The word “cancer” is terrifying.
In 1985, I experienced the personal terror of that word when my doctor said to me: “Your biopsy is malignant, you have cancer.”
I learned I had Stage III Seminoma (Stage IV is lethal). Still, to this day, I remember the fear that overcame me as I faced the prospect of my own mortality, something I hadn’t thought much about until then (I was 40 years old with a wife and two children).
Looking back, my biggest worry was for my family. What would happen to them if cancer took me out? Fortunately for me, I had a great oncologist, Dr. Arthur Levy, and he found the chemical cocktail that brought a cure after 5 months of chemotherapy. What a relief.
Sometime later, I was asked to be the chairman for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. At that time, it was a new fundraising event in Connecticut replacing the previous “Bail for Jail” event that many of us had despised.
I certainly had a personal stake in the cancer fight. After all, had it not been for cancer research (the American Cancer Society was the leading research funder in the country) I wouldn’t be there.
I also had relatives who suffered from cancer — my brother who also had seminoma and recovered and my father-in-law who died from prostate cancer.
So after asking (and even begging) many of my friends for help and getting their support, I agreed to be chairman. We worked to get as many people in the community involved as possible for this new event – Relay for Life. To our amazement, the community responded by raising $69,000 which was over three times the goal we had set. The second year, after Wallingford joined in, we raised $120,000. Relay for Life has continued to this day for the past 23 years and turned out to be the largest charitable fundraiser in the history of our two communities.
Relay for Life is a wonderful and powerful event bringing cancer survivors and caregivers together to celebrate life, hope and memories. This year the theme is Passport for a Cure (teams will display flags and decorations from many different countries) and will take place on Friday and Saturday, May 18, 19 at Maloney High School in Meriden with registration in the survivor tent from 2:45 pm to 5:45 pm.
At 6 pm, the Survivor/Caregiver lap around the track will officially open Relay as onlookers cheer their friends and family who have battled cancer. A free dinner will be offered afterward.
This year, Relay organizer, Tina Rodriguez, told me: “We are very excited that the dinner will feature food tastings from 7 countries donated by local restaurants.” (Greek, Italian, Mexican, Brazilian, Chinese, Polish and American.)
This will undoubtedly be a special treat for the cancer survivors and caregivers. Relay for Life continues through the night with team members walking the track and ends on Saturday at noon.
If you have been touched by cancer or have family members or friends who have, I urge you to attend the Relay for Life next weekend. It is an inspirational and healing experience for a universal cause. This event helps to diminish the terror of cancer and funds raised go for cancer research and support for cancer victims and their families. For further information contact Tina Rodriguez at 203-317-1757 or Lynn Kipphut at 203-379-4874.
Shifting to another important event, Ray Gawlak, my friend and well-known local professional photographer, is conducting a free photo session for veterans and their family members on Friday and Saturday, May 25 and 26 from 10 am to 4:30 pm at the Meriden Public Library.
All veterans from Meriden and surrounding towns (Wallingford, Southington, Berlin, Middlefield, Middletown, and Cheshire) are invited to have a free portrait taken at the library at absolutely no cost.
Pre-set lighting will be used for time effectiveness and 6 to 10 exposures will be taken. Ray will determine the nicest photo of each session and will produce a retouched 8 x 10 portrait print of each subject or grouping. Veterans will have the choice of several sittings. The finished portraits will be delivered to the library in two to three weeks.
Please spread the word to local veterans about this opportunity.
Michael S. Rohde is a former mayor and city councilor of Meriden.