Relay For Life

We spent last Saturday night at our area’s annual Relay For Life event. Tessa was one of this year’s honorary co-chairs, along with Carmen who is an amazing woman.  Literally, you can’t help but feel happy when by her.  And her speech was simply incredible.

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I shared Tessa’s story in the most honest and heart-felt way I could. And while I could not fight the tears that night, I felt proud and relieved to talk about it all–even the really sucky parts.  On this blog, I share so openly the events of our lives.  This site is my vessel and my voice; however in real life, I tend to be more reserved.  I don’t often talk about our struggles, triumphs, celebrations or hardships person-to-person.  It isn’t always easy for me.  I always feel like it may be hard to understand it all–the roller coaster ride that we are on.

Tessa joined me at the microphone right away.  She greeted the large crowd with, “Hiiii,” and then a very sweet and sincere, “Thank you!” That was enough attention for her as she whisked herself back into her daddy’s arms.

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I delivered my speech, quite tearfully, hoping that I conveyed a message of hope through my daughter.  Because that is what I see in her.

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And that is exactly what I feel from her.

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We walked the survivors lap at Tessa’s pace, which was far behind the others.  But she giggled and skipped the whole time.  At some point, she held hands with a fellow survivor.  All Tessa kept saying to her was, “Thank you grandma.”  Dan, myself and the very sweet lady erupted in laughter.  (Kicking myself for not getting her name.)

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At the end of the night, I sat with Dan outside of our camper and watched the luminaries dimly flicker in the dark.  They lined both sides of the long walking trail.   I don’t know how many there were. Too many.  They were beautiful, though.  Each had a story and a purpose.

It is hard to describe how amazing the Relay was.  It was inspiring and very emotional.  We were surrounded by people who were all affected by cancer.  At times, I could feel the heartache.  But I also witnessed so much love.  We gathered for camaraderie to celebrate victories of many kinds, to remember and to continue to fight.  Next year, we will do the same.

My heart is bursting with gratitude, and I am grateful for those who work so hard to make nights like this possible. Thank you to the American Cancer Society and the Lafayette County Relay For Life for taking the time to honor those diagnosed with cancer.

Tessa walked her second survivors lap just days after being one year cancer free. This picture sums it all up.

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Dear Tessa: One Year Cancer Free

Dear Tessa,

You are like the poster child for summer 2015.  Between camping, swimming, chasing fireflies, tons of popsicles, nighttime walks for ice cream and plenty of time outdoors we have really outdone out selves this summer; and it feels good.

Although it is hard to compare to summer last year.  A year ago today we found out that you were finally in remission from cancer. I remember crying in the produce section of the grocery store when I got the phone call.  I know, Tess. We celebrate a lot of anniversaries and milestones with you.  But this is by far the best one.

One whole year ago.  It seems like forever ago and like yesterday at the same time.  You have come so far since then. When I think about where you have been and where you are now, I sort of can’t believe it all.  Before that fateful phone call, we were preparing for another fight.  We waited anxiously on biopsy results.  We were held captive by that population of rare and complex blast cells, not knowing what they were capable of and desperately searching for advice.  We prayed hard for a miracle, and others did too.  Out of nowhere came the best news we could ask for.

Cancer free looks good on you.  Look at you now, one year completely cancer free.

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Never ever giving up.

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Finding freedom and joy in every moment,

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and showing me what life is all about.

We discovered life again in the last year.  You are ready to head into your second year of school.  Next weekend, you will be the honorary co-chair for this year’s Relay For Life walk for Lafayette County where you will walk your second survivor’s lap.  You are finishing up your first gymnastics class.  You are doing so many things that people do regularly, but I once worried that you would ever get the same chances because of cancer.

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I want to face life the way that you do–always unsure of what may happen, but ready to boldly take on all challenges.

Happy one year of sweet freedom sweetheart.  Here is to many, many more.

Love, Mom