Patty and I attended the National City Relay for Life this past Saturday. A 24 hour benefit walk for the American Cancer Society. A friend of mine, who’s mother is a 14 year breast cancer survivor, asked me a couple of weeks ago if Patty would speak at this event and share her experience. It was funny, when I asked Patty if she would be interested in speaking, she didn’t hesitate in the least. She immediately answered “absolutely!” Later she told me: “If I can touch and help even one person, it’s worth it!” Knowing how much Patty loves public speaking, I was surprised with her quick response! (I hope you know that I’m being very sarcastic with that comment!)
We arrived shortly before the opening ceremony which started at 10:00 a.m. We met up with my friend and her family. This girl has a huge family. When I say huge, I mean huge. Her mother, the 14 year cancer survivor, has something like 12 sisters and 4 or 5 brothers, so when you add in children, cousins, nephews etc, it’s a huge family. Most of whom were present. This is a very loving and close family who has been affected by some form of cancer many times over. Some have survived, but sadly, many have not.
The opening ceremony was very moving! A lot of tears shed by many people. There were several cancer survivors who spoke, telling their story. It was very inspiring! From the beginning, I felt this was something that Patty needed to experience, but actually being there and listening to these people speak, I knew it would help Patty. The opening ceremony ended and the walk began. The survivors lead the walk, followed by hundreds of people all with a common cause… fellowship, support and encouragement. (Of course it was also to raise money for cancer research) It was really a sight to be seen!
This was really quite the event! Every “team” had a booth set up. The air was filled with the aroma of every kind of barbecue you could imagine! Believe me, there was no shortage of food. Some families had decorated their booths with posters and photographs of love ones who have lost their lives to cancer. Other’s had items to raffle, such as Charger season tickets, Coach purses, gift baskets etc, all to raise money for the cause. Last year this group raised over $82,000 for American Cancer Society! Their goal was to beat that number this year!
Patty was scheduled to speak at 2:45 that afternoon. She had given some thought to what she would say earlier in the week, but the juices just weren’t flowing for her. I think it was Thursday afternoon and she told me: “Ed… I’m just cancered out! I can’t think about it anymore!” I didn’t blame her! We were both pretty much “done” with cancer! She decided she wouldn’t think about it until sometime that afternoon, then she’d throw something together. Well as the morning went on and knowing my wife as I do, I could tell she was getting a little tense that she was not prepared to speak in a few hours. So around 1:00 p.m. we walked off and found a picnic table off to the side so she could gather some thoughts. It took her about 45 minutes and she had a rough draft on paper. She read it to me and it was definitely from the heart and very touching.
My daughter and her husband showed up to the event shortly after 2:00 p.m. to lend Patty their support. Patty was very appreciative of them being there. But, the clock was ticking and 2:45 was getting closer… I could see Patty having a little internal stress party going on! The time finally came and a woman on the stage called Patty’s name and asked her to come up. Patty walked on stage with me closely behind for support. (Patty was really concerned that she’d break down crying so we had agreed several days earlier that I’d go up on stage with her and if she couldn’t finish, I’d take over for her. We’re such a team!) The woman introduced Patty, handed her the microphone and it was “show time”!
Patty had her notes in her hand but started off “shooting from the hip,” not following her notes at all. I was behind her thinking “Where is she going with this???” She told the audience about her cancer. How she was initially mis-diagnosed. She told the audience to be strong and if you’re not happy with your doctor… find someone else! It’s ok! The audience applauded her! She then talked about the three “F’s”, Faith, Family and Friends! She told the audience how much God has played a role in our lives! People again applauded! She was now on a roll!
Here’s Patty telling the audience that she has such a great husband! (Go figure!)
She talked over 10 minutes. In her closing she told the audience with such conviction: “I may have breast cancer, but I refuse to let the cancer have me!!! I have grandchildren that will be born in the next few months and I plan on being around to see them grow up!!!” It was awesome! People again applauded! At that moment, I was the proudest husband on the face of the earth! My wife is going through such a devastating trial right now, but she was so strong and encouraging to others! I was just so proud!
We walked off the stage and Patty was immediately contacted by a woman. The woman told her that she was diagnosed last October with breast cancer, she had gone through the chemo and had seven radiation treatments left! The woman was beautiful! You wouldn’t never know what she had been through! Her daughter was with her who I’d guess was 18 years old or so. The woman told us that her daughter had taken a year off from college to take care of her. Talking to this woman was very encouraging. We definitely had a moment! Other women came up to Patty, gave her hugs and thanked her for telling her story.
Patty was so pumped up after speaking. I haven’t seen her feel that good about herself and life in general in a long time! As much as she hates public speaking, this was a moment we’ll never forget.
We had been at the event pretty much the entire day and I could see Patty was getting tired. We said our “goodbyes” to everyone and left. As we drove home I could tell that Patty was still running off of adrenalin. She looked at me and said: “I want to speak to more women. I think I can help them!”
Get ready… Patty can make a difference to others!