By Bruce Stambaugh
To be honest, it wasn’t a walk I thought I would ever make, especially just five weeks out from my robotic prostate surgery.
But when my friend, Kim, a prostate cancer survivor himself, suggested we participate in the Survivor’s Walk at the recent Relay for Life rally for Holmes County, Ohio, I couldn’t say no. I knew I needed to be there. Kim’s encouragement gave me courage.
However, Kim and I each had our own personal reservations about walking. I guess I just hadn’t fully comprehended the meaning of being a survivor while so many others struck with the dreadful disease could no longer say that. Walking together was an incentive to get involved.
When I learned that he, too, hesitated, I relaxed and realized that it was all right to be uncertain. My good wife, who has been an incredible companion throughout my journey with prostate cancer, went along, too.
Though ever supportive of the cause, I had never attended a Relay for Life gathering. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought you had to be part of a team to help raise funds. I was wrong.
When we arrived at the high school football stadium, it looked more like a small tent city. We registered at the survivor’s tent, which just happened to be the largest one there. That should have been a big hint to me.
Other tents hosted auction items, groups, games, sponsors, organizations and several cancer information stations. Still others were for campers who intended to overnight for the 18-hour event.
We found a place in the bleachers opposite the main stage. The co-coordinators reviewed the program schedule for those assembled, and the entertainment committee did their job well. They humorously energized us.
After the relay teams, all attired in color-coordinated T-shirts, were announced, the survivors took to the track. Survivor supporters could also walk if they wanted.
Kim and I, both dressed in our Blue Cure T-shirts, began the walk near the front of the line. The Blue Cure Foundation (www.BlueCure.com) was founded to specifically bring awareness about prostate cancer.
As we began our walk, emotion stirred within. Soon though smiles replaced any doubts we had. Just ahead of us, a man pushed an older woman in a wheelchair. Scores of people lined the sides of the oval track and clapped and boisterously cheered us on.
I looked back, and was shocked to see so many people behind us. I told Kim that for a small-populated, rural county, there were a lot of cancer survivors. We guessed this group represented only a fraction of those affected by some sort of cancer.
Our encouragers included young children, senior citizens, strangers and friends. Yet we were all there for the same reason. We wanted to do something to find a cure, and I concluded that walking the walk I never thought I would make was the least I could do.
As we approached the finish line, the horizon darkened. A rainbow appeared, not in the sky, but on the field. The array of colors was itself bathed in an overarching purple, the universal color designated for every kind of cancer.
This walk I was initially hesitant to make turned out to be one I would not wanted to have missed. In this fight against cancer, none of us were walking alone.