BY TAMI LUECK
I initially wanted to start this story with, “I hate cancer,” but then Zach Sobiech, a 17-year-old with osteosarcoma, passed away after his fight with cancer. If you have read about Zach, you know that his message is about life and not about hate.
In his video, “My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech,” he is quoted as saying, “You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living.” So what I realized is it doesn’t matter how much I hate cancer because that won’t make it go away and it also will not bring back those who have died from it.
What will make a difference is continued support to cancer research and sharing the stories of those who have fought this disease. Relay for Life is one of the ways we can raise awareness and support for finding a cure.
So why does our family relay?
We relay to honor survivors. When my brother, Ryan, and his wife, Megan’s, son was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, we were all devastated. Logan was only 6 months old. Logan had immediate surgery and chemotherapy.
Every year, 500 children are diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Logan is one of the survivors! He has been N.E.D. — No Evidence of Disease — for six years. Logan’s fight with neuroblastoma was difficult for our family but some really amazing things have come from his fight.
Megan’s employer, Dr. Jeanne Foss, started a non-profit Brighter Days Foundation. The foundation gives local children with various illnesses a reason to smile by providing them with personalized gifts. Ryan, Megan and Logan have been a support to many families whose children are diagnosed with cancer.
We as a family are active with the Brighter Days Foundation and have organized Team N.E.D. that participates each year in the Pine River-Backus Relay for Life event. The night of the relay we walk to recognize Logan’s fight and all who have fought this disease.
We relay because we don’t want to forget our friends and loved ones who have died from this disease. We want to continue to honor them for their fight. I want you to know that my grandfather, Erwin Lahr, died from liver cancer. He loved his grandchildren and fishing.
I have lost three aunts to cancer. They spent their whole lives as nurses caring for others. My good friend, Beth Anderson, who fought pancreatic cancer created the most amazing memories for my children. A memory that stands out for the girls was when she brought a convertible home from work just so they could drive around the neighborhood with the roof down.
We walk to honor these loved ones and the lives that they lived.
We relay because we don’t want to hate cancer; we want to find a cure. We want people to have more birthdays and anniversaries with friends and family.
Relay for Life is a great way to show our support to survivors and to honor those who fought cancer with all their might and lost. It also continues to build financial resources for cancer research through the American Cancer Society.
Many of you have had similar experiences to ours, whether it was your personal fight with cancer or someone you knew. If you have never attended a Relay for Life event I ask you to consider coming out to the Pine River-Backus Relay on Friday, June 21.
You don’t have to be a part of a team to come out and be a part of this event. You can observe candles being lit for those who have died and balloons launched to honor survivors. You can watch the parade begin with survivors making the first victory lap. There is food and music.
As night falls, my favorite part of the whole night begins when the luminaries are lit all the way along the track. The luminary bags have names and pictures honoring those who are fighting and who have fought this disease.
Please help spread Zach’s message, “You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living,” by coming out to the relay.
Team N.E.D. hopes to see you there.