It’s a grey morning with drizzle in the air as we gather at the running track of St. Francis Xavier High School in Hammond, Ontario. Along with the yellow Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life t-shirt I’m wearing over my white hooded sweater, I’m layered with an extra splash of yellow in the form of my trusted rain jacket. Lining up at the starting line for our Survivor’s Victory Lap that will kick off the event, my fellow ambassadors and I are handed a giant poster painted with huge yellow daffodils and a message declaring in giant blue letters: “FIGHT BACK.”
Today we the participants, the school, their students and their teachers—we are all fighting back by moving forward. From transforming the experience of cancer, to leading with confidence as we tackle this giant challenge; activities like the Relay for Life are about creating a momentum of change. And it’s these students, in particular my godson Eric Mayhew, who are filling me up with hope for our future.
Several years ago I was diagnosed with invasive stage two breast cancer. It shook up my life and in the blink of an eye, everything changed. What followed was a physical and emotional battle as various avenues for treatment and healing were explored. During my earlier days of cancer I would cringe when people labelled it as ‘a gift’. But as time passed and I looked deeper into myself perceptions shifted; I learned how to become vulnerable, how to ask for help, and how to open myself to lightness and love. Cancer could have ruined me – but instead I moved forward by allowing myself to be supported. And now these years later, it’s time to give back.
This past March of 2012, I spoke with an open heart at St-Francis Xavier High School to an audience of 700 students, teachers and guests about my cancer journey. Imagine if you can the overwhelming compassion that poured from the crowd. It was an incredibly healing moment, which connected me to all the sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters in that auditorium who have been touched by this issue.
Cancer creates an enriched appreciation for others, and most certainly this was my experience with my godson. Last March, Eric was part of the audience at St. Francis Xavier and he held a leadership role in creating the Relay For Life event at his high school. He, along with all the other students, have fought back by inspiring a momentum of hope.
Lining up today for the Survivors Victory Lap, as we hold our banner that was painted by the students, the authentic youthful energy of teenagers behind us, cheering and clapping with every step we take as the relay begins, is filling me with over-spilling hope for the future of cancer research. They are the inspiration, their enthusiasm is the fuel behind this relay.
Talk about amassing hope: I believe that more than $700K has been generated in our regional high schools since the inception of the Relay for Life. St Francis Xavier rose over $28,000 this year, which is simply an amazing sum. That’s big and purposeful to me. I’d like to take this opportunity of reflection to thank the participants, the students, the organisers and our communities embracing this annual event.
We are moving forward. This big banner, with its big flowers and big words holds GIANT hopes.
Moving along the track, (it’s not raining despite the grey!) alongside my fellow yellow-shirted thrivers, my mind is filled with the cheers of students who give a breath of inspiration as our youth show-up fully engaged to make a change in the way we see the world. Actions create cohesion within a community, and even more – it sparks momentum and unification across the whole country where events like the Relay for Life are held.
On tracks everywhere in Canada, people are honouring what those touched by cancer have accomplished, acknowledging the suffering we have navigated, and most importantly capturing the momentum to move this cause forward. Now that is inspiration to donate, to cook, run, laugh, jump, rest and enjoy our collective energy as we transition into wellness. Personally, I believe that the pain is in our losses, which is why this Victory Lap is so important for healing. It’s about supporting the ones who have experienced the transition of cancer and inspiring the ones that have felt the pain of losing someone.
During the Opening Ceremonies for Relay for Life in Hammond, I walk in celebration of living life fully as a tribute to the lives of loved ones who have transitioned to a better place . . . Thank you Eric Mayhew and all the others who have created this youthful inspiration to create change in our lives. It is because of all of you that I hold my head high, and walk forward with joy and hope in my heart.
Camille Boivin is founder of Sister Leadership, bringing her lessons of resilience and perseverance, fighting back and changing perception to others. As the students of St.Francis Xavier High School have inspired her, she hopes in turn to inspire other women and help explode their success. For more posts and experiences, join Camille at her Sister Leadership page, connect on Twitter, and follow on Facebook (where we have a photo gallery of pictures from the event!)