Reflections on a night to celebrate and honor those affected by cancer.
When my sister was diagnosed, I was 23 and truly had no idea what cancer was, how much of an impact it would have on my life, how much my life would change or how long she would have cancer. But take away all those bigger things, and a long list of unknowns still remained — like how was she going to get to and from treatments? Who would be there when I couldn't? And was I really as alone as I felt?
Those questions would be answered by many, but I have found that the best resource was when a nurse pointed me in the direction of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Through the help that I was able to receive from the many resources offered at my local chapter, Rocky Mountain LLS, my sister and I did make it through cancer.
I looked for ways to “pay it forward” both during and after her illness. I found that outlet in many ways, but of them all my favorite has been “Light the Night.” This is an event that happens each year in locations around the country. For us here in Colorado, it occurs in late September.
It is an annual walk gathering of those affected by blood cancer. Lanterns are given to participants of the walk: yellow in remembrance, red in support and white for survivors. It has become one of my favorite nights of the year. My sister was lucky enough to be an honored patient a few years ago and this year, a young boy, Quade, was honored for his valiant fight. I am happy to say that he is now over a year in remission.
The thing about this night is that it isn't about chemo treatments, clinics, hospital stays or cancer. Yes, it is a fundraiser and a great cause to try and find the cure that we all so badly fight for. But it is also a night of so much more. It’s a chance for nurses and doctors to see the patients and families they treat thrive. It’s a get together for fellow patients as a reminder that they are not alone, and a place for caregivers to seek support, because caregiving can often feel isolating.
This night, in a word, is magical. We take the time to remember those we have lost and thank them for what they contributed in both life and science. As each cancer patient goes through treatment and their own journeys, we are able to learn much more in the search for a cure. We thank those who walk beside the ones stricken with a terrible disease so that they do not have to walk alone. We celebrate those in the midst of their fight now, battling a war that is so unjust but must be fought.
Just as we celebrated Quade this year, we also celebrate all those on the other side. And I can say personally, this year was extra special because my sister walked for the first time since being in remission. Although we have walked before, this year felt different. To collectively gather with all who fought alongside her and reflect on how far we’ve come is something that was really meaningful to me.
Cancer does many things. It changes us, our perception on life and the world. It makes us do things that we never thought we would need to, as well as some things that we still don't want to. But Light the Night is one good thing that cancer has brought into our lives.
I cannot imagine a September without Light the Night. Just as I have watched my sister progress through her walks, I am also looking forward to seeing what my own progression has in store. I have always been and will always be a volunteer. But I began as a sister/supporter, then a caregiver/sister/supporter/advocate. This past year, I walked as a supporter/sister/nursing student. Someday I will walk as a nurse. But my biggest hope is that someday we will not walk for a cure, because with the help of these walks, we are getting one step closer to finding it.