Painting My World Purple
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Health and Wellness

Painting My World Purple

How to create a world with more birthdays.

Painting My World Purple

A few days ago in a training session I was attending, the instructor began talking about passion and how most people in life have a “why” for everything they do.

Whether it be a person who has influenced your life in some way, or an action you are dedicated to taking, the “why” in your life is what drives you. The instructor asked everyone sitting in the room to think about ourselves, and what our “why” would be. Immediately my mind took me to the American Cancer society, and how every step I have taken with them has been for one great big “why”. To create a world free of cancer.

This will be my fourth year working with the American Cancer Society, and every year, and every day I find something new, or someone new who drives my “why”. The first time I realized working for the American Cancer Society and specifically the Relay for Life Event was extremely important to me, was the first time I completely understood the Relay for Life event, and all of its symbolism.

Relay for Life is a twelve hour event hosted usually overnight to symbolize the stages of cancer, to bring a community together, and to support anyone who has been impacted by cancer. At the start of the event there is a welcoming ceremony here we bring the community together to show we are all in the same place, and we are all looking to put an end to the words “you have cancer.”. Following the ceremony we surround the track and have the survivors walk a lap as the community cheers them on, letting them know how proud we are and that we will always be there for them. A second lap follows allowing the caregivers to walk again with the survivors. Caregivers are the biggest support system a cancer patient can have, they are a constant symbolism of love and hope, and they deserve to be honored for all they do. Following these two laps the celebration begins. People migrate to different fundraising activities and games all while celebrating the fight against cancer. On each relay for life team, some people may be participating in the various activities going on, but someone from each team is always walking the track. The track is never left empty, because it is meant to show everyone that someone is always fighting back against cancer. As the sunsets and darkness hits the venue, everyone gathers once again to start the luminaria ceremony.

The Luminaria ceremony is the part of Relay for Life that has touched my heart the most. The darkness across the venus is meant to represent the fear a patient feels when they are diagnosed with cancer, and the darkness we hold for those we have lost. Along the outline track are luminaria bags which we light with candles. Each bag has been decorated and light to honor those who have fallen to cancer. We take a silent lap around the track to remember all of the fallen angels who could not be with us. We walk to remind those with cancer that we share their fears, but we will not give up. We walk to remember those we have lost, and to allow ourselves to remember that in some ways they are still with us. We walk to fight back. We walk to say “I may have cancer, but cancer does not have me.”

As the events and activities continue throughout the night, the sun soon begins to rise and a closing ceremony commences. The sun coming back up is to show that even in the darkest of times, the sun will come back up and the fight back will continue. When the sun shines bright over the venue we all remember what it’s like to fight back, to swallow the fear, to stand up against cancer.

The Relay for Life as a whole means the world to me, but also learning how each part of the event is also symbolic for the fight against cancer, truly inspired me to work ten times harder than I already was to making sure that one day the fight would be won. This was my initial spark into my “why”, but as my time with the American Cancer Society began to grow, the spark soon turned into a fire.

The second year I spent coordinating with the American Cancer Society, they had come out with some new inspirational phrases and plans to help spread awareness of the Relay for Life events. When I first heard the term from the Society of “Creating a World with More Birthdays” I got the chills. When thinking about all the work we are doing and all the information we are sharing, the thought process usually goes to creating a world without cancer. There was something about a world with more birthdays, that connected with me more. A birthday in some ways is just like a Relay for Life event, both are cause for celebration and maybe by creating a world with more Relay for Life events, someday we would also be creating a world with more birthdays!

I had a similar reaction to my Committee Chair when she explained the idea of “Painting My World Purple.”. This initiative would be something done prior to any Relay for Life event, helping to advertise for the event and would also get people excited about the upcoming program! The idea of this initiative is to have different themes and activities on days that would bring your community together. Whether this meant everyone wearing purple one day, or actually putting up posters and decorations in the hallways or on street signs that made the whole town purple. I absolutely loved the idea of bringing people together before this event, to show everyone's enthusiasm and dedication to the fight against cancer.

I truly believe though, that the most influential spark to my “why” happened outside of the American Cancer Society. One day while at work, I was ringing up a guest at the cash register and we were having a conversation about how she had gotten cut off in the parking lot while trying to find a spot, but she wasn't too upset about it. I remember saying to the guest “Well that’s not right I am sorry someone was rude.” and she looked at me, and I saw her eyes light up. I was confused at the sudden happiness in her eyes because we had just been talking about a poor experience she had had. She then said to me “Please don’t be sorry. I just came from a doctor’s appointment about an hour ago and the doctor has told me that I am officially cancer free. Nothing can bring me down today.”. I was speechless. I couldn't help but smile at this women and congratulate her. I explained to her that I work with the American Cancer Society and how much it meant to me that she had just shared her incredible news with me. I will never forget the way I felt when this woman told me she won her fight against cancer. The hope I saw in her eyes after those words, is exactly the reason I continue to do what I do everyday for the American Cancer Society.

Everyday there is another reason to continue to fight back against cancer. Everyday I make an effort to try and do at least one little thing to try and create a world with more birthdays, a world that looks like it is painted purple, and a world that will one day be cancer free.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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