“I Relay for my family. My family has had a great history of cancer, but not until recently have I realized the extremity of it, and has it really affected me. My grandmother has always been an important figure in my life, and we have remained close to her side of the family throughout the years. Growing up, I remember traveling to Uniontown, Pennsylvania every summer, the town my grandma grew up in, to visit her brothers and sisters, their spouses, children, cousins, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren. My grandmother is the youngest of 8 children, and lost her mother at an early age. Since her father then had to work extreme hours to support 8 children, that left her sisters the responsibility of caring for her and raising her. Every year at the family reunions, I could see how close her bond was with her sisters, even after many, many years. With my grandmother’s brothers and sisters getting older, children growing up and moving away, it has been a couple years since we have all been able to get together and have our annual family reunion.
This past summer was the first time I have seen my whole extended family in quite some time. My grandma’s closest sister, Julie, had passed away. Julie had suffered from cancer for many years that had been treated and was under control, but more recently developed into leukemia. At the age of 84, Julie passed away from this horrible disease. The funeral took place about a week before I left for New York, and I remember laughing and celebrating Julie’s life with my family, and being able to see all of them again for the first time in many years. I remember telling them about how excited I was for my semester in New York, and catching up with them. I also remember seeing my dad’s cousin, Tommy. Growing up, I remember Tommy as a young, bright eyed, fun filled person, who was always laughing and had a smile on his face. This time I saw Tommy, I didn’t even recognize him. Tommy was in the corner, in a chair, attached to an oxygen tank, a cane in hand, no hair on his head, and wrinkles all over his face. I remember seeing my dad go up and talk to him, and not realizing who it was, my mom and I stayed back. At that moment, my dad’s other cousin, Dolores, had come up to us and mentioned Tommy’s name, making me realize who it was. Dolores began to explain that earlier that day, Tommy had received his final dose of chemo. It wasn’t his last dose because he had beat it, but because the chemo was no longer working. There was nothing left to do but wait it out because the cancer had taken over. About three weeks later when I was out in New York, I received a call from my mother saying that Tommy had passed away as well.
It was probably one of the saddest moments I have ever experienced. Loosing someone from cancer, and being at their funeral, and seeing another loved one who is going through the same exact thing first hand, and knowing that it is only a matter of weeks before you are all getting together again for the same exact thing. After talking more to my grandma, I later found out that her mother, and also another one of her brothers I had never met, also passed away from cancer.
My family is the most important thing to me, and I pray to God every day that this disease does not take another loved one from me. I Relay for my family, and hope that together we can beat this fight against cancer.”