Updated: Feb 20
written by Julie Jackson
For the past 3 years I've been part of a great team of volunteers that pulled together a charity event in aid of The Irish Cancer Society - Relay for Life Wexford. At Relay for Life, teams of friends, family, and members of the community come together for 1 day to celebrate the lives of cancer survivors, remember loved ones lost to cancer, and fight back against the disease by raising awareness and having conversations about cancer.
On July 14th 2018 the event took place, with over 5,000 people walking the track with most staying awake for more than 24 hours. There was lots of laughter, tears and memories of personal experiences with cancer shared between loved ones and strangers alike.
Looking after our VIP Survivors was the role I took on for 2018. The fear of messing things up was overwhelming at times, but then that one phone call from a survivor who waits all year for this beautiful event replaces the fear with excitement and enthusiasm to create something special and an experience they'll never forget.
With hundreds of stories that fill you with joy, love and pride that you're part of this amazing journey, this one gives me goosebumps! It explains Relay for Life and the effect it can have on people going through treatment in 3 simple pictures.
When Mary Sludds (below) first arrived to the Survivors’ Tent she was full of apprehension, a fear of the unknown and a fear of having to open up. You can almost see the anguish on her face in the photo below.
During a beautiful motivational speech from Bernie Kirwan about Survival, there was a moment that changed everything for Mary.
"Before I finish I want you all to close your eyes. Place your hand over your heart, feel it beating, acknowledge its gentle rhythm. That's called purpose, you're alive for a reason.” This, along with the positivity and joy within Relay for Life, helped Mary to come to terms with her diagnosis and realise that there is a support network to help ease the pain in her dreadful journey.
The final picture is Mary and her granddaughter. They hadn't seen each other for 4 weeks due to her stem cells being so low.... 💜
It was a wonderful progression to see over the course of the weekend. Mary changed from initially feeling apprehensive about the event, to feeling enlightened and happy to be part of it, and this is the perfect example of what Relay for Life strives to achieve.
The message (below) from Mary's daughter Lorraine makes the last 12 months all worth while alone!
"Julie, hope you're getting a nice cold drink for yourself, you've more than earned it. I think this whole weekend has helped mam come to terms with her cancer and let her realise she has loads of support, it wouldn't have happened without you guys. x"
Overall, the weekend was fantastic. It was a true testament to what people can do when they come together. Mary’s journey at Relay for Life is just one example among the many, of the happiness and joy that can be found in the most difficult of situations. Relay for Life created a sense of community for all who are both directly and indirectly affected by cancer, and it's an event which I look forward to being a part of again in the future.
Here's a short video that highlights some of the wonderful moments of our opening ceremony: