Sunday, May 21, 2006
I met a woman this weekend who has survived both colorectal cancer (stage III) and breast cancer (stage II). She has amazing energy and a sense of humor to match. I met a man who is battling his third occurence of cancer. Three seperate primary cancers, not metastases, and this third time does not appear to be a charm. I saw my little friend Shelby who, with a little assistance from her Dad, was walking laps on the track this year. She has had to relearn walking and talking and all of her motor skills after having a brain tumor that forced the removal of 25% of her cerebellum. I asked her to lead the flag salute from the stage at opening ceremonies. As she slowly spoke the national anthem, the respectful crowd slowed their pace to match her.

Relay for life is all about the people who join together as a community to take up the fight against cancer. And while, yes, this event is in many ways exhausting, it is also rather incredible. My sister, Joyce, assisted me in getting the survivor hospitality tent off to a good start. We welcomed the survivors and caregivers and joined them all for the opening laps. Due to a very generous donation, we provided stickers people could personalize and wear to show they were walking in honor or in memory of someone. For some, they chose to wear one sticker. For others, their shirts were covered.

The rest of the event was spent with my amazing team. There were more than 50 employees and family members from every department of my organization. Together we were the top fundraising team exceeding our goal by more than double and raising in excess of $20,000 from online and cash donations (and checks are still trickling in!). I have always said that I work with amazing people. This is just one more example of the calibur of people that have in many ways become like a second family to me. How often can you say that you spent the night with a Planning Commissioner and were served coffee by the City Manager the next morning? Does it get any better than that? (and no lawsuits . . . yet)

And moments before they announced the fundraising total at closing ceremonies, my cell phone rang. When I answered, I heard the voice of my friend Jim who had the lower lobe of his lung removed just four days earlier. He told me to get ready for next year because we will be walking together. I hope he knows we already are.
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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