Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Relay Recap Part I
Saturday morning I arrived at the high school at 7:00 a.m. in time to set up our booth and get organized before the start of the event at 9:00 a.m. I was still unsure of the event and what would transpire. I knew there would be a lot of attention on survivors and, for some reason, I can’t seem to embrace that title nor do I like the attention. In what seemed like a matter of moments we were all set up and the call for survivors to head over to the start line to kick off the opening lap was announced. Two other members of our team were headed over to the start line, but wouldn’t go without me. Begrudgingly, the people pleaser in me forced me to join them.

Dozens of people of all ages in purple t-shirts (the color signifying all cancer survivors) waited patiently for the okay to move forward and begin the 24-hour relay. The event participants gathered around the edge of the track and applauded as we walked by. I was so uncomfortable. Why the applause? What did I do that anyone else wouldn’t have done? It still escapes me, yet I think if the roles were reversed, I’d be clapping the loudest.

I don’t know why I have trouble identifying with survivors. I had the same experience at the Race for the Cure. When I think of the word survivor, I think of examples such as, “she survived Auschwitz” or “he survived three tours of duty in the Middle East” or “the nation survived eight years under the leadership of (insert the name of your least favorite two-term president).” I have the image that survivor implies finality in relation to whatever one has outlasted. This is where I have difficulty. Have I outlasted it? Will there ever been finality in a positive sense? My struggle to embrace living with cancer conflicts with my struggle to embrace survivorship. Somehow I feel I am still on the island waiting for tribal council, not yet declared a survivor . . . no cash prize, no endorsement deal.

Two survivor laps later, the 24-hour relay was off to an enthusiastic start, even if my conflicting emotions were still surfacing.
Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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