In a few hours, I’ll be heading South to a town 70 miles away to stand along side the Relay family I’ve yet to meet but with whom I’m proud to walk as a united front in a battle against stupid cancer – a disease that strikes too many, too soon, and too often.
It’s a mouthful of a sentence….
But it’s even more of a mission.
And it’s what Relayers do.
I count among my blessings the honor of having been called to serve as a Hero of Hope. As such, I share my time and my story in hopes of spreading… well … HOPE… at community events and Relays across Central Texas and beyond. I’ve been serving in this roll since 2012 and have shared different elements of my story more than 100 times in almost as many places. But today’s message – as it forms in my heart and the nuggets of which pour through my thumbs as I ponder – is especially difficult … but that’s what makes it most important.
I’ve been asked to visit the community of Seguin, TX to speak at the Fight Back ceremony. It’s the 3rd piece of the triad of Relay (Celebrate! Remember! Fight back!) and tonight, it’s the one that hits closest to home.
…because tonight, as I speak as a Caregiver and a Survivor, I will carry on my heart an incredible love story.
It’s not mine. But it’s one I was privileged to witness.
It’s the story of Rick and Joann.
Because it’s their story, I can’t begin to know the details, the dates, the specifics….but my GOODNESS do I embrace the love and hope. The strength and courage.
And, again, the love and hope.
Rick and Joann were high school sweethearts. Theirs was a home filled with love – and two beautiful girls – when stupid cancer attacked.
It came for Joann… a young woman whose own mother had died of breast cancer before she could see Joann as a bride, a wife, a mother… Her treatment had been horrific and the disease too advanced… and based on this, Jo wondered if she’d even be able to fight.
But how could she not?
The Caregiver was now the Survivor.
For Rick and for her girls, she battled. Her treatment was swift and aggressive – but it was also fueled by faith, hope, and so much love.
And she triumphed!
And against all odds, their family grew when a precious and beloved son was born.
The family grew and it flourished and then suddenly, without warning, and with a savagery they could never have known was coming, stupid cancer attacked again.
This time, it was Rick.
He wrote in his message for Relay that year that cancer had tried to kill his wife, tried to kill his brother, and now it was coming for him…
Stupid, stupid cancer.
The Caregiver was, again, the Survivor.
His battle had triumphs and challenges and highs and lows. New treatments held out hope several times… until the scans showed stupid cancer had returned.
The thing that never changed, though, was his commitment to his wife and family, or theirs to him. Being able to witness this kind of love was a blessing in and of itself. I marvel at it still….
… 4 years to the day since stupid cancer stole Rick far, far too soon.
I marvel even more at the love that endures… as Joann wrote today – what she wouldn’t give for another day with her Love, but what peace she feels knowing he’s celebrating his 4th birthday in Heaven.
So why is this the story on my heart as I prepare to fight back?
I think it’s because I’m mad. And I’m sad. But I’m also so proud and filled with love, hope, and joy.
The cancer that stole Joann’s mom was diagnosed early in Jo — and not only beatable, but beaten!
And the manifestation of this stupid disease that stole Rick too, too soon is being demystified by the researchers as we speak. And as we learn more, we’re ever closer to the days of early diagnosis and beatable, treatable outcomes.
I feel the love and the promise of the day in which their 3 wonderful kids and precious grands will no longer have to live in fear of the words “You have cancer.”
I pledge with my whole entire heart, to do all I can in that fight.
For Rick and Joann. For their love. For their hope. For their fight.
For that glorious day when early detection and viable treatment options are the story for EVERY diagnosis…
For the magnificent day when every diagnosis is followed by THE CURE…
I FIGHT BACK!!!!
And I invite you all to join me.
Together we can and we will.
Together we Relay. Together we win.
Then sings my soul….