Relay for Life: A Volunteer Opportunity for Survivors


As survivors, sometimes we step outside our comfort zones to help groups that raise awareness about cancer along with funds for research. Representing survivorship at a Relay for Life event can be as important as donating funds or decorating luminaries.

When a student asked me to participate in the Blue Key Honor Society Relay for Life with a kick-off speech at the college where I work, I said I would look at my appointment calendar and check back. I did not really need to look. A homebody’s schedule would, of course, be clear on a Friday evening.

I made a note in my calendar to decide sooner rather than later to give Blue Key time to get another speaker. I knew I was likely to say no. April is busy in an academic setting. The idea of going out on a Friday evening in April makes me feel tired. Then a former student told me that his mother had passed after a recurrence of cancer. I knew then I had to say yes to Relay for Life.

I still did not rush to email the student who had asked me to talk. Procrastinating, I wondered if I could get away with saying no after all, even if my conscience told me to say yes. Procrastinating, I entered checklists in my appointment calendar to make my life appear booked. Then another student asked if I had decided about Relay for Life. I made up my mind on the spot. I had to follow through. I told her yes.

Blue Key Honor Society is a wonderful group of college students who commit time and energy to service activities to make the world a better place. If one of these people looks at you with earnest eyes, I have learned, you cannot say no, especially when it involves supporting the American Cancer Society with a fundraiser that brings a community together with the fervor of a pep rally.

I wrote the organizer and repeated my yes. In fact, I had begun composing a talk when first asked. As writers do, I went through multiple revisions, the last hours before I was to speak. I wanted the focus to be, along with thanks for the good work Relay for Life does, the value of cancer research because I have always been grateful about the evolution of Herceptin as a treatment.

At the Relay for Life event, a student handed me a mic. I talked. Everybody listened as I praised the efforts of Blue Key and said a little more about my own story, simultaneously appealing to others to think about theirs (as caregivers, supporters, survivors, etc.). I did my job of kicking off the event.

After I spoke, a group of us that included students picked up a banner for the survivors’ lap around the gym. No, I did not stay until midnight, but I did do a few more laps with others that night. I talked to people, listened to fiddle music by a colleague who volunteered her talent for cancer fundraising, and cuddled a puppy.

Relay for Life was not such a bad way for me to spend a Friday evening at the end of a long, hard week, alive and hopeful.

Related Videos
Juanita Miller
Dr. Claudia DeYoung in an interview with CURE
Kim Stuck in an interview with CURE
Dr. Erika Hamilton in an interview with CURE at the ASCO Annual Meeting
Dr. Rupesh Kotecha
Dr. Ana C. Sandoval Leon
Dr. Naomi Dempsey
Related Content