I wondered why Relay for Life has to start at 6pm until 10am the next day. I think I understood over the weekend as I joined my first Relay for Life Malaysia as a young cancer survivor, a week before my 1st year anniversary since completing cancer treatment…
The anticipation for Relay for Life started to build up about 3 weeks before the event as 4 other young cancer survivors and myself gathered for our dance practice. We volunteered to represent the young cancer survivors for a dance performance.
We met on weekly basis to practise and after 4 meets, we were ready to go on stage! We coordinated our dress code, arrived at the venue and immediately realized our white sneakers may not make the cut.
Because it was a rainy day and the field where the event was held turned muddy. Super muddy.
I was wearing a mint blue sneakers RK bought me; white sneakers in my bag. My pupils dilated when I accidentally stepped into a muddy puddle. Mud spa for my precious shoes? No… (T_T) Immediately went back to the car to change into rubber sandals.
It was time for the first relay lap, which was the Survivor’s Lap. All survivors took positions in respective groups, if any. I was in a very small group consisting of young cancer survivors. We’re always outnumbered. For good reasons we always hope.
At 6pm, Relay for Life started. Survivors who were dressed in green tees or in theme of jungle camouflage started walking on the field to kick start the 16-hour relay with hope of survivorship and in good cheer. Everyone else stood around the field to celebrate us, cheer on us and support us.
It was a great feeling walking amongst survivors in that manner.
Our steady walk quickly paced down because the field got muddy 😂 I quickly regretted changing into sandals, exposing my feet to the muddy ground. LOL. But I still wouldn’t want a mint-turned-brown shoes. It felt like an obstacle course. I started giggling and screaming every 5 seconds. 😅
Everyone else was invited to join the survivors after we finished the first lap. During the 16-hour long event, there’s supposed to be a continuous relay for 16 hours, symbolizing the continuous effort towards a cancer free world.
I was skeptical about the continuous relay because it’s 16 hours through the night! But during the 3 hours I was there, I always saw people walking or even running on the track every single time I turned my head towards the field. Wow. Thank you for keeping the relay going! ❤️
In the chaos of muddy field, rainy day and everyone everywhere, the 5 of us who were going to dance had to start preparing for our performance. We decided to ditch the white sneakers and go bare-foot on stage. We also decided to hijack the unisex changing tent as our rehearsal venue. Hahaha. Needed to refresh memory and warm up before the performance.
Right before the performance, RK started bugging me to eat. We’ve been hungry since we arrived actually. But my food vouchers were not with me and when I got hold of them, I was busy rehearsing. 5 min before going on stage, RK stuffed me with a popiah and wanted me to eat a burger too. I think he was afraid I’d faint on stage. 😆
Performance time came and gone. It was only 1.5 min but we spent many hours learning and practising. Especially when not everyone *ahem*meandanothersurvivor*ahem* knows how to sway and move your hip naturally to Despacito. *pat myself on the back*
So proud of these girls who are cancer survivors! All the practise paid off, and our performance was on point even with scars and what we’ve been through, it clearly does not dampen the passion to move last night at #relayforlifekl2017 😃 Thank you @suedanza for the awesome cheoreography! #cancersurvivors #cancerawareness #ysg #youthambassador #healthicon
It was about 7.40pm when we were done with our performance and photography off stage. I was due to standby for a 3-min sharing session for the Luminaria Ceremony at 8pm. RK continued to bug me with food while I was panicking about what I was supposed to talk about for my session and getting my Luminaria kits ready.
Luminaria is the time when we remember those who have left us because of cancer. We write their names on paper bags, light up candles inside the paper bags and leave them on the field.
The ceremony started at 8pm with a few words by a National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM) staff who is also a cancer survivor herself: Adeline. Through her words, I then understood the symbolism of Luminaria during Relay for Life.
When the night has fallen and the darkness comes, we light up the night and bring hope back into the darkness to continue the journey until the sky brightens again.
No wonder Relay for Life is carried out right before sunset, until morning the following day.
One year into my survivorship, I’ve long stopped crying about my diagnosis and treatment. But I realized this weekend that I still tear up very easily thinking about friends who have left because of cancer.
I’m 26 this year. I’ve attended more funerals of friends than weddings of friends; in fact, I haven’t attend any wedding of friends yet. These are not even people that I’ve known because of cancer. ☹️
So I started tearing by myself when I completed my Luminaria kit. And was telling RK I was so going to cry on stage.
Anyway, re-producing what I shared on stage here for everyone’s benefit. This is a polished version of course.
Me standing here today is a proof that cancer does not discrimate. I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Colon Cancer at the age of 25. It is typically a disease of a 50-year-old man but it happened to a 25-year-old girl.
This is my first Relay for Life and I would like to dedicate the Luminaria ceremony to remember 2 young friends who have left us because of cancer.
The first is Ailesa. She battled breast cancer 3 times. During her 3rd and last battle, she called me before my chemotherapy treatment and told me, “Don’t listen to people who don’t have cancer. I am doing this for the 3rd time and I’m telling you that you can do it. It’s not that bad.” Thanks to her, I had confidence to go through 6 months of chemotherapy.
The second is Mei Mei. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 Liver Cancer and unfortunately didn’t have a long battle. She left behind a young husband and a baby. Thank you, Mei Mei for touching my life with your radiance and big volunteerism heart.
To me personally, the most difficult question that I got asked during my cancer treatment was, “Are you married?” Because we know cancer treatment may affect fertility. I guess that’s one challenge that affects the young patients. But no one should be asked questions like this. Let’s hope and pray that one day, we live in a world free of cancer.
Thank you to everyone who are here supporting this cause.
The reason I called out the story about Ailesa was because I wanted to highlight the superpower that every survivor has. I wanted to quote Spiderman too. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Cancer gave us power to inspire and influence patients and survivors. We should use our superpower well.
And the reason I called out the mention about Mei Mei was because seeing her succumb to cancer so quickly made me think life is so unfair. She’s one of the most passionate young volunteers World Vision has. She’s so radiant and always at service. But she didn’t make it through. We did. How are we going to live our live as the lucky ones?
Those messages probably didn’t come through during my sharing as half of my brain was trying to hold my tears back and it wasn’t scripted. But I was really glad to be given this opportunity to be part of the ceremony. I didn’t know it was going to be this meaningful.
Along with a few other survivors, I was one of the torch bearers who started the Luminaria Lap. This lap was very emotional. The lights were turned off and the field was lighted by the torches and candles. I held the torch with Aimi, a young survivor with 3 young kids whose cancer just returned about a month before Relay for Life. ☹️
The first half of the lap was super slow because the field was super muddy. Aimi’s son cried because his feet got stuck in the mud. We were stepping right into the mud and pulling our feet out at every step.
Thankfully, there was light at the end of the tunnel. The second half of the lap was fine. Compared to the first half where we had to tell ourselves, “This is easier than cancer,” we were prancing and smiling through the second half.
When we finished the lap, I turned to Aimi and gave her a tight hug. Situations like this makes me tongue tight and makes me cry. I’m over the diagnosis and treatment but I’m not over the fear of cancer returning. I’m still working on this portion. I hope to be in remission forever and die of other cause. Really.
Ahh. I knew Relay for Life would be an emotional event and weekend for me. But it turned out better than expected and in fact, uplifting thanks to the people who came out to support. It was generally a joyous event where survivors, patients, caregivers and public gather to show support towards a cancer-free world.
My wishlist for Relay for Life would be (1) to spend the night in the tent with friends to fully experience the event, and (2) to volunteer for the event to contribute back to the community.
I’d remember to wear rubber boots, parka and cap next time because it rains every year apparently.