By Vanessa Herrera
Photos courtesy of Ada Li
On March 14, I had the most memorable experience that I will cherish for the rest of my days; I participated in Relay for Life, held at the University of Illinois. Relay for Life is an event where cancer patients, cancer survivors, and loved ones that lost their battle with cancer are honored. Each team is asked for a monetary donation, which in turn helps fund the fight against cancer regarding transportation, hospital bills, wigs, as well as many other necessities for those whose lives are affected by cancer. Participants then stay up for 24 hours, where team members take turns walking throughout the night on a track.
Activities are held throughout the night while participants are walking, which helps the teams stay awake. Several of the activities at the event I attended were held by the students. There was a henna tattoo table, where beautifully drawn designs were done with a donation of a few dollars. Sporting activities were held as well, each game costing less than two dollars. While we were battling sleep, we were raising money to fight an even bigger battle.
The night was filled with plenty of music and performances. From belly dancing to a performance by a rock band, the participants were provided with entertainment all night. My favorite event was Ms. Relay, where guys cross-dressed as women and displayed their talents, most of which consisted of twerking.
During the event, all the participants walked a few laps during the Luminaria Ceremony, where luminaria bags filled with light are placed at the event in remembrance of those who are still fighting or lost their battle with cancer. Bags were placed around the track, each with a glow-stick and the name of someone who is fighting or lost their battle with cancer. The lights were then dimmed and we walked together hand in hand. It was a very emotional moment for me, while I walked honoring my family and friends with cancer, as well reminiscing my own journey.
The event held a special meaning to me. Several of my family members have been affected by cancer, myself included. Through my journey, I have made numerous friends; some continuing the fight, and others who have unfortunately lost their battle. I walked all night, only stopping if necessary. I ignored the pain I began to feel towards the end because the pain of walking for a few miles is nothing compared to the pain a cancer patient goes through.
I am very proud to say that I am a cancer survivor. The fight, however, doesn’t stop for me. I want to contribute to the fight, helping others just as I was helped. It was amazing to see the number of people who stayed the entire night, walking right along with me. My friends joined me in walking the whole night, taking turns walking with me and never leaving my side.
My hope is to be able to live to see the end of this disease, and one step at a time we will achieve this. No longer will loved ones be lost, no longer will children be forced to mature so quickly, and no longer will anyone’s dreams be stripped from them to instead fight for their lives. Soon, the six-lettered word will no longer have as much power as it possesses today.