This last weekend we participated in Relay for Life at the Vashon Island high school track. The American Cancer Society sponsors overnight relay walks in communities all over the world to support cancer survivors and their caregivers and to raise money for cancer research. We had a combined team of clinic staff and our daughter Aubrey's friends. The relay has someone from each team actively walking at all times from 6:00 PM one night to 9:00 AM the next morning. Many months ago when Aubrey proposed this walk, it seemed like a good idea. Aubrey was on the organizing committee for the walk and that made it difficult to decline. Later, while I was planning the camping needs and logistics with Dr. Fritzler, it seemed very far from a good idea. Sitting here the next day, it was fun and moving and was well worth the time and effort.
We set up a schedule to have at least two of us walking at all times. I spent the most of earlier Friday getting the gear ready, preparing the tents and setting up camp for us. The night started with recognition of survivors and their caregivers and then the teams started to walk. My son Nick and I took the first hour in the stifling heat with the sun blazing on us, especially whenever we rounded the track and headed west. Dr. Fritzler had packed a cooler with sandwiches and drinks and snacks were everywhere. I had set up a two tent compound so people not walking could sleep. Nick and I were the only guys, so a separate tent for us and Dr. Fritzler seemed prudent to avoid any awkward cuddling incidents through the night with staff and Aubrey's friends.
As night fell, small bags with lights were put all around the track. There was a “luminaria” booth that was making the bags throughout the earlier evening. I hadn’t really understood what it was. But then the bags were all lit around the track when it was dark and we walked around them. Each bag had a message to someone that had succumbed to cancer. It was very sobering and sad and unifying. So many people are lost to cancer. Everyone has a story. There were notes to aunts and uncles, moms and sons, friends, dads, daughters and grandparents. I wished I had figured out what the booth was before. My favorite uncle died of lymphoma when I was 16. He was only 40.
Later, Aubrey broke out an endless amount of glowing bling and we were all covered in glow stick necklaces and bracelets. Joon, Hilari’s 4 year old daughter, could be seen by satellite. Dr. Fritzler and I took the 11:00- midnight shift and then slept for several hours. Kas walked on and did over 14 miles total. She and I did the 4:00-5:00am shift together with my brother. Johana came a bit after it started and walked with Aubrey and Kas well into the night.
Morning broke to the teams all still continuing around the track and the music still blaring. Oddly tasty
pastries with chicken were served for breakfast and a torrential downpour hit as the walk concluded.
It was a good night.
Last month we had a management retreat to consider our clinic mission, core values, and goals. Dr. Fritzler, myself, Johana, our practice manager, Sarah, our head technician, Kas, our head receptionist, and Andrea, our operations manager all met for a weekend. We spent time considering where the clinic goes from here and what are our values as a group. One of our core values we talked about is to be involved in the global community. The relay was a small start and part of pursuing that goal.
We will be back next year and hopefully for many to come. Next time I’ll put out a light and note for my uncle.