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                                                                                                  Courtesy of Olivia Whitfield

From 6 pm March 23rd to 6 am March 24th, I walked with my sorority’s Relay for Life team. This annual event, which benefits the American Cancer Society, takes place in Matthew’s Arena and is meant to signify a cancer patient’s journey from diagnosis to fight to remission. Relay for Life may take place at different colleges or in towns across America, but it was the first time I had ever participated. I had never heard of this event until my first year at Northeastern, but I didn’t know what it was until it had already happened. My friends in Greek life told me how amazing and inspiring it was and this year I was not disappointed.

Our team began fundraising at the beginning of the semester and continued to fundraise at Relay itself. Teams organize mini events for people to participate in to fundraise. For example, Sigma Delta Tau held a Pie a Sig Delt event. Music continually blasts on speakers from the main stage where survivors and caregivers tell their stories periodically throughout the night. We played games, danced, and watched performances from on campus performance groups to stay awake. As the night went on and exhaustion set in, walking turned into dancing around the track.

                                                                                                  Courtesy of Olivia Whitfield

I think one of the reasons I hadn’t known what it was is because I’m lucky enough to say that no one in my immediate family has had cancer. Cancer affects so many people and that was never more clear to me than during the luminaria ceremony. At midnight, everyone sat in the middle of the track in the dark surrounded by luminaria dedicated to those affected by cancer. We listened to Devin Suau’s mom, Christine, who told us about her son’s battle with an incredibly rare form of cancer called DIPG. Stories about pediatric illness always get to me. Kids have barely lived long enough to understand what “being sick” means and Devin’s form of cancer is so rare there is no cure and it is inoperable.

The ceremony continued with a slideshow of those who are fighting and who have passed away related to our Northeastern Community. Some of those people were my sisters’ relatives. The moment that hit me the hardest was when we stood up to walk a lap in silence. We were called to stand based on our relation to cancer. Were you a survivor? Did you lose a parent to cancer? A brother? A sister? We were only called in five groups and every single person stood. It was clear: cancer affects us all.

                                                                                                  Courtesy of Olivia Whitfield

As the ceremony ended, people had tears streaming down their faces, but there was so much hope. Everyone was hugging each other, holding their friends. We were all exhausted, but continued to walk. People slowly left, leaving about 150 of us, who left after 12 hours of walking. I think as someone who doesn’t see the fight of someone with cancer personally, I lose sight of how lucky I am. Doing Relay showed me the extent of cancer’s reach, and made me want to fight for everyone around me.

Thank you to Colleges Against Cancer for putting on such an amazing event and Shelby Nix and Maggie Gallagher for organizing the Delta Phi Epsilon team! In the end Northeastern raised almost a quarter of a million dollars.

                                                                                            Courtesy of Anna Steenbakkers

Olivia is a writer from the Northeastern University chapter of HerCampus. She is from San Francisco, California and loves her hometown with a passion. When she isn't working she enjoys taking SoulCycle classes, exploring Boston, and spending time with her friends.
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