By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen

Cheryl’s Adventure - Preparation 101
By Cheryl Copeland

It was exactly one year ago, after being diagnosed with Breast Cancer, that I was blessed and given an opportunity to write for this local newspaper.  What was meant to be just a one-time article appearance happily became a monthly affair.  My schedule became quite hectic after returning to work in the classroom. My passion for sharing through writing had to be placed on the back burner until the end of the year.  School is now officially out and so my Adventure continues! 

Cheryl CopelandAt the age of 36 I can admit that I was not quite prepared to hear the words, ‘you have cancer.’  Seriously, how does one truly prepare for cancer?  I hadn’t seen or read any books titled Diagnosed for Dummies, or Ten Ways to Prepare for Cancer.  My world was literally turned upside down.  Life as I had currently known it to be was completely altered, yet there were no guides or manuals to prepare me for such a situation.

Throughout my experience I have found that no one ever wants to deal with cancer.  No one knows who or when it may strike.  Cancer does not discriminate.  No one is ever offered a 100% guaranteed cancer-free pass.  So without colleges offering courses like Preparation 101, how would someone actually prepare themselves to battle cancer? 

My answer is simple.  Join a Relay for Life Team today!

Over the last decade I have participated with our school’s Relay for Life team.  I originally joined to honor my Grandmother who had lost her battle when I was in the 8th grade.  Participating with people who Celebrate, Remember, and Fight Back is simply amazing.  But how might raising money for the American Cancer Society help someone mentally and emotionally prepare to fight cancer cells?  

My answer is simple.  You join a Relay for Life TEAM! 

In my original article last May I shared of the moment that the doctor complimented my Relay for Life shirt.  I laughed as I realized the results he was about to share with me.  Being reminded of our Relay for Life team was exactly what the doctor had ordered!  While I was now part of the statistics that had cancer cells swirling inside, I knew in an instant that I was not going to fight this battle alone.  I had a team of students, teachers, and parents that fought year round against these cells!  I had my army with me before I even entered the war! 

My favorite activity our team participates in is the annual Relay for Life Event at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds.   This is where all the mini-teams in Gwinnett County rally together in one location and celebrate.  I have attended this event for several years with my children, but this year was special.  This was the year that I was going to receive a free Survivors T-Shirt and get to walk in the Survivors Lap! 

For those of you who have experienced this event, you can understand why this was a personal goal set at the beginning of my adventure.  I would often laugh and say that I am fighting for my free T-Shirt and chance to walk with the Survivors!  If you have never participated in these events, I highly recommend that you not only attend next year’s festivities, but try to bring every cancer survivor you know along with you!  

My family walked alongside me as my Caregivers and I was also joined with several survivor friends.  Together we walked while waving at the cheering crowds.  As I looked ahead I saw a sea of bright purple shirts with the phrase I AM HOPE written across the backs.  This was a clear visual reminder of how being a part of a Relay for Life team had prepared me for my fight.  Year after year I had witnessed Survivors Surviving.  They were the ones that had given me the HOPE to survive!  

Gwinnett County’s Relay for Life Teams are determined to help find a cure, but until we do, we will all continue to Celebrate, Remember, and Fight Back! Whether you find yourself or a loved one looking cancer square in the face it is always best to be prepared!  

Preparation 101 – Join a Relay for Life Team near you today and be sure to join us at the Fairgrounds next year! Visit www.relayforlife.org for more details! 

 

Cheryl Copeland is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about life’s lessons and her personal adventure with breast cancer.