Below are pictures and stories from two local Relay For Life (RFL) events. I have been involved with the Deerfield Relay for about 10 years, and I have served on the Committee for a majority of those years. It was such a rewarding experience. I met so many wonderful people and we raised a lot of money for programs to help cancer patients and their families, and to help fund education and research too.
Saturday afternoon , April 5th, at 4:00 p.m. the was the kickoff for the Relay For Life event for the cities of Deerfield Beach, Lighthouse Point, and Hillsboro Beach. The theme is Florida Shines for a Cure. I arrived about noon and started taking pictures as teams were setting up their booths.
I know that the entire RFL committee and teams are very thankful to all of the sponsors who helped make this event a success. This year Renee’s Bath Fitter team worked really hard and produced a RFL program as a fundraiser.
I posted the pictures I took, which includes the April 5th Deerfield Beach, Lighthouse Point, Hillsboro Beach Relay, and also the Pompano Beach Relay which was held on April 12th. During the Deerfield Relay someone took pictures for me while I was on stage talking as the survivor speaker. What an honor that was for me. The quilt that I made from Relay t-shirts several years ago and which is hanging in the Fort Lauderdale American Cancer Society office, was hung on the back of the stage for this event. When I donated the quilt, which is all hand quilted, I said that only this RFL event can hang the quilt.
Thankfully, I was able to attend and stay the entire time until about 6:30 a.m. on Sunday morning when all of the people still there walked a final lap around the track. It was really touching. It was still dark and all of the luminaria bags were still glowing with the candles that were lit about 9:00 p.m. Saturday night. The luminaria ceremony is the most emotional part of the Relay event. Bags with the names of people who have survived their battle with cancer and those who lost their life due to cancer are placed along the track and a candle is lit in each bag and it glows all night into the morning. I brought my camper van and I did rest and take some short naps, and took my pain medicine when I needed to, which permitted me to stay the entire 14 hours. Cancer doesn’t sleep so neither do we… at least in theory. There have been years in the past where I didn’t sleep either for the entire time. This year I had to take some rest periods.
I was given the honor of telling my story as a cancer survivor. Dennis, one of the Healing Spirits team members, was kind and took pictures while I was involved in the survivor portion of the opening ceremony. I saw that in some of the pictures while I was talking my eyes are closed or I am making a strange face. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s because the sun was in my eyes, or maybe I was blinking. Or perhaps I was thinking about what God wanted me to share about my experience with cancer. I have no idea. I think lots of times photos are taken while someone blinks. I bet it’s happened to you too.
Whenever I’m asked to speak anywhere, for any type of meeting or event, I never plan in advance what to say. I just pray before I speak and ask God to have me share whatever I’m supposed to in order to help others and give them whatever message God wants me to. It touches my heart after I talk when someone comes up to me and tells me that something I said inspires them, gives them hope, or touches them in some other way. I usually don’t remember much of what I share, sometimes onl and pieces. Then, later on I think I should have said… or … Then I have to remember, I asked God to let me share what I’m supposed to and if I feel I did that in my heart, then whatever message came out was what was meant to be shared. I also know it’s difficult to share lots of a person’s life story in about 5 minutes, or really any time period given to talk. Once again, at the Relay, I got to meet and get to know many new people, and see people from previous years.
JB’s on the Beach provided an exceptional dinner for the survivors and their caregivers. I think this is the 5th year in a row that they have done this for our event. We sincerely appreciate their kindness and generosity. This mouthwatering dinner consisted of delicious bar-b-que and several side dishes. JB’s is the same restaurant that provided the lunch to me and the Georgia firefighters when then came to visit me in July 2013. I also celebrated my 63rd birthday at JB’s the end of September last year. I glanced at my birthday story when I inserted this link. Until I reread the post, I forgot what I wrote on my birthday. Please make time to read it, perhaps it inspire you, let you know a little bit about me and my life, give you food for thought, and let you know how special this day was to me.
By the way, Scott Moen the General Manager is a great guy and one of the new friends I made last year. Chef Mike is an excellent chef and also a nice guy. If you want an excellent place to eat if you are in the Deerfield Beach area, please stop by JB’s on the Beach. Their bar-b-que is excellent!!! They smoke the bar-b-que in their own kitchen.
Back to my RFL story, the goal this year was to raise $118,000. Thanks to the hard work and efforts of Event Chair Nona, co-chair Karen, committee member Renee, and many more people, as of 6:15 a.m. the amount raised is $126,000. Fantastic, Extraordinary!!! And… there are still more fundraisers happening and donations being received.
On Saturday, April 12th, was the Pompano Beach Relay so my mom and I went to support this event. There were less teams than at the Deerfield Relay, however, the enthusiasm and effort the teams put into this Relay event is the same that I have seen at every RFL event I have gone to, both in Florida and also other states. Photos of this event are partway down in this photo album.
The weather on Saturday was beautiful for the Pompano Relay. The theme was Superheroes for a Cure and when we signed in as a survivor, in addition being given our survivor shirt, we received a carnation, which happens to be my favorite flower, and a plastic hand clapper to used like clapping hands.
The survivor speaker read her story which was in the form of a journal. She shared about her experience when she heard the diagnosis that she had cancer, about having to learn about various treatment options and having surgery. She shared about her continued fears related to cancer. As she spoke, I thought back to when I was first diagnosed with cancer. I was 21 years old, I was to be married in four months. Before the doctor told me, he told my parents. I was walking out of the exam room towards his office when I heard my parents tell the doctor to tell me the results, that I could handle it. When the doctor told me I had cancer, I remember feeling like a building fell on me. It was like a scene in a movie when buildings were demolished and they just collapsed. I felt as if all of the bricks fell on me and I was buried under the rubble for a short time.
Since my first diagnosis in 1972, I have had a significant number of procedures, biopsies, and operations as a result of cancer. But, I don’t remember having fear during any of them, maybe I did early on and I just don’t remember that I had fear, it was a long time ago. I know in the past 26 or years I don’t live with fear. I choose to live with faith, hope, and gratitude in all aspects of my life. Every time I went for a checkup and during the times the doctor would say he needed to do a biopsy, I would just say “okay God, the results are up to you.” Frequently, the results were not cancer, but I would still have to have procedures to remove rectal polyps, they can turn malignant, eventually mine did and because I was checked often I had surgery and didn’t need other treatment. I’m not saying I liked having surgery, or I was happy about the possible or actual return of cancer. I just knew that there was nothing I could do about it except to get the results and make a decision about what to do based on the results, the doctors recommendations, and what I felt was the best option for me. I know when I had my first operation in 1972 to remove all but a foot and a half of my large intestine, I was told my cancer would return and I would have to be watched closely to detect it early when it did. I was checked frequently over what turned out to be 20 years before my cancer returned in the remainder of my large intestine and rectum and in 1992 these body parts had to be removed and I was given a permanent Illeostomy. In 2010, I had four more operations, my body was surgically altered again and more organs were removed. It was not fun, and it changed my life once again. It helped me to make different decisions on what is important to me, and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I’ve written about this several times in my posts during the past few years.
Anyway, back to the Pompano Relay story, after the opening ceremony, the Mayor and a few volunteers put a survivor sash on each of us and our caregivers. We then walked the survivor lap which was lead by two sheriff’s deputies on motorcycles. We were escorted to an area where Bobby Rubino’s Restaurant provided a delicious meal of bar-b-que and several side dishes. The Girl Scouts were our servers, they came by our tables often asking if we needed anything, and they gave each survivor a box of Girl Scout Cookies.
Silly Sue made balloon shapes for the children, the Pompano Fire Department had their Lil Squirt fire truck handy and they gave the children plastic red fire helmets, and the Sheriff had mounted patrol officers with horses which was a big hit with everyone.
The Goodyear Blimp was flying today, the Goodyear Blimp Base is close to this park. I was extremely fortunate and got to ride in the Spirit of Innovation Goodyear Blimp twice in June 2013.
Jessie Brooks is the American Cancer Society staff partner assigned to both the Deerfield and Pompano Relays and we just love working with her. You can tell how dedicated she is to this cause. Jessie works long hours and she is a great source of inspiration and encouragement to all of us involved in the Relay, and she helps in so many ways to make sure we have fun and successful events. If you want to know more about Relay For Life, or find an event in your area, you can find the information here.
When I traveled around the country in my camper, if I saw signs for RFL events, if the timing worked out, I would stop and go to the event. I frequently wear my RFL t-shirts and I’m always glad when people stop me and tell me that they are involved or participated in their local RFL event. We talk a while and share our stories of why we are involved, or how cancer has touched us or our family and friends. I have been stopped in grocery stores, at the Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, in campgrounds, and I even saw someone with a RFL t-shirt at Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park.