Saturday, June 25, 2011

Relay For Life

Last night was an emotional one for me.  I entered the Relay for Life with 10 friends from work.  We raised over $10,000 and you could just feel the love everywhere.  I was honoured to speak for our group at 2:00 AM - we were asked to talk to how our group got together and why we were relaying.  Here's my speech:

I have yet to meet a person whose life has not been touched in some way, shape or form by cancer. Whether you are or know a survivor, have lost someone close to you or know someone who is currently receiving treatment, it affects you deeply. That is the reason we are here today – to support, understand and try to help as best we can.

I have been with Cole International for 6 years now. My position has always been a “salesy” one and much of what I need to know in order to sell my company is what makes us different than our competitors and also what makes us a great company to work for. That’s an easy answer – it’s the people. If you don’t have good work mates chances are you are not going to like your job and your clients will suffer because of it.

We have people like Lorna – someone who never asks much of anyone but does so much. She is the “go-to” person for so many things and enjoys arranging events for the office to get together in a more social setting. You give her a project, it’s done. Her patience, kindness and willingness to just step in is hard to come by and appreciated probably more than she knows.

Also with the Cole Crusaders are Vickie and Kim from our Edmonton office. Both of these women work under a lot of pressure, but you would never know it. They always have time for a chat and make you feel like you’re on the top of their “to-do” list. Every customer (both internal and external) knows that they matter, and it’s because they do.

Walking with us today is Lori – a mom to 2 boys. Lori’s infectious personality has been a great addition to our office. If you can listen a mile a minute you’ll have a great conversation with her. I know she’s so proud to be on this team, and we’re proud to have her.

Tammy has been described to me as a hard worker, responsible, intelligent and dependable coworker. I have also been told she deserves a raise. When Tammy is not at work, she is devoted to her family. She loves doing crafts and sewing (as is apparent by the capes she whipped up in a weekend for our team) and is so excited for the camping trips she’ll be taking this summer in her new trailer. As we walk tonight, her mother will be on our mind. Cancer took Tammy’s mom last year and I’m sure this walk is most personal for her because of it.

We have Joy – a lady who does not say much, but also doesn’t miss much either. Joy is bright, warm, and her clients adore her. Joy is always smiling and really fun to talk to if you get the chance.
I got to know Betty-Jean a lot better this past weekend at our Cole Family Camping Trip. BJ is a punk rock girl at heart, so you know she’s good people. She has lived a life you usually only hear about but because of that is grounded, wise and accepting of people’s differences. She has an ability to make you feel comfortable and I get the feeling nothing would surprise her. We love having BJ at our company.

Shelley is a real straight shooter and would give you the shirt off her back. Shelley loves her dogs and her daughter (in no particular order). Kidding aside, Shelley is very proud of her daughter and her accomplishments. Shelley lost her mom to cancer when she was just 15 so it’s not hard to figure out why she would be here with us today.
Lisa is very outgoing and loves to share (especially bringing in treats for her coworkers). Outside of work, Lisa is a soccer mom and a hockey mom to her 5 year old son Riley. She also loves to spend time plucking weeds out of her garden.

Last year, right after the Relay for Life, our team captain Pat lost her friend Trudy. With true resolve to beat this disease, Pat and her husband Ron entered the team again this year. They are both so giving, patient and have tried really hard to beat my boyfriend and I at crib but just can’t seem to do it. I never hear Pat lose her cool, even though she has a job that one would understand if it happened. She works so well with her clients and the staff at the branches she oversees. Ron is an easy-going take-it-as-it-comes kind of guy. How they have the dog with the disposition she has is beyond me, but I sure do enjoy sitting down with these two. Thanks Pat for organizing this and rounding us all up to help you.

I guess because I offered to speak this is also my opportunity to explain why I’m walking. I know my story is just one of millions, but my mom is one in a million and it’s my honour to speak of her tonight.

I was just 20 years old when I got a phone call from my mom and dad. I was living in Edmonton and they were home in Saskatchewan. I had just talked to them the day before so I knew something was up. My mom told me that her doctor had found a lump in her breast and it was cancer. She needed a mastectomy and while they were performing the surgery, also had to remove the lymph glands in her underarm because there was a concern the cancer might spread.
I took a trip home that summer because I wanted to be with my mom. It just happened to be during the time she was doing chemo and I accompanied my parents into Regina for the day. I’m sure many of you have been in a room where people are getting their chemotherapy treatments, but as a 20 year old self-absorbed young lady, let me tell you, that was one of the most impactful memories that will stay with me.

There were maybe 20 people in the room of varying ages, all sitting in a chair that was meant to give them as much comfort as possible. Each one was sitting with an IV attached to them and what looked like enormous bags hanging from a pole. Not a one was smiling, no one was looking at anyone else and there was a pall of sadness over the room. When a girl who was younger than me walked in and sat down in one of those comfy chairs, it hit me and it really hit me hard. Everything became so real to me and I ran from the room with tears streaming down my face. I wasn’t ready to lose my mom.

Fortunately, the treatment worked and my mom recovered over the next 5 or 6 years. Year 7 came – the year you are officially declared “CANCER FREE”. Well, fate wasn’t so kind and this time I was living in Seattle when the call came. Another mastectomy. I flew to Calgary and drove down to visit Mom in the hospital. It seems as though her mental state was better the second time around and she was able to cope with what was happening. No chemo this time, just pills.

I’m lucky. I still have my mom. For all our ups and downs, she loves me. She’s proud of me. I know this now.

I have a son, a beautiful 2 year old little boy. I want him to know a world free from pain and free from disease. I walk tonight as a tribute to my mother but also as a hope for my child. For me, it’s all about family – the family I couldn’t choose and the family I have the privilege to work with every day – my Cole family.

I know everyone has a story and I thank you for letting me share a little bit of mine.