It’s truly unfortunate that there are very few individuals, like myself, lucky enough to not have been deeply affected by cancer. Though one of my grandfathers died of colon cancer, it was long before I was born, and having never met him, cancer remained for me a theoretical. All I knew was that it was something really bad that could happen, but without experiencing the sickness firsthand, I had no way of comprehending the trauma that came along with the disease.
Strangely, what really prompted my involvement in Relay For Life wan’t cancer, but rather the absence of cancer in my life. When I was 16, my mom sat down on my bed one Saturday morning to say something “important.” I remember being pretty ticked off that she was in my room without knocking and at the ungodly hour of 10 a.m. on a weekend. She had never said anything like that before, and I couldn’t imagine what would be so vital that she just had to wake me up to share it. My scowl in her direction quickly melted from my face, however, when she told me that she would be having a hysterectomy because a recent doctor’s visit had shown a great likelihood of ovarian cancer. I felt as though my heart had grown to a size just slightly too large for containment in my chest, and the flow of tears came instantly. I was the most scared I had ever been, and nothing had even happened. Nothing was even definite.
The following week came and my mom’s surgery was scheduled on Rosh Hashanah. It was a Jewish holiday meant to be spent with family, and I couldn’t have been further removed from mine. Though my parents were only one hour away at the hospital, the uncertainty created a torturous divide. I spent the day with a friend, feeling helpless and hanging on to every purposefully vague conversation with my father. The surgery took hours, and even long after its completion, the doctors still had no final answer. It wasn’t until the next morning that I awoke early to a tearful but relieved call from my dad saying everything was fine and the tests had come up negative for cancer. He’d said everything was fine, but everything was most definitely not fine. A week of my life had been ruined by just the very idea of cancer, and the thought that I could have received the opposite phone call was paralyzing. And the fear and anxiety I felt has stuck with me ever since.
One week of terror leading to an ultimately benign result is absolutely nothing compared to what many people have to deal with, and understanding only a fraction of that pain was enough to teach me that something had to be done. The instantaneous panic that comes from hearing a single word is simply unacceptable and that was when I decided to become a part of Relay For Life.
Now for the shameless promotion: Support Relay For Life and The American Cancer Society. But really, how could you not agree with the sentiment? This week — Jan. 30 through Feb. 4 — is Relay For Life’s “Purple Week,” a time for promoting the fight against cancer through some awesome fundraisers, including restaurant nights, a bar night and Relay’s Got Talent finishing it off. See the Relay For Life Facebook page for event details and mrelay.org for more information.
If you’re not convinced, I would say imagine someone you know having cancer, but please don’t do that. The fact is, if you haven’t been there, you (and I) simply can’t fathom how tremendously awful that would be. Instead, just think of the possibility of a loved one developing cancer, and consider the terror that a stupid six-letter word carries. That’s all it should take.
Lara Slotnick is a school of Art and Design junior.