Why I Relay …

hopeI’ve volunteered in some capacity with the American Cancer Society since 1997. Some people are convinced I work for the nonprofit organization that provides valuable funding to research to help finish the fight and toward programs and services for survivors and families.

My American Cancer Society story begins when I was about 12 years old. Before I knew of purple shirts and the words “caregiver” or “survivor,” I knew what chemotherapy was.

Before I knew what a luminaria ceremony was or what being an event organizer meant, I knew what it was like watching someone lose hair, lose weight and lose excitement for life.

Before I knew what the American Cancer Society was, I knew I hated cancer.

When I was 13, I watched my grandmother die from her battle with cancer.

She never saw me drive a car, graduate or get to read my byline on news story.

My grandmother and I never again hung ornaments on a Christmas tree.

I never again watched her do crafts.

She never walked a survivor lap with me at a Relay For Life event.

I’ve never gotten over what cancer did to her, to me and to my family.

But my story doesn’t end with mourning the loss of someone who — to this day — means so much to me.

After her death, I participated in my first American Cancer Society Relay For Life event. Since then, I’ve been to many community-based Relay For Life events, have cried, laughed and shared all sorts of emotions with friends and strangers.

My story started with my maternal grandmother’s diagnosis, but cancer has written many chapters in my American Cancer Society story — from friends and colleagues to former teachers, parents of friends and others I’ve come to know over the years.

I know the impact we are making. When you support the efforts of the American Cancer Society, you are providing a beacon of hope to someone right now who heard the words “you have cancer.”

Donations offered to the American Cancer Society help fund research projects across the country, including many researchers in Pittsburgh (I’ve met some!). The American Cancer Society is the largest funder of cancer research outside of the federal government.

In addition to the nonprofit group’s work funding researchers, the American Cancer Society provides programming and services to cancer patients, their families and anyone seeking information about cancer.

You can help support the American Cancer Society by making a donation.