I’ve been the daughter of a cancer survivor for over half my life. My dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer on November 20th, 2003. They say you never forget the diagnosis date, but there’s another date I’ll never forget. April 4th, 2013, my first Relay For Life. That day changed what it meant to me to be the daughter of a cancer survivor. This is why I relay.
Relay For Life, or just Relay, is the flagship fundraiser of the American Cancer Society, the ACS. Schools and communities across the nation and the world gather to walk the track all night, raise money for research, cancer patient resources, and education, and come together to celebrate how far we’ve come. This year’s PhilaU event is this Friday at 6pm in Gallagher, and Her Campus is working hard to be one of the top-raising teams.
When I started volunteering with ACS, I was quieter about my family’s experiences with the disease, which is a stark contrast to the way I talk about it today. I am completely unafraid of the word ‘cancer.’ I’ve come to see how important that is, because the stigma of cancer used to keep people from telling their loved ones and they used to suffer alone. Relay is about never fighting alone.
My freshman year we needed a speaker for our Fight Back Ceremony, and I offered to ask my dad. I just thought he’d do a good job. I didn’t think it would be a life-changing experience. When he got up in front of hundreds of my peers and told them about his battle, I couldn’t run from it anymore – It was out there. What I found was an outpouring of support, both from my friends and from total strangers.
Relay pushed me to confront that time in my family’s life, and all the pain, fear, and grief that came with it. At the same time, I felt all of the joy and relief, and how grateful I was for every day my dad is in my life. When I actually let myself be honest about it all, I realized there was nothing to be afraid of because I was never alone. That’s why I am completely unafraid of the word ‘cancer,’ that’s why I continue to fight even though my Dad’s been in remission for years, and that is why I relay.
To me, Relay is about making the burden lighter by carrying it together. It’s about speaking up and sharing our common experiences. At the Luminaria ceremony we light up the track with that solidarity, and it’s a beautiful thing. I hope you join Her Campus at Relay this Friday, you might just find your own reason to Relay.
For more information about the PhilaU Relay For Life, and to donate to the Her Campus team, visit our fundraising page.