancer know there is someone racing with them."
Later in the day I wondered, "How could I be so deep responding to a third grade student's simple question?" Maybe it was the rain. We braved the rainy morning and ran/walked with about ten thousand people.
Last year was my first time to participate in the Race. I was astonished when I saw people I have known for years and learned that they were survivors. Some dear friends were there for a loved one who was undergoing treatment. Some ran in memory of those who had died. It was then that I learned men also suffer from breast cancer. After the unexpected awakening, I promised myself to be back, and next time with a team.
My team's name this year was Blessed Beyond. One member was a survivor of another form of cancer. My whole family, less my daughter in college in another state, was part of the team. If you have never participated in a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure(R), my writing will do you no good. There are life experiences that are better pondered in a participant's heart. Imagine seeing a woman running and you read the back of her tank top (the message couldn't fit on a placard) – “In memory of my Mom. I miss you. I have survived. I do survive. I will survive.”
How do you stay strong when you see a man in his forties running in memory of his mother, aunt and surviving sisters? You see a grandma, with a placard that says "In memory of my daughter" holding her three or four-year-old granddaughter whose placard reads "In memory of my Mom." On the grandmother's back there is another line, "Thank God I have survived."
There is one particular image I am unable to force out of my mind. It's of a gray-haired man who was running -- if you can classify limping here and there as running. He seemed to be in great pain. He was there for many women, relatives, friends and colleagues. Some had died from cancer and others were either surviving or undergoing chemo. Cancer, the disease that knows no tribal, racial or religious boundaries, has strangely grouped us into those who have suffered from it and those that have not yet. Those in the not-yet category know a relative or friend in the first group. We are literally fighting a common enemy - an enemy that is attacking mothers, daughters, fathers, neighbors and teachers. As a child of a uterine cancer survivor, I know what it’s like to be called by your mother to prepare you on how to take care of your sibling should the enemy have the last word. That moment, when doctors tell you the days your mother may have left, your own days lose their meaning. A part of you dies from a cancer affecting someone else. That's the moment when you could race all night long.
In the race of our loved ones’ lives, the little we can offer is racing with them and for them. We race with the hope that soon we will see fewer pink T-shirts (the color worn by survivors), and if possible, a lesser number of placards with the inscription, "In Memory of."
In Galatians 6:9, we read, "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Next year, by the grace of God, you can count on the Blessed Beyond Team.
Sandra M. Mitchell