Relay for Life

This winter, as you all know, I asked Serry if she would like us to start a Relay for Life team, through the American Cancer Society. With tears in her eyes, knowing that both the previous and next months of her life were going to be the worst she's ever faced, Serry joyfully said yes--YES, start a team, YES, I will be on it, YES!

After months of planning, the day for Relay finally came on June 26th. Serry had been done with treatment for just over a week; knowing that she still had (and still has) a long road to recovery and health before her, but knowing that she is ALIVE and well.

I was team captian for The Brainiacs, and tried to organize our ever-growing team. Some of us got to the high school early on the 26th to get set up--with canopies, tents, coolers, more water than we could ever drink (or wear!), blankets, snacks, food... despite this being our first year, we were prepared.

6:00 started the first lap, the Survivor's Lap, and as that time drew near, more and more of our teammates and family showed up. Serry and both her mom and dad arrived a little before 6:00... in time to register, get survivor t-shirts, and prepare for one of the most emotional laps around a track I've ever seen.

Our team had 5 Survivors on it... and I couldn't have been more proud to see them all lining up; especially since our Survivors included my sister, her mom, dad, and my dad.

At 6:00 sharp, the Survivor Lap began. I think all of us were in tears of some sort. The fact that I was watching my sister WALK 1/4 of a mile, when she hadn't walked much further than the mailbox since last summer made my heart catch and my soul surge with thankfulness.

When Serry posed for this picture, the only word that ran through my mind was VICTORY. She fought the battle and WON.

The back of her shirt says it all: SURVIVOR.
After several laps around the track (most of them in the wheelchair), we were able to convene back at our tent. If you're not familiar with it, Relay for Life is a 24-hour event. We raised money prior to the actual event, and then were able to raise even more during Relay. From 6pm on Friday through 6pm on Saturday, our team had at least one member walking the track the whole time. MIXX 96.1, a local radio station in Olympia, broadcast live from the event the entire time. EVERYONE there had a heart for seeing a cure for cancer.

Because we had almost an entire day to go, we fired up the grill and had dinner - enjoying the company of friends and family. Serry was a celebrity during this time. Many members of the team had yet to meet her, and we kept running into friends on the track who've been praying and supporting the rest of us, but hadn't had their opportunity to say hello to Serry.

For those of you not there... I haven't seen my sister so happy, so CONTENT in a very long time. She was loved. She was supported. She was making a DIFFERENCE.

Serry and many of our family and team members stayed through the 10:00 Memorial ceremony. Just before 10:00pm, teams placed Luminaria on the edge of the track. Luminaria are simply paper bags filled with sand and small candles. On the outside, however, are the names of loved ones who have passed away from cancer. Heartwrenchingly, our team placed several bags outside of our tent.
During the 10:00 hour, names previously submitted by Relay participants of those who have lost the battle to cancer were read out loud. The entire list took about an hour to read. It was sobering, silencing most who were walking along the track, quietly listening to the Memorial and reading the beautiful inscriptions and names on the Luminaria. I found out later that Serry told Grace the same thing that Gentry and I shared with each other... We were so very thankful that there was one less name to be read this year. For every moment, every smile... they did not have to read our Serry's name.
As I mentioned before, most everyone went home after the Memorial, and all but three of us went to bed (in tents, campers, trucks) after about midnight or 1 am. Don't let anyone tell you differently, even in June in Washington, the middle of the night is FREEZING.
Gentry, bundled up as much as she was, can certainly attest to that.

Blair, Gentry, and I survived the night with little to no sleep (somewhere between 50 minutes and 2 1/2 hours), and prepared ourselves for another 12+ hours of walking, smiling, laughing, yawning, and pottie patrol (Don't worry, it wasn't as bad as it sounds!).

The day dawned gorgeously (if you ever have a chance to walk from 4 am to 5 am on a nice day, DO IT--I promise you won't regret it... you'll watch the sky go from nighttime black to gorgeous sunrise... it's SO worth it!).

Saturday progressed... the sun came out, the air warmed again, we recorded approximately another $1,000 in fundraising money... Serry came for the last few hours--having enjoyed a leisurely 12-hour sleep before (OK, so I was jealous... 50 minutes vs. 12 hours!?).

Throughout the whole rest of the time, she was content... Happy.
This is what I call her chillaxin picture. :)

We finished Relay, some team members clocking 10, 18, even 25 miles walked. We were exhausted. We were happy. My sister is ALIVE.

For more pictures from Friday night, please see the slide show my uncle posted:

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