So today is the day of the Relay For Life event back home in Blytheville, AR (funny how I call Blytheville home when I’m here at my home and I call Decatur home when I’m visiting Blytheville). My mom has a team and has rounded up some rowdy teenagers to help her raise money (before and during the event). Of course my mom would love for my husband and I to make a trip home and participate with them, but we just can’t do that this time. I do, however, participate in one of our local Relay for Life events myself. It occurred to me that people don’t really know why we participate in Relay for Life every year and that maybe I would tell y’all. You’ll be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t been touched by cancer in one way or another and we are no different.
2004 was a big year for my family, full of adjustments and hard decisions. I graduated high school, moved off to college (six hours away from the family) and my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It was sort of surreal. Even though my grandfather had cancer years prior cancer still felt pretty distant to me, like maybe it doesn’t happen to your family, your immediate family anyway. I remember being scared for me, my siblings and my dad. We didn’t know what was going to happen and truthfully I wasn’t near exposed to it at the level my family at home was. I remember crying on the front porch to my two best friends. I remember not knowing if I should stay home or continue to live six hours away. I remember random things like when I went home for Thanksgiving break we took Thanksgiving dinner to the hospital mom was staying in to have the traditional dinner with her. I also remember not wanting to talk about it.
My mom was diagnosed with Melanoma and because it’s “just skin cancer” people don’t really understand what my mom went through. Truth is it’s not “just skin cancer.” It’s not the quick and easy outpatient procedure where you get a spot removed from your face or chest and all is right with the world. It’s the kind where they remove 27 lymph nodes from your leg alone and have to do a skin graft to cover the scars from all the surgery. It’s the kind of cancer where the doctors tell you the odds are not in your mothers favor. It’s the kind of cancer where even after being successfully treated, the survival rate after five years declines to a minimum, more odds not in her favor. Mom spent 4 months in the hospital and completed 18 months of chemotherapy. Chemo was a long road. It caused blisters in her mouth and her hair to thin out significantly. She couldn’t keep food down and eventually dad was able to administer her chemo at night so she could sleep through some of the side effects. More than five years after successful treatment she is still doing well and has a yearly check up with her dermatologist and oncologist to be safe. Every time one of us kids has the tiniest mole or blemish on our skin, we get it checked out. If we even think about stepping outside we lather up in sunscreen. Needless to say, no more tanning beds… Ever!
All of this to tell you why my family Relays-its personal. My mother is so committed to helping, any way she can, to make progress in finding a cure. If you feel so moved to donate to my mothers team here is the link: Jen’s Purple Dragons. The very least I can do for my mother is help her raise funds for a cause she is passionate about. Will you help me share her story?