When I was in grade school we had traveled during the winter to an away basketball game one of my siblings was playing in. While at the game, a huge blizzard had hit and continued to rear it's ugly head as a caravan of cars headed back to our hometown. You literally couldn't see your hand in front of your face it was such a complete and total white out.
As the caravan crept along my dad had to walk to the front of the line and sit on the roof of the lead car in order to tell them if they were still within the lines on the road. He sat, perched in the cold, until we came to a farm house he recognized as belonging to a family that went to our school. They weren't home, but the caravan of cars all parked at their acreage and we filed into the house (I have no idea how they got in) to wait out the storm.
The winds were so strong that Dean Dodds, who at my young age seemed like the largest man I'd ever known, carried me from the van to the inside of the house to keep me from getting blown backward. We made it in the house and it was nothing short of a modern day Little House on the Prairie. The men went to light the fire in the fireplace while the women went to the kitchen to see what could be prepared for food. The mood turned from ominous to fun once the large group of people got into the house and we played cards and listened to the grown-ups retell the happenings of the previous hours.
It was getting late and we were obviously all settling in to stay for the night, so mom took me to a back bedroom where we shared a bed with Dean's wife Doris. I had known Dean and Doris for as long as I could remember, but when I went in Doris had already taken off her wig and was propped up against the pillows in bed with just her handkerchief on her head.
It was the first time I saw cancer.
I didn't know why she didn't have hair; I didn't even know she was sick. I do know I probably stared longer than I should have, but Doris seemed unaffected and just smiled at me. I don't remember being scared... but we never talked about it at the time or after that. I think I later asked my mom why she had a wig and mom told me she was sick, but the word cancer was never uttered.
Back then it was still an unknown. It was still rare in my world. And now it seems to be as common a word to children as talking about a cold. I am sure there isn’t a person reading this who hasn't somehow been affected by cancer. My Uncle Bob died last year of cancer, my friend Mary Burns' husband John lost his cancer battle previous to that. And it is because of my friend Kelly's family that I am involved with Relay for Life.
The photos above are of Marv and Kaitlyn, Kelly's dad and daughter who have both died of cancer within the past five years. Kelly, her husband Nick and daughter Megan created a team called The Smiling Kate's, which I'm a part of. Their involvement in Relay started when Kate was still with us and they all worked together to raise money to fight this disease, and also enjoyed the camaraderie and fun that the event creates. Back when I was more able-bodied I had the opportunity to sing at the opening of Relay a few times and it remains one of the most meaningful experiences I've ever had.
I am very aware of my shortcomings, so I can tell you unequivocally that I am the world's worst fundraiser. A natural salesperson I am not. My pitch would go something like, "If you don't mind, I mean... if you maybe have the ability to help, if it's not too much trouble..." You get my drift. Our local Relay is this Friday and Saturday, so here's what I'm going to do. If you have been looking for a way to help someone, this is an easy way for you to go about it. Click on this link and it will take you to my Relay page where you can donate. No pressure; just an opportunity.
This year I'm going to make my donation to remember Doris Dodds and all those whose lives have been touched by cancer, so other lives don't have to be.