The Fight Must Go On

The night was pitch black. The minimal stars sitting up high in the sky only served as a reminder that we were still in the universe, and the distant street lights and sounds of passing cars were muted while walking across the field.

The grass was cold against my bare feet, and I held the neon pink glow stick inside my shaking hand as every single memory of my fifth and sixth grade years came back to me.

I wasn’t the only one there who had these memories rush into my head. Everyone who had cracked open the glow-stick had something about cancer to remember.

The whole field was silent. The occasional sniffle could be heard, and the tear stained cheeks were inevitable to avoid the longer you walked in silence.

The longer I walked, the more memories rushed into my head, and the more memories eventually made me break down.

I never enjoyed crying in front of people, and normally I don’t. I cry alone, because I’ve always hated crying in front of people and feeling pitied for my tears. But I was surrounded by so many people, and when I knew I wasn’t the only one crying, I didn’t hold the tears back anymore.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

I never had cancer, but the speaker last night was right. In a way, when a loved one gets cancer, it consumes you too. It affects you too. It takes up your mind and heart. My father got cancer, and it killed a part of me too when it killed him.

Cancer is the deadliest weapon of all.

It’s the cause of the pang in your heart when you first find out they were diagnosed.

It’s the weeks spent in hospital waiting room during examinations and testing.

Then there’s the news that the cancer is gone. You think they’re finally safe, until the cancer fights back, and it comes back worse and worse, until it eventually takes over and kills.

It’s weeks of watching the life in the eyes of your friends or family fade away. When they go from being healthy, lively souls, to being trapped in their beds with no energy to get out.

It’s the fight that soon becomes too hard to keep continuing.

The consequence of cancer isn’t always death, but it’s the long suffering before it.

Not every cancer story ends with a cure.

Not every cancer story ends in a peaceful death.

In fact, most of them don’t. The cancer eats up everything. It eats up their health, and their happiness, and their motivation until all there is left is remnants of hope and loved ones close trying to help continue the fight for them.

But that was what the walk was for. We were fighting for those who couldn’t fight anymore. I was fighting for my dad who was hoping for a cure, and didn’t get one. Who didn’t win the fight. Every year I walk with survivors, caretakers, and friends to continue the fight, so that one day, the war against cancer will finally be won.

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Relay for Life

As the school year comes to an end, OVS is taking part in one last community effort. Relay for Life of the Ojai Valley is less than a month away. The event will take place on May 31, and the campus is abuzz with fundraising efforts.

OVS has many cancer survivors amongst its faculty and within the families of the students. Last year, the school managed to raise about $10,000 because of this. For a school of about 100 students, this is a remarkable achievement.

So far, we have exceeded our goal of $1000 by $700. The students continue to join the effort of fundraising cancer research. When the day of the event is finally here, we will have students, faculty, and family members walking for 24 hours.

For such an important event, OVS is throwing their all into it. Though we are a small school, we can make a valiant effort. To help our effort, or join our team, click here.

RELAY FOR LIFE!!!

Relay for Life is an extremely amazing event sponsored by the American Cancer Society. I have gone to if for the past 2 years, and I was looking forward to this years event. I had been counting down the days to Relay for Life for a while, and I was so excited when it finally came.

In the weeks leading up to RFL, I had been trying to raise money for the cause and needed $100 to participate in the overnight portion. So, I asked all of my family and friends and within just about a week, I raised the money that I needed. Overall, out school team raised $3,210! I thought that was pretty amazing. For that, we received a Bronze Medal award which means that we were a very valuable contributor.

I left early with my friend Evan to help set up our booth on Buena Ventura High School‘s track/football field. We decorated our booth with colorful paper flowers in support of this years “fiesta” theme, due to Cinco de Mayo. We also had a lot of colorful posters and other decorations. We sold these paper flowers, ceramic mugs & bowls, and auctioned off themed baskets including chocolate, beach, spa, and movie themes, in order to raise more money for the American Cancer Society.

At our booth, we had a lot of fun costumes and hats, and all of the students that came to support the cause dressed up in ridiculous outfits including banana suits and Dr. Seuss attire and walked laps. There was live music, fun games, and many cool and informative booths to visit, with anything from face painting to a bike auction.

In last year’s event, a couple who were cancer survivors had their wedding right on the field. It was a very special event and meant a lot to them. This year, sadly, the man’s cancer has returned. Fortunately, he was able to show up at the event with his wife, and it was very inspirational. He was walking around and having a good time. It was great to see all of the support they had from people at the event and I’m so glad they were able to come this year.

After dinner time, and after returning from a Battle of the Bands contest at Thacher school, my friend Wendy and I returned to the track to walk in the night portion of the event. There were a lot less people walking during the night, and it was very tiring. There were only 5 of us, until at about 12 o’clock, another faculty member and her boyfriend showed up to help us out. I think throughout the night, we managed to keep at least 1 member of our team on the track. Wendy and I took naps in hour increments, but it was too cold to actually sleep, and we would get up from time to walk some laps and warm ourselves up.

It was a very great experience. The Luminaria lit up around the track were very inspirational and a reminder that there have been so many people effected by cancer. It kept me walking and helped me realize how lucky I am to not have been effected too harshly by this disease, and also the importance of the support I was giving to this event.

Overall, the event was really great and I am so glad I have had these last 3 years to support a great cause. Hopefully, with all the money raised through all the Relay for Life events, more progress will be made in order to minimize the devastating effects of cancer and help find a cure. I am proud to say that was part of the OVS team. We did such a great job and I hope we continue this effort in the years to come.

Ojai Valley School continues to Relay

In the past two years, I have been one of the many students from Ojai Valley School to attend an amazing event called Relay for Life. It is sponsored by the American Cancer Society to raise people’s awareness and fight against cancer in a fun and community-oriented event.

When I first signed up to attend the Relay for Life event at Buena High school in Ventura, I had no idea what it was about. But within no time, there were hundreds of people and tents set up all around the track with different information, games, prizes, raffles, and live music as well. Everyone was walking or running around the track, and it was a great feeling to see all of these dedicated people in once place.

All of the teams, including the OVS team, raises money ahead of time to donate to the American Cancer Society to help research. Last year, our school raised over $5,000, earning us the Silver award, which means we donated in the middle category of high-level contributors. Although OVS is a little school, we are still mighty. Donating $5,000 is such an amazing contribution that I never could have even imagine for us.

This year, OVS is in the game once again – we even have our own Ojai Valley School page on the Relay for Life website where there is information and an opportunity to donate to this great cause. (Click on the link to go to the page)

Personally, I absolutely CANNOT WAIT for the Relay for Life event this year. It has been an amazing experience in the past, and I’m sure we can contribute just as much if not more this time. So far, we have $50 worth of donations, but I know how supportive our school will be and the donations will grow greatly over time. If money isn’t an option, anyone can contribute by attending the event and walking, running, or just being there to support. The first year was great, the second was even better, and I’m looking forward to a flat out amazing time this year.

I highly encourage everyone to check out the Relay for Life website and our school’s personal page and help support the fight against cancer!

Relay For Life 2011

“Just one more year.”

May 14, 2011, Ventura, California, Relay for Life.

It is approximately 9:00 am in the cold parking lot of Buena High School in Ventura. The yellow bus unloads its passengers, yielding the start of the day. Slowly, students crawl out, it was too early for them. But the grey, salty breeze shifts cool between their sleeves and awaken the tired students. The day had begun.

A loud voice could be heard on the loud speakers, announcing highlights of the event. Schools were commended for their outstanding fundraising. First, the honorable mentions, soon followed by the bronze teams. Then came the silver teams. My school, our school, Ojai Valley School, had been recognized as a silver team for raising so much money. In our school of just under 100 students, we managed to raise  $3,060. It was a great start to our day.

The empty track was broken by a mass of survivors, clad in the same purple shirts. Among the many survivors was OVS AP psychology teacher, John Valenzuela. He made his way around the track while our school gathered at one corner and shouted words of encouragement to him, our screams choked with tears, because we had all seen him battle through this scary disease and we had won this battle together. He put his hand over his heart and we all knew what he felt.

Throughout the day, students walked around the track, bought food, and even partook in a wedding between a survivor and the love of his life.

That night, some of our students stayed overnight and endured heavy rains, cold, and hunger but came back with smiles. And at the end of the day, all I could think to myself was “just one more year.”

Why Do We Relay?

It’s 10:01 pm. Kai, Lucy, and myself are walking on the desert red track at Buena High School. While the senior Lacrosse players have only just arrived, Lucy and I have been walking, dancing, and celebrating for 13 hours. But, we still have 11 more to go.

It started with the survivor lap and when our beloved John Valenzuela circled to the first strait-a-way an eruption of applause broke out from our booth. And as he smiled and put his hand to his heart in appreciation tears began to fall. Mr. V is our survivor.

Then there was wedding. A 5 year survivor was given the chance to marry the love of his life. Tons of ladies in dresses joined in and led the bride’s path to the alter. As they exchanged vows hearts were lifted in the celebration of their chance to live a long life of happiness. He is her survivor.

After numerous laps honoring cowboys, the 80’s, and siamese twins there came the luminaria ceremony. Hundreds of lights shined representing the battles fought by millions. As the names of the lost and the loved showed on the big screen yet more tears came. We sat in silence.

For some the walk is for their mothers and sisters. For others it is for their sons and daughters. For me the walk is for my great aunt, my great grandmother, and my mom’s sister who is a childhood cancer survivor. If you were there you knew who the relay was for. For Dad, for a 13 month old baby girl, for Krista.

Relay for Life is not just a fund raiser for cancer research. It’s a celebration. It’s not a time to grieve but a time to give respect and celebrate life.

OVS relayed for Mr. V and celebrated and continue to celebrate his life. A life that he was given a second chance to live, alongside so many other lives because of the support of their family and community. We relayed. We walked. We celebrated. We fought.

A Relay Lost

Next month, OVS will be participating in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life at Buena High School in Ventura. I, for one, am very excited to see our school be so involved in something that could quite possibly change one in five of our lives in the future. I cannot wait to see people of all different worlds join together to fight one of the biggest killers today and have fun while doing it. To top it all off, this will be the first cancer-related cause I have attended, and I’m quite nervous. I’ve always avoided them because I have a problem confronting what has thoroughly turned my life upside down more than once and stolen the one person who, above all, meant the world to me.

My mom was a remarkable woman. Standing at 5’10 with tight curls the color of embers she wasn’t a woman you could easily forget. She fought for what she believed in and would seldom take no for an answer, which only made her all the more admirable to all that met her. We were all shocked when the news finally reached us. My mom had ovarian cancer and had up to two years to live.

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(My mom second from the right)

How could someone so strong let cancer take a hold of her?

For three months her body deteriorated from a combination of chemotherapy and the cancer itself to a frail shell of a woman with only one spot of her once fiery hair barely holding on. A woman who had once stood so tall and who was so outspoken was confined to a wheelchair and an oxygen mask at all times. It was at that time I was taken to go live with my dad after living practically my whole childhood with my mom.

No more than four months after her diagnosis I was called into the hospital to see my mom propped up onto a hospital bed unconscious and on a morphine drip. My heart must had fallen through the floor and my stack through the roof. This was my mother. A once divine and beautiful woman was spending the last few moments of life in a lifeless shell. How could something do this to her?

This disease, this cancer had taken everything from her. It had taken everything from me. A perfectly good woman was drained of everything and left to suffer, and left those around her to suffer. No one meant as much to me as my mom did. She was my only friend and the only person I could talk to, that I can still talk to. For ten years she served as my idol, now seven years later she serves as my inspiration.

Cancer isn’t just a disease that affects one person, it affects everyone around that person. It’s ruthless and merciless and won’t stop at anything once it grabs a strong enough hold of you. If there’s any way to help those who suffer from it, or have been closely affected by someone who suffers from it, it’s to get the word out. Cancer kills. Help others, help yourself.