Monday, September 26, 2011


Whoa, I don't even know where to start, I am still taking in all that I experienced at Relay Summit, California.

Let me start by telling you a little bit about the history of Relay for Life.  It's the American Cancer Society's largest fundraising event, and it all started in 1985 in Tacoma, Washington.  Dr. Gordy Klatt, a Tacoma colorectal surgeon wanted to raise money for his local chapter of American Cancer Society.  He decided to do it by running a 24 hour marathon around a high school track.  Dr. Klatt's friends, family and patients all showed up to support him, almost 300 of them, and watched as he ran and they pledged dollars to support him.

That first year he raised $27,000.

The next year, he got the whole community involved - 19 teams ran, and they raised $33,000.

Fast forward 26 years later, and Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society's top fundraising event, taking place in cities all over our country, and is now even international.

In California alone, here are the stats for the 2011 Relay:

  • $31.7 Million raised
  • 427 Relay For Life events
  • 32,275 Cancer Survivors honored
  • 214,572 Participants
  • 16,960 Teams
As some of you know, I participating in my very first Relay last summer, and walked the Survivor's lap while still in chemo.  This year, I was the speaker at the Luminary Ceremony.  Here's a link if you'd like to listen to my Luminary speech at the Vallejo Relay, 2011.

I was asked to participate in RELAY SUMMIT, CALIFORNIA, which is a kickoff convention for Relay Teams, for next year's Relay.  It took place at the Hyatt in Garden Grove, right down the street from Disneyland.  I was there as one of thirty "Heroes of Hope" and we received our "hero" training this weekend, and participated in the general sessions at the conference.

Here's the link to the 2012 Heroes of Hope, including me!  Wheeeeeeeeee!!!!

Whoa, when they tell you RELAY SUMMIT is life changing, they ain't kidding!  There is nothing like being in a Grand Ballroom with almost 1,000 people from all over California, all fired up about RELAY.  We had incredible guest speakers, and then broke out into workshops, which for us "heroes" was some great training on public speaking.

This is from the RELAY FOR LIFE web page, and is a great explanation about RELAY today.

What is Relay For Life Today?

The American Cancer Society Relay For Life is a life-changing event that gives everyone in communities across the globe a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease. At Relay, teams of people camp out at a local high school, park, or fairground and take turns walking or running around a track or path. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event. Because cancer never sleeps, Relays are overnight events up to 24 hours in length.

What Happens at Relay For Life Events?

Although every Relay For Life is different, there are certain traditions at all Relays, no matter where they are held. These traditions help participants celebrate, remember, and fight back.

Celebrate – The Survivors Lap

Relay starts with a Survivors Lap – a inspirational time when survivors are invited to circle the track together and help everyone celebrate the victories we’ve achieved over cancer. The Survivors Lap is an emotional example of how Relay participants are ensuring that more lives are saved each year – like those of each individual on the track. We also recognize and celebrate caregivers at Relay For Life. These individuals give their time, love, and support to friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers who face cancer. At Relay, people understand the frustrations and joys of being a caregiver, since the effects of cancer reach far beyond just the person diagnosed.

Remember – The Luminaria Ceremony

After dark, we honor people who have been touched by cancer and remember loved ones lost to the disease during the Luminaria Ceremony. Candles are lit inside bags filled with sand, each one bearing the name of a person touched by cancer, and participants often walk a lap in silence. As people take time to remember, those who have walked alongside others battling cancer can grieve and find healing. This is a time that truly highlights the importance of defeating this disease.

Fight Back – The Fight Back Ceremony

Last, there is a Fight Back Ceremony, where we make a personal commitment to save lives by taking up the fight against cancer. That personal commitment may be to do something as simple as getting a screening test, quitting smoking, or talking to elected officials about cancer. By taking action, people are personally taking steps to save lives and fight back against a disease that takes too much.
One of the things I really enjoyed at Summit was learning about all the things that the American Cancer Society does with all the money raised.  This is also from their web page:

Get Well- Patient Services: If you are diagnosed with cancer, where can you turn for help? The American Cancer Society offers many free programs for patients and survivors, including rides to and from treatment; the Cancer Survivors Network for support; beauty products for patients to help them restore their self-confidence after debilitating treatment; and more.

Stay Well- Education and Prevention: The American Cancer Society provides free educational programs and support services to help improve the quality of life for all cancer patients and their families, including prevention and early detection initiatives like the Great American Health ChallengeTell A Friend; our toll-free 24 hour information line 1-800-ACS-2345 and Web site
Find cancer information.

Find Cures- Funding Research: The American Cancer Society is the largest source of private, nonprofit cancer research funds in the United States, second only to the federal government. The Society has had a hand in virtually every major cancer breakthrough of the past half-century. With your help, we can continue on this path.
Learn more about research

At select Relay For Life events, you can personally participate in research that could help identify factors that cause or prevent cancer . Learn more about the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study-3.
Learn more about CPS-3 

Fight Back- Advocacy: The American Cancer Society Action Network (ACS CAN) is the Society's nonprofit, nonpartisan sister organization that consists of a grassroots network of volunteers working on the local, state, and federal levels to pass meaningful legislation. ACS CAN advocates for stronger public health laws to fight cancer and achieve equal access to quality health care for all people.
 Learn more about advocacy 

This organization is like no other in doing everything they can for cancer peeps like me, as well as funding vital research that influences how we diagnose and treat cancer.

Mostly though, there are research labs all over the country, who have received funding from ACS, and some day, one of those will find a CURE.

I will have more to tell you about RELAY SUMMIT and my experience there, but today I just wanted to share with you all about Relay and more about where all your dollars go.

Thank you thank you thank you to all the generous friends and family and coworkers and Sisters met through my blog, who supported me in the 2011 Relay.

I am so humbled and honored to be a Hero of Hope for 2012, and if any of you local to me are involved in Relay, please let your Event Chair know about me.  I would be happy to speak at your events in the coming Relay season.  Just go to the Heroes of Hope link in this post, and you can request me online!

If your group, church or organization is interested in having me speak, you may also request me through the Hero of Hope program.  It's not just for ACS people, anyone may request a "hero" to speak, and I'm telling you, these people are absolutely incredible, funny and inspirational with a capital I.  They are UH MAZE ING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

They have me on fire, and ready to serve, cause

Hope is unstoppable.

Hope > cancer.

I am so blessed to have this opportunity to pay forward all the love and support, encouragement and comfort that came to me on my cancer journey.

Oh, one more important thang.

If you or someone you know needs somebody to talk to about anything cancer related, the ACS has a 24 hour hotline, staffed by cancer specialists.  Here is the number:


You aren't alone.

and of course,

you got me Baby.

Thank you thank you Dear Reader for all your love and support and presence here on my blog all about my cancer journey and finding the sacred in my ordinary.  I am just shy of 14,000 visits to my blog since I started it on Mother's Day 2010, a month after my diagnosis.  Wow.

Peace to all who come here.  Thank you.

writergirl (Debbie)


Unknown said...


Congratulations on becoming a Hero of Hope! Your story will reach, inspire and save more people than you'll ever realize. Thank you for the incredible work you are doing. I deeply appreciate what it has and continues to do for my family. If you need any help, let me know.

Clinton Judd
2011 Hero of Hope & survivor speaker at this year's summit

Kimberly said...

Have you received my "official" speaking request? My request might be the first but I know definitely not the last. This is just the beginning...

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