(Mary Ann Page, Ferndale 115 News, June 8, 2012)
Why do I Relay? I’ve lost many loved ones to cancer, and have many loved ones who are Survivors. I Relay for all of them. But, this year, Relay has taken on special meaning for me.
But since November, I’m getting really ticked off. I’ve come to hate the word “metastasized” even more than “cancer”. Late-stage diagnosis cancer has become an epidemic for people in their 50s from our community (Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, and Oak Park) – and I’m done with it!
November 1st, I discovered a family friend had end-stage cancer. Our parents are best friends. She worked for my dad. We ARE family. She had just found out a couple weeks before. I don’t mention her name, as she is very private. It also makes it hard to ask “How is she?” when we see her family. They know we want to know, but I imagine they are sick of getting this question. If there is something they want us to know, they’ll tell us. Last I heard she’s keeping the cancer at bay, but she’s not getting better. But she is in pain and pain meds make her sick. Ironic, huh?
November 28th, Mike Callahan died, only weeks after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. I didn’t know Mike well; but I know he had the thickest eyelashes I had EVER seen. But I am friends with his sister, a classmate. I am grateful I included Mike in my Reasons to Relay, because it has made a difference to his family. If that was the only result for participating, I would be honored.
December 14th, I got the devastating news that a very dear friend and one of the truly nicest guys I knew, John Wirth, had end-stage cancer. I didn’t believe it, so I called his sister-in-law. It was bad. He was in the hospital. Nothing in stone, but it seemed he had only weeks. I debated whether to visit him because, as close as we were, I hadn’t seen him for some time. I decided against it. He was in bad shape, and I knew that I would fall apart on seeing him. And he would’ve comforted me! I didn’t think it was fair to his family, plus I didn’t want to take intrude on their time with him. So I posted as part of my daily Facebook grateful post. I’m grateful to know that I chose correctly (per his brother) and that they all knew I was there with them, in spirit.
December 20th, Therese Yodhes Herbon lost her battle with cancer. As I understand it, she had been diagnosed within the last year or so. I was not able to pay my respects at the funeral home, but my heart was broken. Our brothers were friends and I spent a great deal of time in junior high at their cottage. Many good memories.
December 23rd, my heart is further broken. John died. I have said words can’t convey my grief. But they can tell you about the man. He was one of the kindest and silliest men I knew. His love for his wife was palpable in the way he spoke of her and the way he looked at her; they were a walking love story. He adored his children and his pride in the adults they have become shone brightly in his eyes when he spoke of and to them. He loved, and was loved, dearly by his family. He took care of people. I am grateful for all the times he drove my parents to church, and the way he helped my dad in his final years, without a second thought. He enjoyed life, people, and the little things that most people take for granted. At the church fish fries, he would pull out little rings and propose to all the little girls, as well as some of the senior women. He would do anything for a smile. I am grateful to have known him, but really wish I wasn’t speaking in past tense. He’s the one in the picture above.
January 5th, Tommy Lang died. There was some talk of him also being diagnosed with cancer at John’s funeral luncheon, but most people didn’t know anything. One person told me it was bad. Again, I didn’t know Tommy well. Saw him around, shared a few beers. I know he was a proud father.
May 3rd, I found out one of the other nicest, kindest guys I know has end-stage cancer. He was one of my brother’s friends, but he always treated me like a friend (even when I was a 12-year old girl, smitten with his 18-year-old charm). Yes, he teased me like I was his sister, but he also talked to me – not AT me. Ask any girl who knows him, and they will tell you what a truly sweet guy he is. He’s getting treatment. Prognosis changes daily but, again, it doesn’t look good.
So, I have learned that six people from my life, in their 50s, had late-stage diagnosis cancer. Four have died; two are doing everything they can to spend more times with their loved ones. All were/are parents. All have parents who still live. No one should bury their child.
One of the first people from “my generation” that I lost to cancer, my brother-of-the-neck (as in “pain in the”; but also, heart), was Kevin Curtin. He died in 2007, after a 5-year, hard-fought battle with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. He was 47; today, he would have been 51.
So these are the people I Relay for this year. I Relay so I don’t have to hear that someone else I grew up with is going to be gone before I have the chance to digest that they are sick.
Please help us CELEBRATE Survivors, REMEMBER those we’ve lost, and FIGHT BACK and end this war with cancer!
Relay for Life Ferndale takes place June 9-10, 2012 10:00 am – 10:00 am at Ferndale High School. Find out more, including how to donate to MaryAnn’s team at http://relay.acsevents.org/site/TR?pg=entry&fr_id=38109&sso_auth_token=89f6f0a2a3e13e9bda915d986e0b7e0080ee2514.13859965.22315801.