The refreshing night air gave me some comfort as I neared the end of my lap. My legs felt like I had stood for hours and my arms were so numb I almost couldn’t feel them. My body ached and my head felt as if I had been turning in circles. My heart, however, had never felt so energized.
When I had arrived at 6 p.m., some of my team members were already there setting up for the big event: The Relay for Life run sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Our tasks included setting up tents and booths so those walking on the track could stop for water and snacks.
The sky was getting dimmer by the second and soon the opening ceremony would begin. The cancer survivors started walking first, and we followed. It seemed as if we were sharing their pain as we walked alongside them on this journey, a journey that took not just the body but also the heart.
Before I knew it, we were lighting the luminaries set up around the track. Although only small, white paper bags, they held more meaning than words can describe. Each was dedicated to someone lost to cancer or who was still fighting. Because of this, we were doing more than just making a pretty ring of luminaries, we were relighting the souls of those who had passed away and energizing those still struggling.
As the sky grew darker, the luminaries shined brighter and reminded me that though a cancer patient’s life is often gloomy and dreadful, their hearts can be hopeful because they know people are out there looking for a cure. Thinking about this, my eyes began to grow misty and I would have cried had someone not handed me the baton and said, “It’s your turn, don’t stop.”
I’d walked so many laps that I lost track of the number. As I neared our tent, my body told me to take a break, but my heart and mind told me to keep going. Cancer patients on the long, painful road to recovery also think about giving up, but they know that somewhere, people are fighting the battle with them. I am one of them.
The Relay for Life was an experience I never want to forget. It made me realize how many are willing to take time to help raise money for cancer research and that it takes a whole community to fight cancer, the leading cause of death in the United States. Most of all, it gave me a chance to contribute not only to my community, but to the fight against cancer. I know that as long as there are people willing to stand together like that, one day, a cure will surely be found.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.