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Relay For Life kicks off with excitement

One thing was certain: There was enough joy to go around.
Last week, the Relay For Life of Ennis kicked off its annual fundraising campaign, and in the depths of the coldest nights we’ve seen in some time, Dorie Miller Intermediate School was humming with life and activity. It was brimming with anxious excitement.

The Relay For Life is a big deal in this community, as it is in so many others in our state. More than 2,500 women in the state die annually to breast cancer alone, and thousands more men and women alike die to lung cancer, according to the state department of health and human services.

I have multiple cancers targeting different areas of the body in my family medical history. Many of you can likely identify with that, and while I’ve been fortunate enough to have my health, there are many more who don’t. For many of them, the Relay For Life and American Cancer Society are the biggest reasons why they are still around.

EISD Superintendent Barbara Qualls was there last week, sharing her own personal struggle with cancer and the hardships of dealing with the disease on her own. What amazed me most about her story was the simple fact she’s here to tell us about it and in a position of authority and influence in our local community.

From the stories of cancer in my own life, I know that recovering and returning to the workplace are by no means a given. In Qualls’ case, she was even back at work during the treatment process. That’s a testament to her determination to stay in control of life, cancer be damned.

It was when her story was laid bare in front of some of the people in Ennis who had not heard it before that the joy in that room was most evident.

It was in the laughs from the other survivors in that middle school cafeteria. It was certainly in the applause when Qualls said the words “10 years cancer-free.” It was definitely there when she related that, even though she’s not glad she has had to deal with cancer in her life, she feels it’s made her a better person.

Stop for a second.

Read that again. It might take a second to come to a full appreciation of the message Qualls sent out over the airwaves, microphone in hand, in front of a small crowd of men and women at the Relay For Life kickoff. She said, in effect, that without cancer, she might not be the woman she is today.

Talk about a thought-provoking line of reasoning. Much the same as if I hadn’t walked into my journalism teacher’s classroom in college and challenged him to make me want to get into the business, she might not have had the strength to take her career where it has gone without the ultimatum cancer gave her.

Cancer has a way of grabbing you by the ear. “Get your life straight now while you can, because it could be gone before you know it.”
Qualls and the others who showed last Tuesday for the Relay For Life kickoff know that all too well. For them, taking part in the ACS’ annual effort is a given. The Relay For Life itself might not be the big hook — even though it’s easily the largest volunteer-based effort in the entire county every year — and if it isn’t, then the huge resource pool and sense of community that ACS provides likely is the big draw.

For people who have suffered with cancer, helped a loved one or been a caregiver for someone dealing with the disease, the ACS is a godsend.

We’ll be there at the Relay this year, come Hell or high water. We understand how meaningful the opportunity to share with other cancer survivors is for those who’ve lived through the disease, and we hold our community’s effort in the fight against cancer in the highest regard. There’s no shortage of pride, to go along with that joy, by the way. People here know why.

Nick is a supporter of the American Cancer Society and Relay For Life. He can be reached at nick@ennisdailynews.com.

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Posted by on Jan 19 2011. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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