Just like the last two years, our Relay for Life team, "The Daily Mining Gazette and Friends," will be ever-present at the Copper Country Relay for Life event in June, this year again with our jail in tow.
We use the 24-hour event on June 24 and 25 to fundraise. We've been busy planning our design for this year's jail and we are excited to debut it. For a price, we'll arrest your friends and family and it is their responsibility to raise their bail once in jail. It was an idea formed by a team member a few years ago and now we look forward to bringing our jail to the community every year.
Besides our jail, teams from the community turn out to support Relay for Life as they aim to raise money to benefit the American Cancer Society. Although serious and emotional at times, the general atmosphere of Relay for Life is light and welcoming. It's one of the places in the Copper Country I can go where I feel needed and I can always expect to have a good time. Different teams sell baked goods, hold raffles and spend the majority of the event walking laps around the track at Houghton High School and socializing with others. The event, which includes a neighborly campground feel paired with the warm summer ambiance, is something I feel every Copper Country resident should try.
Even if you are only able to attend for a mere hour, make it a point to visit this year's Relay for Life.
Each year, I'm reminded of why I participate in Relay for Life. It was only a few years ago I learned this was the charity for me.
A very special person in my life had cancer for more than 20 years before she succumbed to the disease. My grandma was just 45 years old when I was born. She had already had cancer for years. For most of my childhood, my cousins and I spent nearly every weekend and several nights a week in Grandma's care. Frequent trips across Lake Michigan on the S.S. Badger to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota were a large part of our life. We were accustomed to interacting with dying people, and until her death, we thought all people that age wore wigs and had one breast, just as she did. I don't mean to sound crass, but there's no way to make cancer sound attractive or appealing.
Although, "lovely" is how I would always remember her. She was 56 years old when she died in 1996. I used to think that was so old. Now when I look at my mom, who is venturing through her early 50s, I realize how young that really is.
Grandma was probably too strong for her own good. When we were in her care, she was our maternal and paternal influence and she wouldn't let us get away with anything. She would spend the morning in the field hunting deer, the afternoon nurturing her strawberries and towering sunflowers in the garden and the evening cleaning the house and caring for anyone else but herself.
She always took time to cook for us, force us to take naps and ensure we were happy. She had the mouth of a sailor, didn't care what others thought of her and most importantly, didn't spend a second of her time thinking about cancer. It was a part of her, and although she knew she would lose her battle with breast cancer someday, she let us live in blissful oblivion.
I remember her medications - lots of colorful pills placed meticulously in a box labeled with the days of the week. I remember her being in the hospital one day and then home tending to the asparagus field the next. That was a constant cycle. Had I been aware she was so sick, I would have better valued the time we had together. I would have asked more questions. I would have stayed with her longer. I would have said "I love you."
Our last trip to the hospital was a dry Tuesday in July. As usual, she promised she would be home in a few days. We'd fill up the large pool (which she always humorously cleaned with nylons) and we'd finally plan a trip to Walt Disney World and take the entire family. She looked as she always did, except she didn't have her trademark "rollers" in her hair. She looked fine. She looked lovely. She looked happy. And then she was gone.
After 15 years, I feel I still haven't moved past Grandma's death. I will always be bitter and angry toward cancer, and those feelings re-ignited in me after a sweet girl from my high school was diagnosed with nerve cancer.
The last weekend in February, on a Friday morning and just the day before her daughter's first birthday, Leanna peacefully passed away. The heartbreaking experience only reminds me why we come together and work to fight cancer. This malicious disease wipes away the ones we love and without research, the cycle will continue.
This year, make a decision to fundraise to help cancer research. Let's see some more birthdays happen.
According to genetics, me or my loved one have a higher chance of being affected by this disease during our lifetime. I'm not going to wait any longer and I've made the decision to work toward a solution. Sadly, there are millions more families like mine.
So what are you waiting for?