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Join me at Relay for Life

Published:Tuesday | June 9, 2015 | 12:02 AMPatria-Kaye Aarons, Contributor

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The first time I went to Relay for Life, I bawled my eyes out. Twice.

My first bout of tears was brought on by tiny sandbags with candles in them lining the track of the Police Officers' Club. Stapled to them were pictures of a little girl who couldn't have been more than six who had lost her battle with cancer. Those three words written on the bags, 'In Memory Of', were more than I could bear. I didn't know her; before that night, I had never seen her face. But I was moved to commiserate in grief with a family of strangers who missed their baby girl. And I cried - for her and for all who couldn't fight cancer anymore.

My second bout of tears was one spurred by the fever of triumph. I saw survivors take a victory lap around that same field. In true defiance of the poison that is cancer. I saw women and men and children; with and without hair, strong in body and weak in body but strong in spirit, smiling and jubilant and marching around the field at Police Officers' Club. Some hugged. Some held hands. And I wept. I wept because they had won. I celebrated with tears their victory over struggle and fear and chemotherapy and even death.

If you have never been to Relay for Life, I encourage you to go this year. It's the kind of experience that puts into perspective just how precious life is. Every year, for 12 hours non-stop, people take turns making laps all night until the sun comes up. Their walk is either in memory of loved ones who have lost the battle to cancer or in honour of a loved one who continues to battle the disease. The event, like other lapathons, is an effort to raise much-needed funds for the Jamaica Cancer Society.

 

bitter, expensive battle

 

The cancer battle is a bitter and expensive one. And the disease is no respecter of status or bank account or college education. We are all at risk, and many times, the battle seems one we are helpless against.

But we are not. The stance of solidarity I witness at Relay for Life reminds me of the power of people. Even those who have lost take comfort on the night from being with others who have also experienced it and share their pain. Those recently diagnosed come and draw strength from 10-year survivors, who also come. Those doing treatment fight harder when they see the candles lit in their honour.

It warms my heart to see high schools and corporate Jamaica and groups with a purpose like Cancer Conscious Youth get together every year and for 12 hours give legs to the movement.

But more support, I'm sure, is needed and would be appreciated. There is still time to join in. Reach out to the Jamaica Cancer Society at 927-4265 to purchase a luminaria bag in memory, or in honour, of someone you know affected by cancer. Or better yet, get your church or friends or workplace colleagues together and form a team to walk this Saturday night.

This year, I will walk in memory of my grandfather, Calvin Hague, who cancer robbed me of even before I was born. I will walk in memory of Vivian Johnson, the first friend I ever had in life, who was taken from me sooner than I thought fair.

I will also walk in honour of Karen Armstrong, my favourite teacher and friend who kicked cancer's butt and lived to play another piano.

Will you walk? Who will you walk for?

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@yahoo.com, or tweet @findpatria.