Apt for a morning of mixed emotions

Saturday’s weather
– a cool mix of sunshine and showers – was fitting for a morning
of mixed emotions. The Morgan Hill Relay for Life began under
threatening skies Saturday morning.
Saturday’s weather – a cool mix of sunshine and showers – was fitting for a morning of mixed emotions. The Morgan Hill Relay for Life began under threatening skies Saturday morning.

My family spent a few hours there – far fewer than the fundraising team members who kept at least one walker from each team on the track for 24 hours last weekend – to participate in the event in two ways.

Our 10-year-old son Andrew was a member of a group from Boy Scout Troop #730 that posted the colors during the event’s opening ceremony. Our 6-year-old daughter, Katie, was one of 90 cancer survivors who began the relay by walking the opening lap.

The event is primarily a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, but also serves to raise awareness of cancer prevention and to honor those who have battled cancer. Survivors were honored with a medal and T-shirt and by kicking off the relay. Those who lost their lives to cancer were remembered with luminaries that were lit at nightfall and remained burning throughout the night.

Morgan Hill’s event was the first the Relay for Life to be held in the city, and the organizers and participants should be proud of their efforts. Although their goal was to raise $80,000, at last count they had taken in more than $147,000. When outstanding monies are received, organizers have said they may well double their goal by raising $160,000 for the American Cancer Society.

For my family, the event was bitter and sweet. I couldn’t help but remember the many people we met during Katie’s leukemia treatment who did not survive their battles with cancer. Andrea, Ryan, Madison … memories of them and of many others surfaced as we wandered the grounds of Community Park Saturday morning.

But, as I held my now-healthy daughter while she showed me her survivor medal, I felt gratitude for big and small things: that she is one of the lucky ones who survived leukemia; that she remembers so little of her chemotherapy experiences.

It was great to run into friends I don’t see so often now that I’m not working in Morgan Hill. We saw Anritsu’s Gina Varela – who twice walked in Katie’s honor in marathons as a member of Leukemia Society Team in Training teams; Councilman Larry Carr – who welcomed the relay participants during the opening ceremony and who probably doesn’t miss my calls from my days as the Morgan Hill Times City Hall reporter; and lots of moms from Katie’s preschool who knew her during chemotherapy and were surprised by her now very long hair.

I also ran into a woman our family knows, but I was surprised to see her wearing a survivor T-shirt and tell-tale close-cropped hair – we hadn’t known she was fighting cancer.

All in all, it was a bittersweet morning.

If you’d like to participate in Gilroy’s Relay for Life as a relay team member or cancer survivor, call (831) 442-2992. The event will be held June 21-22 at Gilroy High School.

Lisa Pampuch lives in Morgan Hill with her husband and two children.

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