Sunday, September 4, 2016

The one where I get my purple shirt

This year I participated in my first Relay for Life event as a survivor.
Let me tell you a little story...

This might sound a little cliche, and borderline trite, but stay with me. When I was going through chemo, in some of the very worst moments, I would picture myself walking the Survivor's Lap at a Relay for Life event. I would see myself wearing one of the coveted purple t-shirts, walking the survivor's lap, smiling and waving at my friends and family, knowing that it was all done and I made it. This daydream was the carrot at the end of my chemo stick. My mind was made up and I was going to get me one of those damned purple t-shirts.

There was a Relay event during the summer of 2015, but I didn't feel comfortable participating because there wasn't definitive proof the chemo had worked and I couldn't be sure the cancer was gone. I couldn't bring myself to wear the purple shirt if I didn't know for certain that I was a survivor. Surviving is one thing, but being a survivor is quite another.

On June 18th, 2016 I walked my lap wearing my purple shirt. I smiled and waved like I was frickin' Miss America. I waved to my family, my friends, my doctors and nurses. I smiled at other survivors. Hell, I even smiled at strangers.

Me and  my caregiver (AKA, my husband, Ben) kicking off the survivors lap. 

Here I am, waving and grinning like a fool! (...if you look right behind me, you can see my oncologist. Pretty cool that he was right behind me. Serendipitous and lovely.)

Me and my oncology nurse, Lisa. She coached me through my treatment and is nothing short of amazing. 

Me and two Lincoln Police officers, I may have gotten a little camera happy on my first lap!

In addition to the survivor's lap, which is emotional in its own way, there is the luminary lap. This takes place after dark, with all of luminaria lit. There is total silence except for a lone bagpiper playing Amazing Grace. Yeah. It's just as much of punch to heart as you think it is. This is the time for remembering those we lost and being immeasurably grateful for those still with us. This lap is powerful in a way that I have a tough time describing. I might have actually felt all of the emotions on the spectrum - even if only for an instant, I am pretty sure I felt each and every single emotion.
Me, the hubs, and the kid. I am so lucky and grateful.

Now, I would be remiss if I didn't tout the virtues of the outstanding members of my relay for life team. These folks took time out of their lives to join me in raising funds and awareness in hopes of getting us one step closer to a world without cancer. They supported me during my treatment, and they support me's pretty amazing.


You know what the cherry on top of all of this is? This team, "The Self Checkouts", was awarded the Relay for Life Rookie Team of the Year award!! We showed up en masse, we had the best t-shirts, we walked and talked, we laughed (and cried), we participated in Jazzercise. We remembered those we lost, celebrated those who survived and each of us did our part in trying to raise awareness about doing breast self exams.

Now, there are a solid 50 more pictures I could post and at least 50,000 more words I could type here. But I'm not going to. Just know that this event was something I was looking forward to throughout the entire year of chemo, surgery, radiation, blood draws, blood transfusions, and countless doctors appointments. This was a thing I could focus on instead of worrying about whether I was going to die or live. Because that's the truth. It's a scary truth that you don't want to admit until it's all over, but there you go. I lived. I survived. I got my damned purple shirt.

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