Why Do I Relay?

Why do I relay? The answer to that question like a Facebook relationship status is complicated; complicated in that the answer is multi-faceted.

The simplest answer is that my then 10-year old niece Jenny asked me to bring her.  My sister was on softball mom duty across town and Jenny wouldn’t be able to participate with her school’s Cancer Club if I didn’t take her.  Several years prior a group of students got together at her school to raise money in response to someone at the school being sick with cancer.  It was such a success the first year that the students and teacher involved decided to form a club to raise money for the American Cancer Society.  Throughout the year, the students meet and make items out of duct tape to sell at school events and at our town’s Relay for Life.  That was last year’s reason.

Jenny wanted to participate again this year and stay overnight.  She asked too late; the night before our town’s Relay for Life Event.  I promised her that next year we will form a team and spend the night at the Relay so she can get the full experience.  My sister, Jenny’s mom, asked what motivated us to want to do this.  My answer was because it’s important to Jenny.  I’m not sure what Jenny’s response was but I suspect that it has to do with knowing that one of her classmates has battled cancer for several years now and that her Nanny (my Mom) died from lung cancer.  We had talked about naming our team for next year Nanny’s Girls or something to that effect.

Less than a week after the relay in our hometown, my oldest nephew called to ask if I was interested in doing the Relay for Life with him in Derry, NH.  The answer of course was yes.   He, at the age of 32, has recently been diagnosed with Stage 3/4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  A father of three young children (ages 2 -14) he has decided not only to fight for himself but for others afflicted with cancer.  In about ten days, his team, our team (Team Audette) has raised just over $2,000.

Honestly there are as many reasons to say no, I can’t do this as there are reasons to say count me in.  After cautioning my nephew about overexerting himself days after his third treatment in his six month course of treatments he replied “I’m sure I might feel like crap, but I’m probably not going to be the only person feeling crappy there.”  In the end, saying no isn’t in the realm of possibilities.

My nephew is like a son to me and this is important to him.  So this past Friday night with family and friends, I took to the track of Pinkerton Academy to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

So why do I relay?

I relay to support my nephew in the toughest battle of his life.

I relay in memory of my mom.

I relay in memory of other friends and family who have succumbed to cancer – my other half’s dear cousin, Yolanda Faye; a college friend, Richard T. Betts; my Uncle Mike; my Mom’s best friend June; my friend Linda’s parents, Joe and Arlene; and countless others I do not know.

I relay so that the American Cancer Society can help more people have more birthdays.

I relay in hopes that other aunts never have to hold their crying seven year old niece after being told that her Dad has cancer and listen to her blurt out “I hate cancer” and “It’s not fair, I need my Dad; Austin (her two-year old brother) needs a Dad.”

For all these reasons and probably more that I haven’t thought of, I relay.

Pictures from this past weekend’s Relay for Life at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, NH:

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Gianna and Amber getting ready to head off to Relay for Life to support their cousin and uncle.

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My niece Jamie with her cousin Mike at Relay for Life. Cousins that are more like brother and sister.

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Mike’s youngest daughter raising money for the American Cancer Society at the Dunk Tank.

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Mike and his son Austin relaxing at the Team Audette site.

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Three of the younger members of Team Audette – Amber, Alexis, and Gianna.

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Sunset at Pinkerton Academy – Relay for Life.

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The scene in front of Team Audette’s table – raffle for Red Sox and Yankees tickets.

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Mike’s 7 year old daughter making friends on the relay track.

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Luminaria bags remembering my mom (Gianna’s nanny) & cousin Faye sit in front of our table.

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Luminaria bags light up the night as the track is silenced and darkened while we remember those we’ve lost to cancer.

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A team’s table lit up for the Luminaria Ceremony.

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Luminaria Bags spell out the word hope on the bleachers in the darkness.

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While walking a lap, I stop to take a picture of a luminaria bag decorated in memory of Mike’s mother-in-law Darlene.

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Luminaria bags in remembrance of Nanny & cousin Faye lighting up the night.

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Kendra taking a selfie with one of her new friends.

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It’s 3:30 am and Gianna wheeling Kendra accompanies me on a lap.

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Finally it’s 4:30 am and the youngest members of Team Audette are sleeping in the tent.

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The night was cold, cold, cold but morning is breaking and it’s beginning to warm up.

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The theme for the 7:00 am lap was American Patriotism. This team was ready and American proud.

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The morning sun shines on the track and the Relay For Life archway as participants log in their final laps before the closing ceremony.

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The final lap of Relay 2015 – Mike who had been too tired from his treatments to do any laps was able to lead Team Audette as we walked our final lap of the event as part of the closing ceremony.

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An emotional moment of Relay as Team Audette follows behind a Mom and her children who held hands the entire lap. The children’s shirts read “I Support My Mom” and the mother’s shirt read “Because I’m Their Mom … I Still Have Hope.”

4 thoughts on “Why Do I Relay?

  1. I’ve relayed for years for sooo many reasons. Proud to be an American Cancer Society volunteer and trainer for many years. This year, I’m changing it up and doing the 3 day/ 60 mile walk for Susan G Komen in Dallas. But at heart, I’m still a Relayer

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  2. Pingback: Be Thankful Challenge | from the sticks to the bricks and back again

  3. Pingback: Favorite Episodes: Why Do I Relay? | from the sticks to the bricks and back again

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