If you know me, you know that beyond my faith and family, there are two causes close to my heart: amateur radio and cancer research and prevention. Now, it is time for the latter to once again move to the forefront of my efforts as fundraising for the 2018 Relay For Life of Baldwin County begins.
To say that this past weekend was involved would be an understatement. Really, it was the entire week. It started, for me at least, on Tuesday with the Relay for Life Survivor Dinner. Wednesday, I started the Survive and Thrive program at Georgia College. Then on Friday, things really got crazy.
The day started with the Georgia College Celebration of Excellence. I hadn’t been on campus much since having to give up my job, so it was great to be able to see old friends and coworkers. But the highlight of the ceremony was getting to see my wife receive the inaugural Eve Puckett Community Service Award. Nikki worked hard to earn that honor, and it was well deserved. She’s worked with student groups, Relay for Life as a team captain, event leadership, and finally event lead, not to mention her tireless devotion to her students. But, that was just the beginning of the day.
Friday night was Relay. As soon as she smiled for the pictures following the award, Nikki had headed straight to the event site. She worked all day setting things up and making sure things went perfectly. She worked her heart out for it, and it was perfect. It was an amazing night, and she did wonderfully. It was well into Saturday morning when everything wrapped up and we made it home, but mixed with the exhaustion was a great sense of satisfaction. WordPress isn’t letting me upload photos for some reason, but I have all them posted in a Facebook album.
I am incredibly proud of Nikki. In the past year, she’s become a supervisor at work, was selected as the Relay event lead, received the award, and has been a great caretaker. She has accomplished a lot, and I look forward to what the upcoming year will bring.
Well, this post is way overdue, but I guess late is better than never. Relay for Life of Baldwin County was a great success. We raised money, laughed, and cried. We remembered the ones lost, and cheered the ones still fighting. And, in the understatement of the year, memories were made.
Both Nikki and I gave speeches. I was the honorary survivor chair, so I played a role in opening the ceremony. As my caretaker, Nikki gave her speech during the luminaria ceremony. It was a very emotional evening, and I cried so many times I lost count. The first was when I saw that the GC Department of Psychological Science had purchased a torch in our honor. In all, my friends contributed over $450 through me. My team raised nearly $3,300 and the entire event raised over $68,250.
But, my personal highlight was walking around the survivor lap and getting high fives from the entire Milledgeville office of Georgia Cancer Specialist, including my oncologist. That, and being able to visit with them later in the evening, without needing lab draws, was really special.
Here are some of my favorite pictures from the evening. Below that, you’ll find the text of our speeches.
Thank you to my Donors:
- David and Deanne Frey
- Joel Graham
- Lauren Harris
- Lyndsey Hood
- Justin Mays
- Daniel and Faith Moore
- Lindsay Prestwood
- Justin Reeves
- Donna Simpson
- Quincy Simpson
- Kay Wallace
One humid afternoon in 2009, my father asked me to grab my camera and take some pictures of an event he had been working on. I knew it was some sort of fundraiser, but that was about it. But I went, took the pictures, and helped out where I could.
Fast forward a few years, and I got same request. Only this time it was from my wife, and I actually knew a little bit more about its purpose. Over the years, I had seen more and more people affected by this nightmare.
My childhood babysitter.
Friends from church.
Members of my extended family.
My mother in law.
On January 15th of this year, it became exceedingly personal for me when my doctor walked into the room and told me I had a condition called myelodysplastic syndrome… it’s cancer. He went on to tell me the treatment options, some facts about MDS, and a lot more information, but the rest of the conversation is a blur.
We went to leave the hospital and head home when my phone beeped. I don’t remember if we had even told anyone at this point. But the text that was showing on my screen read,
“Fear thou not; for I am with the. Be not dismayed; for I AM THY GOD. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee.”
That was just the first of many messages I received over the next few days and weeks. People I had not heard from in years contacted me to lend their emotional support. Then it hit the next level. People I’d never met before would walk up to me in the parking lot and tell me they’d been praying for me. People started sending meals for when the day had been too long to feel like cooking. In short, I was reminded time and again that I am not in this alone. I, my wife, my family, and my friends have all been pulled closer through this. And I’ve made quite a new friends along the way.
Tonight, we have a celebration of big and small victories. We thank our caregivers. And we remember those who we have lost. But, most importantly to me, we survivors get to be reminded in a monumental way that we are not in this alone.
Hate is not a word I like to often use, but I can say wholeheartedly that I hate cancer. Cancer has been a word I have frequently heard. We have lost family members to cancer. My mom is a two time survivor. Even now years after her she won her fight, the cancer affects her body.
I hate cancer.
Due to her diligence in screenings I had a mole checked and removed as a teenage that was caught early but was in precancerous stages. Before marriage, Daniel and I talked about the possibility that cancer would one day visit our home, but we assumed I would be the patient. His family didn’t have as strong a history of cancer so it never really crossed our minds that on the day we said I Do to vows that included “in sickness and in health” that within two years Daniel would be battling cancer.
I hate cancer.
When we started this journey in January, we had no idea how much our daily lives would be affected. Days that Daniel is wore out, weeks where his schedule includes shots and lab tests and transfusions. Simple things like the trash bin reminds me of how cancer has affected us. Daniel always took the bin to the curb. It was a chore he didn’t want me to have to deal with. But on days that his blood levels are off he doesn’t always have the strength or balance to push the bin to the curb or bring it back. Something so simple that cancer has changed.
I hate cancer.
Through it all though God has reminded us of love. Our family and friends, even strangers have reminded us of love. We have been blessed with a wonderful support network. Those who have cooked meals, offered to accompany Daniel to treatments so I can work, or grocery shop for us when he was hospitalized. Those who text, call, or email to check in and just listen. Most importantly He has put a lot of prayer warriors in our lives. Strangers will stop Daniel and say “I know who you are and what you are going through and I’m praying”. We have felt so much love and support.
When we look around at all the people who have supported Relay for Life, we feel love. We want to say thank you to those who made donations to support the programs American Cancer Society provides. Thank you to those who volunteered your time. Thank you to everyone for showing love and support to those fighting cancer, those who survived it, and those who lost loved ones to it. It is beyond encouraging and we are grateful to each of you.
As we look at the luminarias my prayer is that each person and family represented will have the opportunity to be reminded of love. John 14:18 says “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” I am thankful for how we have been blessed in our journey so far. And though the road ahead is unsure, Daniel and I take comfort in Proverbs 3: verses 5 and 6 “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths”.
So while the thought of cancer may fill me with hate, it has also opened the windows and allowed a level of love in our life that we could have never expected. The love of God, the love of our family, and the love of our neighbors, friends, and even strangers have all been made more and more known to us. And that’s what keeps us going through the difficult times.
Tonight, as honorary chair of the Baldwin County Relay for Life, one of the things I have to do is give a speech. I imagine I’ll end up going off script (this is scheduled to post right around the time I deliver it), but here is what I have prepared.