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  • Writer's pictureSandy

Relay For Life – Rock

I would like to thank the Relay For Life of Lyon County for asking me to return this year to speak to you. I’m very grateful to be able support such an amazing organization as the American Cancer Society. Knowing the American Cancer Society is just a click away with expert advice, resources from trusted sources, along with latest cancer information and on-going emotional support for cancer patients and their caregivers helps makes anyone’s cancer journey a little lighter.

The mission of the American Cancer Society, which is to save lives, celebrate lives, and lead the fight for a world without cancer. Their mission is something I’m humbly grateful for.

I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in March of 2019. I’m happy to report I am currently a 2-year cancer survivor of this disease. Something that still makes me feel a little giddy to say. Once in remission, it has been a goal to educate people about Ovarian Cancer (which is why I have on my “teal” glasses) and also help anyone going through hair loss during their chemo feel better about themselves through my Stylin’ Cancer website. The Stylin’ Cancer website showcases many pictures of outfits styled with different head wear which are common with hair loss due to chemo and also my thoughts and reflections about my cancer with an occasional blogs. My goal has always been with whatever I do is to help just one person. It may not sound like much, but if you are that one person who needs it that day, it means the world.

Growing up I was one that kids who collected rocks. No, it wasn’t that I was into the “types” of rocks, like we learned about in science class, but if I saw one that looked really cool, I would add it to my collection. I remember I kept them in a shoebox and loved looking through them. I’m pretty sure my Mom questioned if my head was full of rocks! But of course, that never stopped me from collecting.

Needless to say, I’ve never outgrown seeing a rock and having that slight hesitation I should pick it up because it looks “different” or “cool.” Thinking about rocks recently got me thinking about cancer. I thought I would try to put into words what a cancer journey is like using rocks. Though everyone’s journey is unique I hope this will resonate with those, along with their friends a family, who have been down this rocky road.

First of all, see this rock. Yes, you can easily hold it, but it is heavy! So, let’s say you would have to carry it around day after day. It would defiantly get even heavier and become a burden don’t you think? Well, this rock reminds me of what it is like to receive a cancer diagnosis. Receiving that diagnosis, at first, is like carrying this rock around day after day. It becomes exhausting. So much information at first, each day it feels heavier and heavier. You have no choice but to continue to carry it. Each morning you wake up thinking everything was a bad dream…until you see the rock which is “oh yeah, I have cancer.” You wondering how you are going to carry it today, but somehow each day you do it.

Soon it becomes too much to carry around this “rock,” so you take a hunk of the rock and try to get use to handling it. Its edges are rough and ragged, kind of like how you feel after surgery and going through whatever treatment is needed. Chemo, radiation, or even just routine day to day tasks become a challenge at time and gosh you get tired! Again, you do your best to represent the rock, you try to be what a rock is: strong, stable and dependable, but the jagged edges tell a different story. We know we must be strong like this stone, but the ups and downs of treatments can make it hard. In fact, even carrying around this smaller piece of your “cancer” is still a challenge, but you somehow learn to manage it. For me, I managed it by having faith that God would handle things and also relying on the support of your community, family, and friends. There is a saying I found “All David had was faith and a rock to defeat his giant. All you need is faith in the rock to defeat yours” and I couldn’t agree more!

Then you are fortunate enough to hear the word “Remission.” It feels so good, but you have no idea what to do with it, you try to go back the “normal,” but so much has changed and you are no longer sure what “normal” is so what you usually end up showing the real world is an even smaller piece of the rock. It’s just a sliver of what you started with, but it’s more manageable than carrying the whole rock. It still doesn’t quite fit in your pocket, it is a little uncomfortable, but you make it work. This is what your first few months of remission feels like. You are stilling finding it hard to adjust, you are happy to reach this huge milestone, but a part of you still feels the “rock” in your pocket and it is very real.

We sometimes can go days without our mind focused on our cancer. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t want to take life for “Granite,” those of us with cancer know this for sure, but sometimes when you finally tell your fears about cancer, the usual response is “you have to believe that’s not going to happen.” You usually just smile and nod your head. But on the inside, you are afraid, like that stone, that something small can turn into something big very quickly. No, you don’t like bringing it up, but certain times it feels good to get it off your chest. It does make you feel like you are in a “rock and a hard place” when you have these fears but just letting them come to the surface is the cornerstone for healing. If you are a friend that hears these words from someone with cancer, I encourage you to just listen, being their support is the rock they truly need. I like to think of this stage of rock as my heart rock representing all the love and continued support that is with you every day.

There comes a time in your journey when you realize you no longer look at the stone as representing your cancer, but instead it represents your strength. Your strength may have started out as a speck, but if you think a tiny rock can’t be strong, think of what a small rock can do when it is rolling around in your shoe! If you have ever been out on a walk and this happens the consequences is usually a big old blister.

Soon the rock becomes manageable, and is such a part of you that it not only reminds you of your cancer journey, but of the strength you’ve gained. This rock represents your faith, your family, your friends, your community your healthcare team and organizations like the American Cancer Society that have supported you. You can still feel that the rock is there, but it is more of a reminder of how far you have come with the support of so many. Just remember, that when rocks form, it doesn’t happen in one day. Your strength is the same. It takes time to develop and become strong. What started as something so heavy can now easily be carried in your pocket. Yes, the journey of cancer is a rocky road but with everyone’s support each rock now becomes a just stepping stone. And when it comes to being a survivor, well, I know we are all going to “ROCK IT!”

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