Are we ignoring cancer?

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By Meaghan Downs

Cancer has become so common as to be ignored.
We hear reports about it the news.
We know it’s the No. 2 killer of American men and women, right behind heart disease.
We see pink ribbons on bumper stickers, on license plates.
I feel like the power of hearing a word like “cancer” has been reduced to a dull roar, mixed in with all of the other harmful things that could and might and probably will kill us someday.
Car accidents.
Alzheimer’s disease.
The Anderson County Relay for Life event was the first Lawrenceburg activity I covered for the newspaper last year.
And last year, I wrote a column about it. About the hope and courage I found in the people who were there to encourage and support those who’ve wrestled with cancer and won.
And I’m here to tell you that, one year later, I was wrong.
Not about the dedication of the people who organize and raise funds for the Relay.
Last year alone the Anderson County Relay for Life raised $90,000, and is shooting for a goal of $95,000 this year. Over the last 10 years, Relay for Life has raised more than $743,000.
If that’s not the result of dedication and hard work, then I don’t know what is.
I wasn’t wrong about the hope and courage I saw that night.
You have to have hope in your cause to stay up until 6 a.m. the next morning.
You have to have courage to speak in front of friends and family and strangers about your struggle to overcome a disease you have no control over.
But I was wrong about one thing — the real fight doesn’t happen at Relay for Life.
It’s a fight of an entirely different kind at home.
It’s a battle to tell yourself that you’re still handsome or beautiful, even though your clothes are loose and you have no hair.
It’s a battle in your own mind, to either surrender to the disease or chose to keep on going.
In my mind, the battle with yourself is the one to win. There’s only so much you can do to manipulate the external forces around you.
With cancer, the options are fairly limited.
But in the head and the heart, the possibilities are endless.
Although this continual fight against self-doubt probably doesn’t happen for most people at Relay for Life, the result of victory against negativity is alive and well.
This year, I expect to see the same smiles as people come up to receive their medals for years of being cancer free. I anticipate laughter, and a few tears.
And I guess I’m wrong about another thing — cancer isn’t being ignored.
At least, not if Anderson County can help it.

Support Relay for Life
When: June 8-9
Time: starts at 6 p.m. on Friday, and ends at 6 a.m. on Saturday
Where: American Legion city park

Do you want to share your story about yourself or a loved one winning the fight against cancer? Contact staff writer Meaghan Downs at mdowns@theandersonnews.com.