Friday, January 20, 2006
In Which I Ask for Your Help (or, Look at What a Sucker She Is!)
I remember the big adjustment I went through when chemo was over and I was healing from surgery. I felt as if I had put down my weapons and was no longer armed for battle. I waited for signs of the enemy, looked in all the nooks and crannies, and no sign. Surely he was hiding, weapons drawn, and ready to aim. There was nothing I could do. I had fired off all my ammo and either I got him or he would recover only to conquer me once and for all.

This feeling is not uncommon for anyone who has faced cancer and experienced the wrath of treatment. I decided I would feel as though I were being proactive by continuing to raise awareness, and when possible, raising funds for research. One way I chose to do this is through the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. Last year I was a team captain of a very successful first-time team of my co-workers that raised over $7,000 as well as raising a whole lot of spirits and awareness. It was an awesome event for me on many levels last year and I look forward to this year's event.

At the first planning meeting the co-chairs kept saying that there were two committee chair slots that needed to be filled. One of the positions didn't seem so burdensome so I made an offer*. After all, most of the work would be done up front and not at the event, so what was the harm, right? Here is a loose interpretation of the conversation that ensued after I offered my help:

Me: I offer to chair Committee X.

Nice Coordinator Lady (NCL): Oh, this other nice lady from the local college just volunteered for that; however, we still have the Survivor Chair position open and you don't have to be a survivor to be chair.

Me: How can you chair if you didn't survive?

NCL: No, you don't have to have had cancer.

Me: Oh. (Hmm. I guess I don't have the post-chemo look any longer. Cool.) That probably isn't a good fit because I really dislike most of the survivor stuff anyway. I'm not into the applause and special recognition. Asking me to chair that would be torture.

NCL: You'd be surprised how many people feel the same way.

Me: No, no really. I'll just stay as a team captain and help out wherever else you need me.

NCL: If you are Survivor Chair, it's your show and you can do whatever you want. It's your show.

Me: You mean I could have "co-survivors" join the opening lap, and I could move the start line closer to the stage, and I could make sure that all day not one stinking person sings "Wind Beneath My Wings" or some such ilk intended as "inspirational" songs? I could use other songs not intended to force you to tears?

NCL: It's your show. You will reach the survivors who feel the way you do.

Me: You have a deal.

For those of you not familiar with Relay for Life, it is a 24-hour event that unites community in the fight against cancer. It is a celebration of life as well as an opportunity to remember those who have lost their lives to cancer. The event starts with the first lap by the survivors and then each team has at least one team member on the track at all times during the event.

I will admit I had a hard time walking around the field while others applauded. I felt I had to do it because I wrangled other survivors into it and they wanted to walk with me (guilt goes very far with me). I just kept thinking why are you people applauding me? This cannot be the most noteworthy thing in my life. I work hard, I'm dedicated, I volunteer for many organizations, and you applaud because I drew the lucky lotto number and got cancer?

And then there were the songs! Oh gosh, the songs. There was a selection of songs played by a DJ and then there were some talented local singers who came by to sing a few songs. My Heart Will Go On, Hero, Angel, I Made it Through The Rain, Let me be Your Hero Baby . . . Was crying a requirement at this event? Don't get me wrong about this. I love this event, but give us music to make us groove so we can walk those laps with a little energy. This was just daytime stuff. At night there was a moving and emotional ceremony with a bagpiper leading us all around the track lit only by the luminaries. Crying was required and it certainly happened. You had to be made of stone to avoid it at this point, but it had its place in a very therapeutic sense.

So I'm changing the show a little. We will open the kick-off lap by having survivors invite their caregivers (also known in some circles as "Co-survivors") to join them (where would be without them?). The music has to rock, but not be cliche (No Destiny's Child "Survivor" or the tired "I will Survive" or the theme from Rocky). The survivor's booth will have great goodie bags for survivors of all ages as well as other things yet to be determined. There will not be one cliche thing in that booth. Not a one.

So this is where I need your help, oh wise Internets. What song should I request for the kick-off? I have received two suggestions so far: Jesus Walks (Kanye West) and Celebration (Kool and the Gang). I want non-cliche songs that will serve the mission of the event (a celebration of life), but not force the tears. Any ideas? No idea, unless it involves Celine Dion, will be ridiculed. I promise.

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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