“CANCER DOESN’T SLEEP…
…AND NEITHER DO WE”Elyria – This piece is a little late and I ask all those involved in this year’s Relay for Life in Elyria to forgive me.
On Saturday morning Survivors of cancer, Care Givers to Cancer patients, people who are currently fighting cancer all came together along with their family and friends at the Elyria Catholic High School Football Stadium for Elyria’s Relay for Life.
What is Relay for Life? Wikipedia describes it as “a fundraising event of the American Cancer Society, and is now held in many other countries. It is an overnight event designed to spread awareness of cancer prevention, treatments and cures, celebrate survivorship and raise money for research to find more cures for cancer.” Relay for Life is the world's largest fundraising walk. In 2007, Relay for Life raised over $405 million.
During the opening ceremonies Mayor Bill Grace spoke about how cancer touched his life when his father was diagnosed and given only 5 years to live. “With the network of support from the Doctors, Nurses and Volunteers my father lived another 25 years and I know it was because of their dedication and love. Having my Father for those additional years meant so much to me and made me a better person. “
Mayor Grace applauded the Survivors in the audience and wished them well. “This event, this effort is very important to our community and to our nation. So I applaud all of your efforts and congratulations to the Survivors – I look forward to us all being here for years to come.”
Judge Mark Betleski spoke as a Cancer Survivor – Betleski was diagnosed with testicular cancer in June of 1990. On May 18th of this year Betleski celebrated his 17th year since his last chemotherapy.
Betleski shared with the audience things he learned during his battle with cancer:
“Cancer is a great way to lose weight. When I was diagnosed I weighed 260lbs. – when I received my first chemotherapy I weighed about 160lbs. As great as that was I don’t think we will see Valerie Bertinelli or Kirstie Alley going out and speaking on this great weight loss program known as cancer.”
“You should avoid x-ray technicians with cold hands.”
“I learned that bald may be beautiful, but not on me.”
“I also learned that you should take every day as a gift and treat it as special as you can.”
“I learned we are capable of achieving great things if we are put to the test. My wife and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary in the hospital – and that is not the place you want to be celebrating your wedding anniversary, although it was probably one of the last times I remembered my anniversary before it occurred.”
“What I also learned is that what you are doing here today, WILL save lives in the future. Because of fund provided by the American Cancer Society there are new discoveries in the fight against cancer everyday – all day. Here is one example, when I was first diagnosed my Doctor said that if I had been diagnosed with it just a couple years sooner I would not have survived – they did not have a treatment for that, for my form of cancer. So just in that span of a couple years I received a bill of life rather then a bill of death.”
Betleski finished his remarks and then invited all of the Survivors in the audience to join him in walking a lap dedicated to Survivors of cancer.
One of the last speakers was Mary Stammitti, wife of Lorain County Sheriff Phil Stammitti. In what was probably the most emotional and poignant speeches of the day, Mrs. Stammitti spoke about how cancer has touched her life and her families lives. She lost her first husband to cancer then her daughter. She talked about how her daughter had to tell her the terrible news over the phone while she was away at school. The audience was silent as she walked step by step through the process and how she sat with her daughter every day at the hospital during her final days.
There came a time where the decision had to be made to either have their daughter return home or to go to Hospice for her last days. “The best advice I ever received came from a Hospice Nurse when she said, Now is the time for you to just be a Mom. I will never forget that and will always be grateful to her.”
Stammitti and her husband then invited all of the Caregivers to join them in walking a lap around the track in celebration to all Caregivers.
To see more photos from the event: CLICK HERE