Tuesday night was a special night for me. It was my first cancer night at Mercer since my cancer battle. I started our first ever breast cancer awareness night which we had for 10 years at our basketball games. Then Covid hit. Then I got cancer. And now we are back with a new night called Cancer Awareness Night.
This event was always hard for me because I lost my mom to this terrible disease. It was always an emotional and exhausting night and something I poured myself into every year.
This year I didn’t involve myself as much as I knew it would be too much. Cancer was still so fresh and it was going to be hard. Our associate AD worked hard to organize the night and ran everything by me.
I was so nervous heading into Tuesday. How was I going to feel? Was it going to be weird now that I’m a survivor? Will this be too exhausting for me?
I headed in that morning (after stopping to get tape we needed) and taped over seventy cards up on bleachers in a ribbon shape. The cards had names of people our staff or basketball players know who had cancer. As I was hanging these I kept thinking of more people I knew who had cancer. It’s more than I realized and it showed me how common this terrible disease is.
I was already wiped out from just the setup of the gym and we still had the actual event later. I stopped home to briefly refuel and recharge and then it was game time!
As the game started and the crowd grew I started getting more and more nervous about the speech I was going to give at halftime. Was it going to be ok? Would anyone listen? Would it be meaningful? Would anyone pay attention? What if I forget what I was going to say?
I reminded myself that I’ve taught in a classroom full of college students many times so I’m capable of speaking in front of this group. I also reminded myself that I do have something special to share, a unique survivor story along with a few things I learned about cancer.
I wanted to hold Bryce during my speech (yes I used my son as a prop) but I wanted people to see him because he is such a special part of my story.
After Mercer’s President gave some remarks it was time for me to talk. But first I was surprised with a very kind introduction from my coworker who organized the night and was presented with flowers and a gift. I was so touched and now had to focus my attention back to what I was planning on saying.
So as I struggled to hold on to a very squirmy Bryce I shared my story. I will share more about my speech in an upcoming post. Almost halfway through my speech I heard Alice in the stands start to lose it and went into mom mode and got distracted for a minute but then refocused on my talk.
I didn’t forget what I had planned on saying. I said what I hoped was a good message to the crowd. And it felt great. And it also seemed like people had good things to say about it so I think I did all right.
I could finally relax and enjoy the rest of the evening. Well not entirely. Alice was tired and super cranky so I had to carry her out of the bleachers kicking and crying into the athletic office. She wouldn’t let me move and sat on my lap for the entire second half watching Cocomelon on my phone at my desk. I really wanted to see the end of the close game but I had a super tired two year old and it wasn’t gonna happen without a huge scene so I just sat with her in the quiet office.
Part of me was disappointed to miss a good game but I also enjoyed the quiet after an exhausting day. I poured my heart into the night once again. I was physically and emotionally drained. But I also felt good. It felt good to share my story to a group and I felt proud of all I have overcome.
I wish I didn’t go through all I have but I did. I can’t change that I got cancer. But I can acknowledge that it’s a part of my story. And I can share that story with the hope that others can better understand cancer and all that it entails. As Rafiki tells Simba in The Lion King (in a quote I keep referencing way too much but it’s so fitting and good!) “The past can hurt. But as I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.”
I am not ashamed of all I have been through. I learned so much from this cancer battle that has made me so much stronger than I thought was possible. I share all I have been through to help others understand this disease and all that is involved as cancer is incredibly complicated.
I could run from the disease and disassociate myself from all the pain and changes it has caused me but after facing cancer head on and kicking it’s ass, it doesn’t seem right to just run from the past. And that’s why I share my story. I learned a lot from my experience and I hope you have too.
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