My Relay Journey

Relay Stories_004

 

I come from a rather large extended family in RL and over my 50 years of life, have lost several extended family members and friends, not all to cancer.

My cousin Rogers was one that touched me in a profound way. He was an firefighter and a first responder. He contracted cancer from one of the fires he was called too. I had attended many funerals by this point in my real life, but nothing could have prepared me for this one. If you ever seen the end of the movie Backdraft, you will know what I am talking about. To this day, I cannot handle seeing a funeral attended by first responders in their dress uniform and bag pipes playing Amazing Grace.

Some 24 years ago, my father was diagnosed with colon cancer. Thankfully, it was found early and was quickly over come. But I remember the long nights he endured. I room was in the basement and I could hear him wake in the night, from the pain in his legs due to the treatment regiment, that was keeping him awake. He’d come down and we’d sit and talk for hours. My mom never got her driver’s license so I was the family taxi. Took him to his treatment, doctors’ visits, grocery runs and all the other errands they needed. That was my first experience as a caregiver.

Between this time and when I found SL, I had lost 3 close friends to cancer, two with liver and one with pancreatic cancer.

In the fall of 2010, I had just created my 2nd avatar in SL after a disastrous first go. I had found this place to call home for newbies and people needing shelter, from all the nastiness of the grid and life. There, I met this soul that shared her cancer journey openly. It was my first experience to the worse phrase ever spoken, “there is nothing more we can do.” From the time I met her to her last day, which was less than a month. She story changed me and spoke at her wake we held. That was the day, the path of my life changed.

That spring I found Relay For Life on Second Life. At Kick Off for my first RFL season in 2011, was and still is, my most defining Relay moment. By the time the key note speaker began her presentation, I was already in tears. by the end, I was mush surrounded is spent tissue. I never did hear her words thought all my sobbing, but I felt every pain she shared and her hope.

Between that first Relay Season and last year, I have been involved with every RFL season here in SL, help launch RFL in InWorldz now going into it’s 5th season and involved with RFL where I live in RL, for the Canadian Cancer Society and have virtually and literally walk 3 Relay events per year, for the last 4 years.

When I first became involved with Relay, Dwen warned me, that I will know grief. Between Kick Off of 2011 and last year, I have lost so many fellow Relayers, people I considered friends. Many were hard to handle. One in particular this haunts me to this day. It was two years ago at an RFL event in InWorldz. Clint Westwood was a staunch supporter of our Relay, sponsor from day one and played at many events. Loved the blues and a pillar of the community. His last event he played, he told of his cancer. it was not good. He told us his days were numbered and that this would probably be his last event he could do. Everyone there was devastated including me. Dwen’s words came back and finally knew what he was trying to tell me.

In the late winter of 2015 my father began his final journey from this life. It happened gradual over several months, and it gave us the time to come to terms with it. It gave us the time to say all things I needed to say, things that we would be saying every day of our life to our loved ones. May 27, 2015 I began a beautiful journey through grief, because of the time I had to come to term with his eventual end, of a long and good life and 23 more birthdays. He ruled over cancer.

A few short month later, on Sept 4, I receive a call from my sister that started with “Are you sitting down?” and was told of my other sister’s shocking and sudden death, and how her husband came home from work to find her on the floor. My sister needed me to go with her, to break the news to my mom. That was the hardest day of my life, and began the darkest period in my life. Up until this point, I thought I knew grief, but I was so very wrong.

With a lot of help from family, my darling Panza, Oldesoul and many, many other close friends, I manage to keep moving forward. I also began looking into grief and grief counseling. To my horror, I discovered there is a condition called “Prolonged Grief Disorder.”

“Prolonged grief disorder is not synonymous with grief. Complicated grief is characterised by an extended grieving period and other criteria, including mental and physical impairments. An important part of understanding complicated grief is understanding how the symptoms differ from normal grief. The Mayo Clinic states that with normal grief the feelings of loss are evident. When the reaction turns into complicated grief, however, the feelings of loss become incapacitating and continue even though time
passes. The signs and symptoms characteristic of complicated grief are listed as “extreme focus on the loss and reminders of the loved one, intense longing or pining for the deceased, problems accepting the death, numbness or detachment, bitterness about your loss, inability to enjoy life, depression or deep sadness, trouble carrying out normal routines, withdrawing from social activities, feeling that life holds no meaning or purpose, irritability or agitation, lack of trust in others. The symptoms seen in complicated grief are specific because the symptoms seem to be a combination of the symptoms found in separation as well as traumatic distress. They are also considered to be complicated because, unlike normal grief, these symptoms will continue regardless of the amount of time that has passed.”

I am borderline on this one and where I am on my Relay journey. But no worries, I am still moving forward. Every day is getting better because of the experiences I’ve had in Relay and the stories everyone shared. I am not the same person not too long ago.

A Call to Arms

There are a tons of wonderful groups out there helping fight against cancer, one of which posted something that tickled me.

Stupid Cancer Manifestowww.facebook.com/stupidcancer

On November 15th, Stupid Cancer on Facebook posted this with the following caption “What do you believe? Should we even be using military terminology when it comes to facing disease?”

Stupid Cancerhttps://www.facebook.com/stupidcancer/photos/a.10150120311596306.300489.10900196305/10152817230801306/?type=1&theater

Yes I do believe we should be using military terminology when dealing cancer.

We have an army of Relay For Life people in 23 countries around the world, all organized into divisions and sub groups, each with their own lead ship, taking their lead from umbrella groups and leaders.

We have countless other groups and organizations in this battle, from Marrow Donor Programs, groups that target specific types of cancer or cancer groups, Cancer hospitals, education and awareness, and so much more, all with support coming in from areas.

Our fight covers all aspect of this fight, from R and D, curing the victims, support for them and their families at every stage of their battle or battles.

And we are working on defense with improved early detection and education of our enemy, and what you can do, to lessen you chance of encountering this foe.

Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It will hit anyone, any age, any race or demographics group, and will always have collateral damage, as cancer does hit one bird, it hits the whole flock.

And here we are, standing shoulder to shoulder, firm in our belief, we will be victorious in this war against our enemy.

So yes, they did not lose their battle, they are the honored casualties of this war. And like we remember our veterans of real wars, at every Remembrance or Armistice ceremony, we honor our cancer veterans, past and present, at every Relay event around the world.

In the finest tradition spoken by armies throughout history, I shout out “I don’t think cancer knows who he’s F%$*ing with!”

Life of Relay

The coffee finally waking me up from my first real life Relay, as a member of the Team Committee and was going to say my most moving Relay, but that’s not entirely true. Nothing as moving as one’s first Relay, especially if that Relay in a place, like Second Life.

We’ve joked and had serious talks about what makes RFLofSL so unique. The perfect weather, no bugs and mosquitoes, private kitchen and rest room steps away from the keyboard, with the “walk and talks” and never miss a beat, all the tools we have at our disposal, thanks to the like of the tech division and communications within Second Life groups IMs and notices, and just the endless creativeness of the grid, there are no real limits. As a newbie, pretty hard to have a more moving experience than a Relay For Life of Second Life, Relay.

But last night’s real life Relay For Life in a place called Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, I had my second most moving Relay.

Started by arriving 4 hours early to help set up, get everyone registered with the event kits and t-shirts, distributed to all the captains. With just over 70 teams to process with finalizing all their teams roster, funds raised, score cards tallies and goodies distributed, is one labor intensive process the virtual side doesn’t have. But it was amazing to meet all the captains face to face, after all the correspondence we’ve had.

Opening ceremony and survivors laps were delicious with everything I’ve come to know. I was struck by the fact our Relay was large enough, to field a full track of survivors and caregivers. I was a beautiful celebration in yellow. I kick myself for forgetting to take pictures, as I was too busy cheering and applauding all the survivors as they took the first lap. I was really was caught up in the moment.

Several busy hours later we arrive at the Luminaria Ceremony time, which for all of us, the roughest. We gather at the stage and are presented with a 40 person choir. They were amazing, wish I could share what they sang. They move off stage revealing the Empty Table Ceremony. This gets me excited, as I presented this ceremony to the committee during the planning stage; and they loved it. I gathered crowd loved it too, judging by their silence afterwards. After a thoughtful silence, the word is given to begin lighting the luminaries and the start of my longest hour.

Here is also a marked difference from the virtual of that in the virtual Relay, you know where you placed every single luminaria. I real life, with advanced luminaria sales, these were placed alphabetically around the track, intermixed with those of the team campsite. With my 19 advanced placed luminaries, I knew I had a lot of wandering to do. The first one I find, is in honor of my dad, I lose it. After a bit, I gather myself up and continue my quest, with a vague remembrance of all the people on my list. The lighting process begins with 15 minutes to give everyone a chance to find and light theirs; afterwards everyone fans out to light the remaining. I managed to get to about half of mine and a good number of the dearest ones, on both online and real side on my life, before the torch was past, to lit them all. I remember feeling sadden I could not get to all of them and rejoiced someone was caringly tending to them. VR never had that.

Over the next long while, well beyond the remaining of the Luminaria hour, I so slowly walk along that inside edge of the track, going around and around the track, from a to z, a to z, a to z, luminaria bags so numerous, they are right next to each other, in an endless procession. They are all there. Mothers, fathers, wife, husband, sons, daughter, uncles, aunts and grandparents, colleagues, lifelong friends and those that touch our lives, but for a brief moment; and never leave.

Sigh of relief, I find all of mine carefully tended to, but not surprised, I haven’t seen an unlit one in quite some time. After about the third or fourth lap on the inside track, I realized I was one of a group of people, circling the track, doing the Luminaria shuffle. Silently advancing, bit by bit, reading and reading, the outpouring of love, all mindful of each other, while the walkers are pacing their laps further out. After a bit, I find myself on that divide between the Luminaria shuffle lane and the walkers coming at me, just looking at all their faces. Right there, I could see it in their eyes that quiet connection of the soul.

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After a good number of laps with the walkers, I now find myself resting in tent, now no longer needed for Relay, alone with my thoughts and the cold. My thought wandered all over my Relay experience, Second Life, InWorldz, committee, captain, support and countless levels of volunteers roles, virtual Relay, organic Relay, American Cancer Society, Canadian Cancer Society, my indoctrination into the Relay, the representation of the day cycle of a Relay event, from daylight of health, through the darkenss of cancer and it’s treatment into the dawn of a new day of remission.

Last night’s Relay, I got cold. Far colder than the weather man predicted. We even had a light rain for a little bit in the wee hours, to add to the misery, when I realize how the unpredictable nature of weather, is the perfect symbolism, for all the unknowns and unpredictable nature of a cancer treatment. I never would have gotten that in the virtual Relay either.

I defy the cold, wind and dampness, and walk some more.

My Relay For Life

In life I am know as Ronald Trepanier and I am the puppet master of Bain Finch.

MeTwoI am 53 years young, but like the most of you, cancer has touch a great number of people I know and have known, thought out my life. When I found Relay For Life of Second Life and experienced my first kick off in 2011, over the course of that first hour, I knew, I had found something that I could be part of, to help make a difference.

Since that first hour, I have lived and breathed Relay, right here in virtual world, online with social media and in my real life, to the point I am an active member in 2 different Relay For Life organizations for the American Cancer Society and 1 for the Canadian Cancer Society were I live, because I know, it doesn’t matter how and were you relay, all goes to the same place. Relay was and still is a life changing event in my life.

I am not the same person I was not to long ago and I have watched that change in others. I Relay for so many reasons, I Relay to share the hope we all have, I Relay to stop the pain and anguish cancer causes to those we hold so dear, I Relay to promote Relay, to share the amazing work we all doing around the world and help grow our ranks.

But I mostly I Relay for that 1 in 3 persons that are still being told today,
“There Is Nothing More We Can Do.”

Imagine_001

 

DR. WHO PARTY Commemorates 50 Years

The Relay for Life Tri Group threw a Dr. Who party September 15 on a wonderful set created by Team Captain Banker Ibor. The party commemorates the 50th anniversary of Dr. Who.

Snapshot _ Relay for life Tri Group  PG Onl, Marina-Del Ray (61,

Banker was the DJ for the party with a great mix of theme based Dr. Who music and dance party classics.

Nancy Back is the Co Captain for the Team. Nancy relays because she lost her Dad to Cancer. Banker’s Mom recently had her breast removed from cancer and will start treatment in October. We wish her the best.

Thank you to Banker, Nancy, TomTom and RFL Tri Group for this fun and meaningful event!

Snapshot _ Relay for life Tri Group  PG Onl, Marina-Del Ray (62,

Why We Relayers, Relay

Under the pseudonym name of Bain Finch, I Relay For Life of Second LifeRelay For Life of InWorldz and in my Relay Life.  This is the speech I delivered at the Kick Off Ceremony of Relay For Life of InWorldz 2013 season for Many Worldz For A Cure, August 24th, 2013.

RFLofIW 2013 kickoff_002

Photo provided by Wildstar Beaumont

There are words that Cancer fighters the world over would love to eliminate, and the first ones that spring to most people’s minds are, “you have cancer.”

When I first got involved in Relay For Life, I felt the same way. But in the 3 plus years I have been Relaying, I now know, there are other words that are far worse. I have said it many times in my “Why I Relay” statements, “you just have to look into the eyes of a cancer survivor, or into the eyes of a parent, whose child is fighting cancer, to know Why I Relay.” The core of that statement is that there are words far worse than “you have cancer,” and that is “your child has cancer.” I cannot imagine being a parent, having those words spoken to me, and how devastating it would be. Which is the root of another “Why I Relay” statement that I make, and that is “I may fly the purple banner of Relay For Life, but my heart weeps for the golden ones.” Gold, being the color of childhood cancers.

But it does not end there. As someone that uses social media to voice our collective hopes and wishes, I read blogs and I read stories. The ones that “completely” move me to tears are the stories of lives lost, to this unbiased beast. As the American Cancer Society celebrates its first 100 years, I find it more poignant than ever, that we do not cease to lose hope. I would also remind you that the Canadian Cancer Society is also celebrating its 75 years of existence, along with Cancer Societies around the globe. And thanks to Dr. Gordon Klatt, who 30 years ago became that one voice, initiated a change with the birth of Relay For Life, things have improved substantially in this global fight. From a sure death sentence not so many days ago, up until today, where 2 out of 3 people that are touched by the terrifying finger of cancer, are now surviving and living from their encounter with this beast.

This is amazing and worth celebrating. And we DO celebrate it with millions of “More Birthdays” every year. But still, there are those other 1 in 3 people, that are being told the worse words ever spoken, that is “there is nothing more we can do.” I know that the words “You have Cancer” or “Your child has cancer” are not the death sentence that it was once was, and we may never get rid of those words from our collective vocabulary, but I know in my heart, and I firmly believe in my soul, that we are so very close to adding these words to the first two quotes “but we can cure it now” and thus eliminating “there is nothing more we can do”, forever.

I would like to believe this is the core of “Why We Relayers, Relay.”

Just as Cancer is a Journey, one that no one wants to imagine taking, a trip down that supposed path of no return, where the outcome is unpredictable and anyone that has not travelled this way cannot predict how it will change them as a person. Many in Relay for Life, be it a Survivor, Caregiver, Fighter or Relayer as myself, Cancer is a life altering event, just as Relay for Life becomes a monumental moment for many, I for one, will never be the same person I was before.

Bain

Why I Relay InWorldz

Creating/recreating the “Why I Relay” piece is always a time of introspection and reflection. Traditionally, I post on Mother’s Day in memory of losing my Mom to cancer many moons ago. She, like many Moms, was my best friend…missing her was and still is my greatest loss.

This season I Relay for a colleague, BWR. Her loving husband and father of their two kids was diagnosed with leukemia 18 months ago.  BWR became the a caregiver and the bread winner for in one fell swoop.  I Relay to celebrate her spirit and the spirit of all who fight this fight.

Please take a moment and send your thoughts and prayers along.

RFL Many Worldz Logo

Relay for Life of InWorldz season kicks off InWorldz on Saturday, August 24 at 9AM InWorldz time. Additional information ~ RFLofIW.org

http://places.inworldz.com/Paradise by Design/115/62/22

Media inquiries ~ Wildstar Beaumont RFLofIW.PR@Gmail.com

If you would like to submit a “Why I Relay” piece for the blog, please contact me at Tee.Auster@gmail.com

We Celebrate Life and We Fight For The Cure