It was early in the morning, just before 2 a.m., when I read a Facebook post written by one of my friends (I'll call him Tom) who participated in the Relay for Life this past weekend. Although not an exact quote, the post simply read, "It's late and my feet are sore, I'll be back tomorrow mom."
Tom's post gave me a glimpse of what the Relay meant for him. It helped me recognize the important role Relay for Life plays in helping many people through their battle with cancer - no matter if that battle is a personal one or from the perspective of a family member or friend who has witnessed a loved one who is struggling with or has lost the fight. In this case, the support and community embrace that was evident throughout the evening was helping Tom with the grief he has endured since having lost his mother. He, too, was healing.
Throughout the day I observed the varied emotions on the faces of those who participated in the event. I saw sadness and recognized the loss that so many of my friends and neighbors have experienced. I also recognized the happiness of many as they told stories and shared memories as they celebrated those loved ones who have fought cancer and survived as well as those that didn't.
My son and I walked the track that night and looked at the luminaries. He had many questions and when he learned that our family has not been immune from cancer, he, too, wanted to add to the luminaries. It was a sincere gesture that joined the loving thoughts and prayers of the hundreds of other people we joined that evening. It was an overwhelming sense of community - a beautiful moment, I dare say - as I watched my son struggle with his own understanding and emotion and essentially become a part of the healing movement.
It is recognized the important role that the Relay for Life plays. It is also important to recognize the challenges that our patients face each day throughout the year. The healing power of Relay cannot end at the conclusion of the event, but must endure as we must endure throughout the year. I believe we are blessed to be part of a community that supports each other and is willing to share that burden and offer support when and as needed.
At Portage Health, our medical professionals use training, technology and experience to treat cancer patients. Our patients also come to us for hope, support and understanding that are so very much a part of the healing process.
As I reflect on my experience from the Relay for Life, I am compelled to applaud the efforts of so many people that made this past weekend possible. I am also thankful to be part of a community that truly knows when and how to show its support to those friends and neighbors.
On behalf of Portage Health, thank you to the organizers, sponsors and participants of this event. We felt privileged to be part of it.
Editor's note: Kevin Store is director of marketing and communications at Portage Health.