My journey to a healthier me

Tales of my life

Relay for Life 2014

on June 25, 2014


This past weekend I once again participated in the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

I have been doing the Relay every year (save one) since 2004.  Friends of ours asked my husband and I to be on their team that year.  I lost my step-dad Warren to lung cancer and Dan lost his dad to liver cancer, so it was a cause dear to our hearts.  I remember being awe-struck that first year.  It was such an amazing experience.  So I continued doing it year after year.  Doing the Relay took on new meaning when I got my own cancer diagnosis in 2009.  I had always been on a team with friends, until last year when I created my own team.  I did that again this year.

I decided I wanted to accomplish a couple of things this year:  I wanted to raise more money than I ever had before; and I wanted to walk more laps than I ever had before.

I knew it would take a lot to accomplish both, but I was determined to do it.

I also did something different this year.  This year, I was part of the planning committee.  I had volunteered before, but not as part of the committee.  It was an interesting experience.  It was pretty awesome to see how much work went into putting it all together and just how many people are involved.  I’d do it again if they asked me to.

Our Relay had a theme this year – Storybook Land.  You could dress up as your favourite fictional character, and decorate your tent site too.  It’s not required, but it can make it more fun.  Initially I was going to dress up, but I ran out of time to find just the right costume.

I got there early so I could get my tent set up.  I had never set it up by myself before.  It actually went pretty smoothly until I realized the tent stakes were not in the bag.  My husband was going to join me after work, so I asked him to bring them with him.  I was pretty proud of myself for figuring out the tent on my own.


After getting that set up, I went to turn in the rest of the monies I raised.  Most of what I raised was online, but I did have a some cash.  I also picked up my official Relay t-shirt.

I also signed in as a Survivor, picked up my Survivor t-shirt and gift bag.  The person in charge of the Survivor area does a really awesome job every year.

I actually got 3 t-shirts this year — my committee shirt, my regular Relay shirt, and my Survivor shirt.  I rarely wear the regular shirt, but I still like to have it.  I mainly wear my Survivor shirt.  For a while this year, I also wore my committee shirt.

I checked in with other committee members who were setting up to see if they needed help.  No one did.  So I went back to my tent site to relax a bit before things got busy.  After a while, my husband showed up with my chairs (which I had left in our car), the tent stakes, and a few other things I asked him to bring.

One of my favourite parts of the entire evening is the Survivor lap, which happens after the opening ceremonies.  A sea of yellow shirts walking together, with people lining the track and cheering us on.  It’s an amazing site to see.  An even more amazing thing to be a part of.  I always get a little teary-eyed.

One thing most Relays do, including ours, is lap beads.  You buy a string and as you walk, you stop and pick up a bead for each lap.  Personally, I only stop every few laps because I get into a groove when I’m walking and don’t like to stop more than I have to.  Also, the table where the beads are kept gets VERY crowded at times.  The first few Relays I did, I didn’t do the beads, but now I look forward to doing them.

The people in charge of the beads did something new this year.  They had little washers engraved and gave them away when you bought your string.  They didn’t make that many, so not everyone got one.  I got my string early in the evening, so I was able to get a washer.  I think they are planning on making more of them next year.  At least I hope they are.


The start of the night is always the busiest.  Getting your tent site set up, turning in your monies, last minute team captains’ meeting, opening ceremonies.  And of course this is when most people are on the track.  Sometimes you see people you know from past years.  Sometimes you know their names, sometimes you just remember their faces.  You strike up conversations as you walk, or just nod or say HI as you pass them by.  This year, I ran into one of the city bus drivers I know.  We walked a few laps together and chatted.  Walking with someone always makes time go by faster.

My husband only stayed for a little while.  After he left, I continued to walk, mostly by myself.  My tent site was next to a group I knew, so sometimes I walked with friends.  I was smart enough to bring a second pair of shoes with me, so I occasionally switched my shoes.  It did the trick.  My feet didn’t hurt as much as they would have if I had only worn just one pair.

At one point, I decided to see if I could run a few laps.  It wasn’t easy, but I managed to run 4 laps.  I had to stop after 4 laps because the Luminary Ceremony was getting ready to start.

The Luminary Ceremony is another favourite part of the night for me.  When the sun goes down, everyone lights luminaries in memory of those passed or in honour of those who won their fight or are still fighting.   And the Pipes & Drums band plays Amazing Grace.  It’s so moving, so awe-inspiring.

And then it’s more walking.  And more walking.  And then some more running.  And then back to walking.

I took a few breaks throughout the night to have something to eat or drink, or just to rest a few minutes.  As the night wore on, the number of people there dwindled.  Some stay all night, some don’t.  Some leave for a little while and then come back.  Some sleep for a little while, others don’t.

There are activities that are planned, but I don’t usually participate in them.  I prefer to just walk the track.

Usually around 5am, there is a pancake breakfast.  I love pancakes and by that time, I usually need some food to keep going to the end.  It’s a good time to take a little break.  I ate with a couple ladies I met earlier in the evening.  Pancakes with real maple syrup, and chocolate milk to drink.  And coffee.  Gotta have the coffee.

As it was getting closer to the closing ceremonies, I could feel myself fading.  But I pushed on.  I was determined to keep going as long as I could.  I had a certain number of laps in mind and I really wanted to hit that number.

By 7am when the closing ceremonies started, I was done.  I had done what I set out to do.  I was beyond tired.  And my body was hurting.  But I was proud of what I’d accomplished.  I watched the closing from my tent site, sitting in my chair, hoping to get enough energy to take down my tent and clean up my site.  It took a lot, but I was all ready to go when my husband came to pick me up.

What a great night.

It always is.

But this year was extra special.

I raised $625 – more than I had in any other year.

I walked 55 laps – more than I ever had before.


And I ran 8 of those laps (2 sets of 4 laps).  I had never run any laps before.

I’m extremely proud of myself.

Thank you to everyone who supported me.  It means a lot to me, more than I can really express.

I’m already looking forward to next year.




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