Alex walked about 9 miles for cancer today. He and his classmates raised over $23,ooo for cancer. They hosted a spaghetti dinner for their parents as a fundraiser. They created informational brochures about different types of cancer. They made PSAs about cancer. In short, they learned a lot about a disease that is unfortunately very present in their young lives.
When I was growing up cancer was some disease that was far enough removed from my life. I remember one of my parent’s friends died of breast cancer. She didn’t live near us so I never saw her sick. My mom drove an elderly neighbor to chemo treatments but I never thought that she was sick. I just thought she was old. But our kids, my kids, seem to stare cancer in the face way too frequently.
Justin’s dad died two years ago of lung cancer. It was a fast and horrific death. The same summer my uncle died of small intestine cancer. Then this winter my dad died of multiple causes – one of them being leukemia. The word cancer has been an unwelcome guest in our house for the last few years.
When Alex was in second grade his best friend’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Tonight Gill walked with us at the Relay for Life as a survivor. As Gill fought cancer our friendship grew. Now I feel like Gill has always been a part of my life and I can’t imagine her being anything other than a survivor.
Another one of Alex’s friend’s dad was treated for cancer this year. Another neighbor and friend was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. And I can go on listing people that are not one step removed from us that are survivors or fighting a valiant fight at the moment. My point is that there are way too many people on the list.
As we walked around the track tonight as a family and looked for my dad’s luminaria, I was filled with so much emotion. Obviously I felt incredibly sad that there was a luminaria memorializing my dad. I felt proud of Alex and these other young kids and their teachers for embracing this subject. The teachers have brought this real life issue into the classroom and taught the kids life lessons that will truly shape them as they move through life. I felt devastated by the luminarias that had pictures of children or teenagers. I felt heartsick that I know several young children fighting cancer. I felt ecstatic that Gill walked the track with us. And now as I am sitting in my family room I feel angry that my kids, our kids, understand way too much about such an ugly thing.