How Cancer Events Bind Us Together

by Melodie on October 19, 2010

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Earlier this month, I met hundreds of folks at the Dempsey Challenge in Lewiston, Maine. This annual fundraising event features walking, running and biking activities, live entertainment, a health and wellness expo, and other activities. Its purpose is to raise funds for the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing that actor Patrick Dempsey (Grey’s Anatomy) founded in honor of his mother, a cancer survivor.

Fellow life coach Pat Grosser and I had a booth there where we could talk with people about the services we offer. Perhaps you stopped by. If so, thank you! We heard so many incredible stories of courage and perseverance from survivors, their families and friends, and from those who had lost loved ones to cancer.

To close the Challenge on Sunday afternoon, Patrick Dempsey and his mom led a group of cancer survivors on a walk through the grounds where onlookers cheered, smiled and shouted words of encouragement. I walked with a rose in my hand, flanked by fellow survivors, and was surprised to find tears in my eyes. It felt like we were on a race to the finish line, buoyed on by many who wished us well.

Events like the Patrick Dempsey Challenge have become popular in the United States as effective ways to raise funds for cancer support and research. As the weekend progressed and I saw the numbers of cancer survivors participating with their loved ones, I found myself wondering: Do people gather together for events like this for reasons that are more than merely fund raising?

I think the answer is yes.

1. Events like these help us realize that we’re not alone.

Cancer is essentially a solitary experience. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of friends or family members around to help. It just means that no one can go through it for you. You are the one who is moved through the CT tube for yet another scan or the one getting a port hooked up for a chemo treatment. You’re the one staring at the ceiling at 2 a.m., unable to sleep. A cancer event brings lots of people together who have endured the same thing, separately. We realize we have fellow sojourners.

2. Events like these allow us to do something.

When you or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, it feels like all control is stripped away. It’s common to feel impotent and helpless. But when you can raise money for a cause, there is now something that can be done. Your efforts join with others’ and make a difference for someone, perhaps even you. I met a number of participants who had names or photos pinned to their shirts or caps that reminded us all that they were doing this on behalf of a loved one. That’s a tangible gift.

3. Events like these keep us preparing for a hopeful future.

When a physical challenge is involved, like a triathlon or a 5k run, you can’t just show up and hope to finish. There’s a lot of preparation ahead of time – getting up at 5:30 a.m. and lacing up the running shoes or plunging into a pool day after day to build endurance. It can be hard for someone with cancer to dare to think too far into the future. Yet, when you prepare for an endurance event, you must think ahead. You have to believe that you will live long enough and be healthy enough to participate, and finish the course. Taking the first step to register for a 5k walk can begin building a powerful confidence that you will beat this cancer and be here to celebrate the future.

 If you long for a meaningful connection with other cancer survivors and their loved ones, want to build up your strength to its potential, and raise money for a cause beyond yourself, consider a cancer event. You can google “cancer fundraising events + [your state]” to find possibilities in your area. This is a great time to be thinking forward to next summer, and what you want it to hold.

 Can you envision ways that participating in a cancer event would help build you up in body and spirit? Plan your next step now.

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1 Pat Grosser October 20, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Thank you for this upbeat picture about the desire many cancer survivors have to do something positive to help make the cancer journey a little more bearable for the next person and the encouragement current patients feel when they see thousands of people gathered to show solidarity and support. I also liked being reminded that there is a warm comraderie among the participants, survivors and volunteers at such an event. As a cancer survivor, I was warmed to the bone to be there in spite of my very cold feet.

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