Off The Beaten Path: Forget Team Edward or Team Jacob - For Me, It's All About Team Eric!
It’s countdown time for my local University’s Relay For Life fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. I participated in last year’s event and the relay had a profound and moving effect on my life. Before last year, I would write a donation check and then push the reason for the relay to the “back burner” of my mind. I was too busy with my own thoughts to dwell on why other people were walking around and around a track for hours on end. That all ended when I became a member of Team Eric last year, in honor of my son’s friend and my son-in-law’s cousin, Eric. At that time, Eric was in a brave and heroic battle against Stage 4 Melanoma Cancer. I wrote about my experiences last year at the Relay For Life and stated that I would walk 500 miles and then I would walk 500 more in my hopes of finding a cure for ALL cancer.
Sadly, as most of you know, Eric passed away last June but his love and his memory lives on in the hearts of so many people. When Eric’s wife Emily asked me if I wanted to be a part of Team Eric again this year, well, I grabbed my walking shoes and started to fundraise.
But I’m not walking just for Eric – I am walking for EVERY single person who has or is currently waging a war against cancer. I started to list the family members and friends I know who have been diagnosed with cancer and I was astounded at how many names were written on the piece of paper. I hope to be able to walk from 6 pm until 6 am at this year’s event. With every step I take around that track, I will be walking for the memory of Eric, my father-in-law Strick, Uncle George, Aunt Joan, Aunt Toot, Uncle Ev, for my high school friend Beth who died when she was just 19, and for my former coworkers Jackie and Bonnie. I am walking for Pat, who was a mentor to my son. I will walk in honor of my Uncle Alan who is currently undergoing radiation and chemo. Uncle Al is maintaining a positive attitude and sporting a fabulous and humorous wig. GO UNCLE AL!! I am walking for all of the Survivors, including my sister-in-law Sharon, Uncle Mike, Davada, Dee, Kelly, Leslie and young Tom. These are just a few of the people I am honoring with my walking. I could write down names and fill up this column.
In trying situations, I don’t always have the most “cool head” around. I tend to be over emotional and I can weep at the drop of a hat. I cry during good and bad times. I don’t often know the “right thing” to say or do. When my late father-in-law was in the hospital with lymphoma, I wrote him a letter and told him that my expertise was much like one particular character in the Disney animated movie, “Pocahontas.” When confronted with a situation of war, he fussily panics and whips up an amazing gift basket. Yeah, that’s me in a nutshell. I create packages of goofy and frivolous items. It’s not that I am running away from the problem, it’s just that I am trying to find some joy and laughter to make everyone momentarily forget the sadness at hand.
I believe that a cure for all cancer will someday be found. I want to help find that cure. And my way of helping is by walking and walking and walking for a cure. I don’t want cures for just cancer – I want it for ALL diseases. I want to see Lupus, Heart Disease, MS, Cystic Fibrosis, Asthma and Allergies, Kidney Disease, High Blood Pressure, Diabetes and every other ailment and affliction eradicated and removed. Lofty aspirations? Yes, but I can hope and believe that someday, one day my dreams will come true.
This year’s Team Eric t-shirts have a saying on the back – “Every Mile A Memory.” In one month I will join hundreds of people of all ages at the track at the Slippery Rock University Relay For Relay. Every step I take, every mile I complete will be a memory for me. I will remember my friends and family. I will create new memories of total strangers – who at the conclusion of the Relay are no longer strangers to me; they will have become my comrades in arm.
I will never forget those who have lost their fight with so many diseases. I will honor them and also the Survivors, all of whom are such brave and courageous individuals. I will walk as long as I am able to generate revenue and awareness. During the course of the year, I walked over 500 miles last year – I hope to have hundreds of miles left in me. Every mile is truly a memory – I carry all of you in my heart.
Go Team Eric!