You’d better bet a buck we’re battling the Big C

Array

I was a sophomore in high school when my grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer. I was a junior when he died.

My grandfather and I were very close. My mother left my real father when I was six weeks old and we moved in with my grandparents. My grandfather had just retired, so we spent a lot of time together.

He was my first male role model, and a great one at that. He taught me many things, including math (we used to count the Pepsi trucks on Roosevelt Boulevard on the way to day-care every day) and perhaps most importantly, a love of the Philadelphia Phillies.

And he always had time for me, even when he was scoutmaster at a Boy Scout Camp and I was a lowly Cub Scout.

I strolled into his office one day and he asked what I was doing. I said that I was just coming to see him because we hadn’t spent any time together yet that week. He promptly closed the office and we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the camp.

That’s the kind of guy he was.

Even toward the end, when he was battling the Big C, he always had time for me, often asking to speak to me on the phone and making sure to spend time with me when we would visit.

As I said, I was a junior in high school when he died. Also that spring, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was very early, a small lump she found herself (please ladies, take the time to check). They removed it and treated her with radiation.

Mom missed half a year of school for treatment, but has been fortunate to be clean since. My mother is a fighter, a survivor. And she beat back the beast.

That was all more than 16 years ago now, but the realities of cancer are something all of us deal with on a daily basis.

Friday night, I was at the Kent Relay for Life at French Field. I love the Relay for Life and have been fortunate enough to cover more than a handful in my career. Each one is amazing.

The survivor lap at the beginning, followed by the caregiver lap, is the most moving. I love watching the survivors greet the caregivers as they finish the lap. It always hits home.

The main emotion, however, is never sadness; It’s always hope. And determination. The Relay for Life is an amazing, positive event. It is great energy with hundreds of people all focused on one goal: a cure.

And we must never relent. Cancer is a horrible, stalking beast. It comes for the young, the old, the rich and the poor. It can’t be bribed and it can’t be reasoned away.

It must be fought. It must be battled. It must be treated like the vicious monster it is and we must all work to eradicate it.

Every year at the relay, those who are no longer with us are remembered through luminarias, white bags with candles inside that serve as a remembrance for those we’ve lost and a reminder to the rest of us that we must keep fighting.

This year, as I finished up my coverage of the event, I was walking past the luminarias and thought of my grandfather. Sixteen years, but the emotions are still strong. Tears began to well in my eyes and I had to set my jaw and gather myself before I could continue.

I made a small donation and purchased a bag for my grandfather. I put a simple message on the bag, nothing fancy, for my grandfather was a simple family man from Allentown, Penn: “In honor of Charles T. ‘Bud’ Young.”

On the back, I wrote “for my Pop-Pop” and included one of those great Pennsylvania Dutch phrases he always used to use (I included it as part of my senior quote as well): “And that’s for true.”

I placed the bag over among the hundreds of others lining the track at French Field and sat down for a second as I choked back tears.

Sixteen years have passed and though it is easier now, everyday I still feel what cancer took from me and think about what it almost took from me and I remember why it is so important to keep fighting that bastard back.

We must never give up and we must never relent.

To the survivors, congratulations, you are an inspiration to all of us.

And to those we’ve lost – because we’ve all lost someone – know that we will never forget and we will never stop fighting in your name.

And that’s for true, right Pop-Pop?


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