Hope will be the word of the day - and night - this weekend.
That's when more than 500 people will gather at the second annual Steamboat Springs Relay for Life fundraiser against cancer. We are friends and neighbors, teachers and students, bankers and baristas, volunteers and store clerks, retirees and teenagers, churchgoers and construction workers, caregivers and cancer survivors.
We will begin walking Friday evening and stay on the Steamboat Springs High School track all night, because cancer never sleeps. In addition to hope, each of us will carry many emotions in our hearts.
Anger, because a co-worker's chair sits empty.
Compassion, because a friend needs a strong shoulder to lean on.
Fear, which runs deep when cancer strikes home.
Love, because it binds us together.
Sadness, because so many people have passed on.
Inspiration, because so many people are living with cancer.
Here are some reasons why more than 50 of us at Yampa Valley Medical Center are committed to this event:
"I am a 4-year survivor. My staff has been very supportive of my recovery, and we have joined together on a team," Joyce says. "It feels good to be with many close friends and colleagues. Everyone on our team has been affected by cancer in some way."
"As a nurse I have seen patients diagnosed and then helped them as they struggled with cancer. Unfortunately, too many of my patients have not survived," Cassidy says. "This year, cancer came home for me. My sister has been given less than a year to live. I'm walking for my sister and for my patients, past and future."
"I am walking for my husband whose odds of developing cancer are high, with numerous family members that have passed from cancer. I walk for his sister who died of cancer last month at age 28, leaving behind her 6-month-old child," Ann notes.
"My reasons for walking are for my late husband and my survivor daughter," Geri says. "The treatment and prognosis have changed so much in the last 14 years since I first heard the 'C' word in my life. There is more hope now than ever before."
"I am walking in memory of my dad. He had various types of cancer for 10 years and then lost his fight in 1997," Connie says. "My sister-in-law is an ovarian cancer survivor, and that is not an easy thing to be. It is important to do something to help the fight, especially if you are healthy."
Relay for Life is an international event that honors cancer survivors and remembers those who have died from this disease. If you already are involved, I will see you this weekend. If you are just learning about this event and want to show your support, you can do so in several ways.
Come to the SSHS track on Friday. Cheer for the people and pets in the inspiring Survivors' Lap at 6 p.m. Read the luminaria messages at 9 p.m. before the lights go out and more than 2,000 points of light begin to glow. This experience only can be described as spiritual.
Make a donation. You can go online to www.relayforlife.org, find the Steamboat event and donate to a team or an individual. Or look for the Relay for Life emblems around town to connect with a supportive business.
I want to close this very personal column with more thoughts expressed by my co-workers who will be walking this weekend.
"The research funded by this event has everything to do with how many people are going to be walking in the Survivors' Lap. Every survivor is a hero and has struggled to get where they are today."
"Working for cancer physicians, I saw women who felt invaded, ashamed, heartbroken and so alone when their husbands left them. I've known men who feel they have to be strong and invincible, and it is not easy for them to depend on someone else for care and caring."
"I remember an older couple, each of whom had a form of cancer. The man is still doing well, though his wife passed away. In grieving with him, I was able to watch him carry her spirit in his heart and his life as he continued on - as he and she both wanted."
"It is important to recognize all cancers, not just one. With Relay for Life, we are able to show our support to all individuals and families who have suffered and triumphed with faith and hope."
"I walk for my friend Cathy who is waging a hellish war with cancer. I hope that our standing up will help bolster her in the harsh times she is going through. I walk because we all feel so helpless in the face of her struggle to live. I walk for a CURE and life free of cancer!"
Christine McKelvie is public relations director for Yampa Valley Medical Center and a team member of YVMC Caregivers Against Cancer.