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Relay For Life - Vacaville, CA 2017

My family has been participating in Relay for Life since 2007. We initially participated because we wanted to help the American Cancer Society and we enjoyed the love and community-spirit Relay for Life created in every city. I remember walking and not be able to understand what the cancer survivor's families felt like. I was 14 and felt 'bad' for them but I didn't understand what cancer truly was. I couldn't relate. Two years later, a few months before Relay for Life 2009, my mother sat my brother and I down on the couch to tell us those three words. "I have cancer." 

My mother was diagnosed with stage 3C Breast Cancer in 2009 and again with stage 4 Lung and Breast Cancer in 2012. She had a hysterectomy, a double mastectomy, removal of 24 lymph nodes, chemotherapy, radiation, lost all of her hair and most of the feeling in her finger tips and feet... Within a few years I watched my mother's body and spirit change. Watching her have to literally battle, continue to step up to the plate to bat, was really hard for me as a teenager. I remember feeling so afraid and sad for her. She lost many of the things that make a woman feel like a woman. She would enter remission and the cancer would return and worsen. I remember feeling helpless.

In 2009, my family attended Relay for Life to support my mother for the first time. I get emotional typing those words. It's crazy - I never in a million years thought I would be walking for someone in my family. Especially not my mother, who woke up every morning at 4:30 am to train and just ran two marathons. But, God, has something so painful and emotional brought so much love and joy into my heart. Relay for Life has provided me with a feeling of empathy, support, and compassion. The feeling I get, walking that track and looking around at the love being spread, reminds me that I am not alone. 

Today, I feel grateful. Genuinely, so lovingly grateful. Today, June 25th-26th, 2016, from 9 am to 9 am, I am walking for my mom. It's my first year as a team captain and I couldn't feel more proud. Today, I remember my mother's transition but I choose to focus on all of the positive outcomes.

Happy 5th cancer-free birthday momma <3

Olivia Reed