By Tami

I am someone who is no stranger to doctors and hospitals, having been born with ventricular septal heart defect which is a hole in the lower middle wall of the heart chambers. The hole was the size of a quarter and was surgically repaired when I was 4 ½ years old. While growing up, and to this day, I have had to take medications when I had/have a cold or need dental work done or any surgeries to help prevent any infections from going to my heart. I do need to take care of myself health wise, but this is nothing compared to what a cancer patient has to deal with in order to survive or even live just a little longer.

I may have my own challenges that life has thrown my way, but those challenges are nothing compared to the challenges that people – from the very young to the elderly – are dealt when having to fight against a disease like cancer! Many have won the battle, but so many have lost their battle, leaving their families to wonder why and could something more have been done? To see your loved one fighting for his or her life is so hard to watch, let alone wonder what fears he or she has about his or her own future! As I thought of what to write for this essay, I realized that I have known many family members who have dealt with some form of cancer.

My paternal grandparents are both cancer fighters, who have both since lost their battles at different times. Then, there is my maternal grandparents whom also dealt with cancer at separate times and both were able to fight it and win. I’ve had eight other family members/friends whom have won or lost the battle with cancer or are fighting right now for their life. There are two who devastated me, my husband and our two daughters. My father-in-law, Francis Martel, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was told there was no hope of being cured. Then, about a year later, our little 6 ½ year old cousin, Abbie was diagnosed with leukemia. For Abbie, it was going to be a long haul, but she could beat it.

Seeing Dad slowly deteriorate was so hard because you knew what the outcome was going to be. Preparing my kids for what was to come was difficult not counting the sadness in my husband’s eyes when we would visit his dad. Dad was the one who would push me to do more of my artwork, which I would make sure to draw/paint or even wood burn something for him and I knew he appreciated it. Dad died the day before the first Relay my family and I were to walk. My daughters both walked the Relay more than I did, but we did it, with my husband on the sidelines watching – he even walked some of the Relay, too. It was sad, but it also felt really good knowing that we were helping in some way for a cure. It was very hard to see the luminaries with dad’s name on them, and the announcement of his name “in memory” when we were still trying to absorb the fact that he was no longer with us as of the day before.

It has been a long road for Abbie and hard seeing her on so many medications for pain, appetite, moods, to sleep and so on. Then you also have to add the chemotherapy and transfusions that she has needed. Abbie has continued to do her best in the sport she loves which is gymnastics. Of course, she has had bad days, but she is doing well. Her hair has grown back beautiful and curly, but it was straight before chemotherapy. Abbie has six more months of treatment.

This is just a little bit of information of why I do the Relay For Life. It makes me feel good to know I am helping other people with cancer, plus to find a cure!

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